Posted: Wednesday November 2, 2005 3:19PM; Updated: Wednesday November 2, 2005 4:51PM
One day Bellamy accepted the invitation of a white coed to go for a drive in her convertible. He soon found himself, as they idled by the curb on a downtown street, pried from the shotgun seat by a policeman. From the precinct house Bellamy phoned Stanford, who, unable to get an accounting of Bellamy's offense from the arresting officer, showed up with his driver to fetch him. The two forged a friendship that abides to this day.
The night before the Miami freshman played Florida in 1967, Bellamy dreamed of getting loose on a long touchdown run. "[Florida coach] Ray Graves had said he'd never play any blacks, so I was the original Gator hater," Bellamy says. A 67-yard run on a pass play the next day almost perfectly duplicated that run of his dreams.
A year later, the night before Miami played at Auburn, Bellamy slept with an FBI agent outside his hotel room because of a phoned threat to shoot him if he took the field. As he jogged into Cliff Hare Stadium the next day, with his helmet wedged under one arm, a rock struck him in the head. With that, Bellamy says, "I wasn't afraid anymore. I got angry. It was a busy day." He caught eight passes for 121 yards.
In January 1970, Bellamy fell asleep at the wheel, and the injuries he sustained in the ensuing accident prevented him from ever returning to form. But he would go on to be elected Miami's student body president, running on the slogan, "It's not a white thing or a black thing, it's a people thing." Meanwhile, Stanford nudged forward a school that had once cancelled a game with UCLA to avoid having to share a field with Jackie Robinson.
Today, Bellamy is an assistant football coach at Fort Valley State, a lazy hour's drive from the retirement community in Americus, Ga., that houses his old patron. The two speak constantly and visit often, and the warmth and respect they share is palpable.
"It hasn't always been a smooth ride," Bellamy says of his life. "It hasn't always been a rough ride. But I'm ridin'."
At Fort Valley State, a historically black school, Bellamy has an acute compassion for a kid like that big offensive tackle from South Carolina a few years back, then the only white player on the team. In fact, Bellamy brought him over to meet Henry King Stanford.
"It comes back," Bellamy says. "Just as Dr. Stanford watched me grow up, I've watched him grow old."
And from watching them both, we can cultivate a deeper understanding of human relationships in all their variety.