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Thread: Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

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    Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

    Friend for life
    By GEOFF HOBSON
    January 28, 2008


    Posted: 8 p.m.

    Devon and Frostee
    Frostee Rucker has a new offseason workout partner.

    Devon Curling was buried in his No. 92 jersey that first week of 2008, but Rucker is still wearing the boy's 11-year-old heart on his sleeve.

    Come to think of it, their hearts are what made their differences seem so inconsequential at the end.

    "Both Devon and Frostee," says Mike Curling, "have hearts the size of Texas."

    Leukemia took Devon's last beat on New Year's Eve, the day after Rucker, a backup defensive end, finally made it back on the field for the Bengals in the season finale in Miami. Despite his brief number of snaps, two of Rucker's four tackles were for losses.

    "I called him right after the game to see if he had watched," Rucker says. "But he was in a coma ... "

    Mike Curling, Devon's dad, watched the game sitting on his son's bed. Devon had barely moved during the holiday week, opening his long-awaited box with the iPod Christmas morning and holding it just long enough to give it to his 15-year-old brother John.

    "That's the kind of kid he was," Rucker says. "Always caring about his brothers and his sisters and his classmates. So mature."

    "Christ-like," is how Mike Curling remembers the minister describing his son at the memorial service.

    Rucker made the drive to Florence, Ky., with his girlfriend and dog later Christmas day for a holiday visit. Then when word came Devon was fading, he came back Friday, the day before the trip to Miami.

    "I don't know why, but they were friends," Mike Curling says. "All I know is that on Friday, you could tell he wanted to be left alone, that he was sick. But when Frostee came in the room, he sat right up in the hospital bed with a big smile on his face. That's what I'll always remember about Frostee. In my kid's last days, literally, he put a smile on his face."

    Pro athletes aren't supposed to do this, right?

    Especially a backup lineman with just five NFL games to his credit in a career known more for injury than impact.

    Especially a guy who had experienced the worst part of the game and fame when a domestic violence case from college put him in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

    Frostee Rucker, a pro jock from the other side of the world in Los Angeles, just wasn't supposed to befriend a fifth-grader from Kentucky via Michigan, right?

    Wrong.

    "There was just something about him," Rucker says. "I wanted to help and be around him.

    "I think it's because we had the same personality. Socially outgoing. Like to be around people. Like to talk. He understood. He told me he was going to die. He said he knew it. But he said, 'As long as I'm around, I'm going to do as many normal things as I can.' I thought that was really courageous."

    Yeah, wrong.

    Because, as it turns out, Devon Curling has had as much of an impact on Rucker as the other way around.

    Drafted in the third round out of USC in 2006, Rucker blew out his shoulder during the first preseason game in season-ending fashion. Then he suffered a hamstring injury in the first practices of this past training camp and couldn't play in the opener. Then he broke a hand in an October practice and although he didn't miss any time and played with a cast, he couldn't get back in uniform after ringing up four tackles in seven snaps in the Nov. 11 victory in Baltimore.


    Rucker
    "Maybe there is a reason he came along now," Rucker says. "To get me grounded. To give perspective. Here I am worried about trying to get on the field more and he's fighting for life."

    It began last spring with an e-mail from one of Devon's teachers at Fort Wright Elementary, about the time they found out his bone marrow transplant had failed. While the Ben-Gals cheerleaders got involved, Rucker and fullback Chris Manderino also visited and then set up a date that the Curlings could come down to Paul Brown Stadium for one of the spring workouts.

    "The norm. He wanted to meet Carson. Chad. T.J.," Rucker says. "Coach Lewis met him. He played basketball on the court. It was huge for him and it gave the guys a chance to shake his hand, give him a hug."

    That's all the Curlings really expected. They had been dealing with the disease for two years, when they moved from their home in Warren, Mich., to be close to Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Chauncey Billups, the Pistons guard, had been nice, reaching out and inviting him to a game and into the Detroit locker room.

    But after the PBS visit ...

    "You just thought that they would leave and that would be it and that it was nice," Mike Curling says. "But Frostee kept coming back."

    On Devon's 11th birthday in September, Rucker, Manderino, and some of the Ben-Gals showed up at Fort Wright Elementary and led a birthday bash with Devon getting out of class and leading the players around school.

    Tracy Todd, the school's resources coordinator, remembers asking Devon if he was having a good birthday.

    "Now I am," is the line she remembers.

    "I gave him my cell phone number and told him to call me any time," Rucker says. "He'd call, and if I was working out, or in practice, I'd call back. I'd always ask him, 'Tell me what happened at school.' "

    Rucker would sometimes stop by the house on his off day and they would play video games (usually Madden), or just talk.

    "He liked to talk about me and USC. He liked Reggie Bush," Rucker says. "I told him Reggie deserved everything he got with his work ethic. When we'd play Madden, he wanted to know everything about football, and it was fun explaining it to someone who was young. And he wanted to know when I was going to play."

    A couple of days before Christmas and Rucker trying to make things as bright as possible, he again invited the family to PBS, this time for the Saturday walk-through before the home finale against the Browns.

