Historically Speaking: Former NFL star "Rosey" Grier

Kathie Bell
Special to the Globe
Former NFL star and Boot Hill Museum honorary Marshal Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier

He has a varied career as a pro football player, body guard, actor, singer, minister, writer and politician and Boot Hill Museum made him an honorary marshal.

Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier born in Cuthbert, Georgia on July 14, 1932, was one of 12 children. His parents named him after U.S. President, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

By high school, Grier lived in Roselle, New Jersey, where he played football for Abraham Clark High School.

After graduating in 1951, he went on to play for the defensive line at Penn State University. While at Penn State Grier was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the first Greek fraternity for African Americans.

In 1955, the New York Giants selected him as the 31st overall draft pick. He stayed with them until 1962. During that time, the Giants won the NFL Championship in 1956 (that was before there was a Super Bowl) and took four Eastern Conference Championships in 1958, 1959, 1961 and 1962.

In July 1963, the Los Angeles Rams acquired him in a trade. He was one of the "Fearsome Foursome" defensive line with Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Lamar Lundy.

In 1967, a torn Achilles tendon ended his football career. After retirement, he had a local show in Los Angeles, "The Rosey Grier Show."

He was friends with U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and served as a bodyguard for him.

On June 4, 1968, Kennedy won the California primary. Shortly after midnight Kennedy took an ill advised shortcut through the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Grier was in charge of guarding Kennedy's wife, Ethel. As the group made their way through the crowded kitchen, Sirhan Sirhan fatally shot Kennedy.

Though unable to save Robert, Grier along with George Plimpton and Rafer Johnson, wrestled Sirhan to the floor and got his pistol. Grier may have saved the assassin's life as he defended Sirhan against an angry mob of Kennedy supporters.

Later that year in December, Grier, along with other celebrities accompanied Bob Hope on a U.S.O. tour in southeast Asia.

Grier performed in many movies and TV shows, making over 70 guest appearances. As a teenager in a live audience, this writer saw him when he sang for the ABC TV show "It's Happening" in Los Angeles.

Grier's career as a singer began when he was still playing pro ball in 1960.

Though his singing career lasted 25 years, only one single, a tribute to his friend Robert F. Kennedy, made the charts, which reached 128 in 1968.

In 1983, Grier became ordained as a protestant minister. He has traveled the world as a motivational speaker, including Dodge City where he was named Honorary Marshal in 1991.

Rosey Grier has been actively involved in numerous charitable organizations that serve the intercity and disadvantaged people.

Grier has written many books including his autobiography in 1986, "Rosey: The Gentle Giant." Interestingly, he wrote a craft book "Needlepoint for Men."

For six months in 2017, he threw his hat into the ring as a Republican candidate for California Governor.

Another Kansas connection for Rosey Grier is his current wife, Cydnee Seyler, was a school teacher from Wichita.

Grier has been inducted into the New Jersey and New Jersey Sports Halls of Fame. He is a Penn State Distinguished Alumni and holds an Alumni Fellow with Penn State. The NCAA has honored him as one of the "100 Most Influential Student-Athletes."