When they were younger, just a couple of big-talking, know-it-all football jocks, Steve Streater and Lawrence Taylor would strut across the University of North Carolina campus in caps and faded blue jeans.
They hung out in the student union game room, taking on the world in eight ball. They fished for bream at Dr. Biggers's pond on the edge of Chapel Hill. They played a mean game of cards.
"We beat everybody in the dorm," Streater says. "We just knew each other so well that we sensed the cards each other was holding."
For three years they were inseparable. Roommates with the same dream. Until April 30, 1981.
Streater, a defensive back, had just signed a free-agent contract with the Redskins. Driving home from the airport in the rain that same night, he lost control of his new sports car on a slippery road, and the crash left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Taylor, the No. 1 draft choice of the New York Giants, was attending rookie minicamp when he heard about the accident. Within hours he was at Streater's bedside.
"I looked up and saw the fear in Lawrence's face," Streater recalls. "He began beating on the walls, beating on the door, and he screamed, 'Steve, get up from there! This isn't you! Steve, you must get up!' "
Taylor was crying uncontrollably. "Have you ever seen a 6'4", 240-pound man fall apart?" Streater asks. "Lawrence Taylor, so strong, so invincible. He could do anything. He'd soar 10 feet in the air to block punts, leap over piles, tackle three people at once.
"For the first time I told Lawrence I loved him. He stopped crying, and he told me I'd pull through, that with his help, someday I'd walk again."
Later, Taylor broke down again, this time in the arms of his fiancée, Linda Cooley. "Why couldn't I have been driving?" he cried. "Why couldn't it have been me in that car instead?"