    "We couldn't park that close and he was really sick and I didn't think he could make the walk," Mike Curling says. "About halfway there I said, 'We can go home,' and he said, 'No, I want to see Frostee.' ''

    And this is one of the reasons Rucker loved the little man. T.J. Houshmandzadeh called Devon over to him and egged him on to ask Lewis, "Will I see this (Rucker's) jersey on the field this week?"

    Rucker tried to shoosh him, but there was Devon saying OK and Houshmandzadeh saying, "Hey Coach Lew, this little dude wants to ask you something."

    And Devon did.

    "They were very comfortable around each other. Frostee treated him like a friend," says Dodd, who was there that last Friday. "I can't say enough about what he meant to Devon and his family."

    During that last visit, as Devon slipped in and out of sleep, Rucker told him, "If you want to let go, it's OK. And if you want to hang on, that's OK, too, because we'll be right here with you."

    As Todd arrived at the service, a large throng where Mike Curling says he didn't know most of the faces, she wondered if the family needed a suit to put him in. But then she thought, "He wouldn't want that," and when they told him they had put him in Frostee's jersey, "that sounded more like it."

    "He always wore Frostee's jersey. He'd wear it in the shower if we let him," Mike Curling says. "My wife washed it so much that it began to fall apart. We asked him to bring another one, and he showed up with a brand new one."

    Mike Curling, who does drywall, hasn't been to work since October. He's mulling moving the family back to Michigan, where they buried Devon next to his grandparents. Now, he's just not so sure.

    "We didn't want him to be alone," he says. "But, it's funny. When we went back there, it just didn't seem like home anymore."

    They may end up bringing him back. But if this is where he met his buddy Frostee, this is also where Rucker got a life-long inspiration.

    "There's a printout of a picture of me and him. I'm going to put it up in my locker. No matter where I go," Rucker says. "It was a pleasure to get to know him. To know that I touched his heart and his whole family and brought his spirits up and it helped make me a better person."

    In the end, he wasn't a pro athlete, a backup, or a college star.

    "I told Frostee," Mike Curling said, "you've got a friend for life."

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    Re: Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

    We should cut him because he got in to trouble once

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    Will post for food BuckeyeRedleg's Avatar
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    Re: Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

    I now feel better about Frostee being on this team. Touching.

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    Re: Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

    I actually had the good fortune of meeting Frostee Rucker last year the night the Bengals beat the Ravens at PBS. And really, nothing from the above article surprises me. FR was as nice as they come. We had a conversation about the Bengals' big win, their next game against Cleveland, his injuries, and even his days back at USC. I remember going away wondering incredulously how he could've ever been charged with any sort of violence. I guess we're all human, and it's good to see he seems to have put it all behind him.

    Side note: it's unbelievable how big those guys are when you see or meet them in real life. 'FRucker' is huge - and is still small compared to Whitworth.

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    Member chicoruiz's Avatar
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    Re: Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

    Wow- not the Frostee Rucker I had in my mind..

    Kind of serves as a reminder- nobody is just one thing. We tend to sort people we hardly know into "good guys" and "jerks", I think because it makes us feel like we understand things. People in real life are a lot more complicated than that.
    "In baseball, you don't know nothin'"...Yogi Berra

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    Re: Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

    Can you imagine the emotional rollercoaster that he subjected himself to. You befriend a kid that you know is probably going to die. Going through the motions and being nice is one thing, but to visit the kid and play games or give him your cell number while you are going through everything Frostee was, WOW. He really was going above and beyond what even some realitives in that situation do. I can't imagine anybody being in a position to have to tell a young kid he can let go if he can't fight anymore. That really is a touching part. I now have a lot of respect for Frostee.

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    Waitin til next year bucksfan2's Avatar
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    Re: Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

    Unfortunatly for fans the image of professional athletes, especially off the field, is portrayed to us by the media. IMO that the media in this city is pretty awful. All we heard about Rucker for his entire career was about him was that he was part of Marvin's poor character decisions, he was drafted way too early, and he couldn't stay healthy. Now we get a true vision of him as a person. Its almost sad that Rucker had done so much for this kid yet it gets reported after the fact. If this were Sean Casey the media would have been over this from day one. Kudos to Rucker for doing something like this and to the media, why don't you report more along these lines.

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    Re: Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

    Look, that's great, good for him, but I know a lot of people including myself who do charity work regularly, and we don't get newspaper articles and accolades for "being a great guy." (nor do I want any)

    And I have never beat up or hit my girlfriend, and nor do I make a tenth of what he does, nor do I have six months off every year to boot. I know so many people who are so much more deserving of recognition than him and most pro athletes.

    Why is it such a big deal when a pro jock takes a couple hours to visit kids in a hospital?

    This is the least these over-paid millionaires can do - most of them don't do nearly enough.

    I'm not trying to poo-poo the feel good story and it's a sad one, and I'm glad old Frostee is doing something good for a change, but let's keep things in perspective and quit coddling pro athletes every time they take an hour or two of their precious time to be charitable. IMO it's the least they can do.

