Reflections from Rosey Grier

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- If you haven't already, it's worth taking some time today, on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, to read through the remembrances and recollections of some of the NFL's greatest players, coaches and personnel types.

Not least of those offering their memories was former Rams defensive tackle Rosey Grier. I had the good fortune to get Mr. Grier to agree to chat about a topic near and dear to him and the pain in his voice was audible even now 50 years later.

As you can see in the piece, Grier has a vivid memory of the day it all happened. He remembered going to an end of the field and weeping not only for the country but for the Kennedy family. He recalled going home and watching the coverage and holding out hope that the President would pull through. And he remembers the pain when he passed away.

At the time, Grier didn't have any connection to the Kennedy family deeper than the average voter. He said he came around to Kennedy as a candidate when he heard that he had reached out to Martin Luther King Jr. to help further King's efforts in creating racial equality.

When Grier retired from football in 1966, he had many opportunities thrown his way. He took advantage of plenty of them, appearing on television and in films, writing books and working on a seemingly endless array of community service projects.

But one of the first things Grier did when his football days came to a close was take advantage of the chance he was given to play a role in the presidential candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy.

"I empathized with them but I didn’t know them and then sometime later Bobby Mitchell had given Ethel Kennedy my agent’s telephone number and she called and asked me to come to Washington D.C. to do an event that they were raising money to send kids from the inner city out into the country for the summer and I went," Grier said. "I went, though I was reluctant to fly and I have never in all my life met a family that was so blind to color and so open for love. I hit it off right away with Senator Kennedy, Bobby, and that night I got there, he and I stayed together. Everywhere he went, I went. I met from Whizzer White to Lauren Bacall and all of the people that were there because I was with him the whole time. We just walked around and he said this is my friend, this is my friend, this is my friend. They just were so nice and from that moment on they were my key people."

Grier became fast friends with Kennedy and stuck around to serve on his security detail as Kennedy began his run for the Oval Office. Grier was protecting Ethel Kennedy, Robert's wife, the night Robert was assassinated in Los Angeles in 1968.

Fifty years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Grier still ponders what could have been.

"We as a nation, we had high expectations for us," Grier said. "To me, they were instrumental in helping Martin Luther King and trying to accomplish the goal of every man represents all of us and there was no difference in our color yet we had divided ourselves into races and had divided ourselves into schools and yet here was a man, here was people who were not concerned about that. They were concerned about the welfare of the nation and that made me feel very good. I felt I was safe. Anytime I would go to Washington, I would call them. If they were out in this area they would call me. I loved them."