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    Re: Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

    I would actually say that the media in this town is no where near as malicious as most sports cities. In fact, I would say that a lot of print around here is devoted towards player's personal stories and paint a pretty good picture of a lot of athletes. The problem is the fans and talk radio a lot of times. They naturally look for the bad. The Bengals and UC's arrest issues are blown way out of proportion sometimes and people believe that all Bengals or Bearcats are no good "thugs." ESPN and other national media do a pretty good job of painting athletes in a bad light also. I would say that the media is a lot more player friendly around here than in a lot of places. Thats just my opinion though.

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    Re: Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

    Quote Originally Posted by CrackerJack View Post
    Look, that's great, good for him, but I know a lot of people including myself who do charity work regularly, and we don't get newspaper articles and accolades for "being a great guy." (nor do I want any)

    And I have never beat up or hit my girlfriend, and nor do I make a tenth of what he does, nor do I have six months off every year to boot. I know so many people who are so much more deserving of recognition than him and most pro athletes.

    Why is it such a big deal when a pro jock takes a couple hours to visit kids in a hospital?

    This is the least these over-paid millionaires can do - most of them don't do nearly enough.

    I'm not trying to poo-poo the feel good story and it's a sad one, and I'm glad old Frostee is doing something good for a change, but let's keep things in perspective and quit coddling pro athletes every time they take an hour or two of their precious time to be charitable. IMO it's the least they can do.
    Normally I'd agree, but I think he did a lot more than just visit this kid in the hospital. He was a true friend and was even one to tell the kid he could let go. To be able to say that, you have to be pretty close to the kid and his family. What Frostee did is more than just charity. He had to truly care about the kid. I Think that this is a rare instance in which an athlete did something as a person instead of doing it because the are a celebrity of a certain degree. Sean Casey was the same way here, and we were truly blessed to have seen that. There are very few who step outside of their roles as celebrity and take on a role of caring person.

    I think most of us look at this as being above and beyond what most athletes could ever even think of doing. I'm sure the family would say he was an angel for them. Not because of his place in society, but because of how he used his position to better the life of thier child and even go beyond that to become his friend.

    Its not Frostee's fault that he is in the postion to use more resources than you or I to better the kids life. The point is, he used them, and didn't leave it at that. He also became his friend. I've said that alot, but that the important part of all of this. You can hand out all you want, but to actually take it to the personal level and befriend someone in need is something that not all of us have the capacity for or let ourselves do. Maybe you can, and if so, you are a person that I respect very, very much. He isn't going around asking for a pat on the back. He was just a man, trying to make one kid's life better before the end. Chad Johnson donating 8500 to charity, yeah thats not really newsworthy. This is.

    You are an unsung hero. You may prefer to keep it that way, and maybe Frostee did too. Whatever your preferences, I'd like to thank you for what you do. It takes a special kind of person to actually do charity work instead of just giving money.

    Also, I don't know what a person's past has to do with their contributions to charities or what they do to help a kid like in this story, but why do you have to point it out. He is human, he was young, and we don't know the circumstances around the alleged dispute. He made a mistake. Everybody makes them. I think this shows a more in depth look into his personality than any charges that were brougt against him in college. Weren't they even thrown out or dropped? Its kinda petty to point out the past in this case. Especially when the only evidence to support him being a bad person is a charge that may have been dropped or thrown out.(Not 100% sure on that one, but seem to recall something about it.)
    Last edited by SeeinRed; 01-29-2008 at 01:53 PM.

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    Re: Just when you get caught up in all the selfishness of Pro Athletes.

    Quote Originally Posted by SeeinRed View Post
    I would actually say that the media in this town is no where near as malicious as most sports cities. In fact, I would say that a lot of print around here is devoted towards player's personal stories and paint a pretty good picture of a lot of athletes. The problem is the fans and talk radio a lot of times. They naturally look for the bad. The Bengals and UC's arrest issues are blown way out of proportion sometimes and people believe that all Bengals or Bearcats are no good "thugs." ESPN and other national media do a pretty good job of painting athletes in a bad light also. I would say that the media is a lot more player friendly around here than in a lot of places. Thats just my opinion though.
    The media in this city isn't malicious at all, rather it is very soft. The problem with the media is they gravitate towards "their guys" and IMO don't do the due dilligence towards the others who don't give them the exclusive comments. It almost seems as if there is a personal bias that develops between certain players and members of the media.

    As for charity work I applaud anyone who does work. I have done big brothers big sisters in the past and it is a very rewarding thing to do. What I do admire about the Rucker story is that he made the story personal. He developed a life changing relatoinship (or so the story says) with a young kid. Maybe it was the phone calls that Rucker would return or the video games that he would play with the kid that enabled him to hold on for as long as possible. Maybe his realtionship with Rucker gave the kids parents one more christmas with him. Maybe Rucker was a punk in his younger years but this kid gave him some perspective in life. He did something he didn't have to do and he took it to the next level. I have a feeling that while Rucker may think he has effected only one life in reality he has effected many.


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