- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Andree, the loner, sitting in stadiums and screaming with 60,000 people. ("Good for her!" cries Grandpa William. "It's opened her up some, got her nose out of a book. She's too serious.") Andree getting so nervous watching Willie play that she felt as if she were hyperventilating, "worried sick they'd run over him and make him look like a fool."
Willie throttling the Packers' Reggie White in the third exhibition game, going five regular-season games without permitting a sack, until finally, after being burned for two by the Steelers in Game 6, Willie walking to the sideline, getting barked at by his line coach and astonishing the coach by crying.
Willie calling his mom every day, sometimes twice, for advice. Willie falling hard for a beautiful New Orleans schoolteacher, an honest, efficient woman who organized him—funny, almost like his mother.
Willie falling hard for a '93 Pathfinder and a '93 BMW 850, ignoring another plea from his mom. "I urged him to keep his '83 Ford and make a statement," says Andree. "I'm preaching to him that material things don't mean a hill of beans. It's character. It's how you live up to your responsibilities, how you treat people. Society is going down the tubes. Who's going to raise productive citizens in this country? I want him to learn to live by his own values, to ignore peer pressure—that earring in his ear, why does he wear it? Because Michael Jordan wears one. He's not strong enough yet, but I'm hoping he's going to give off these signals to the people who look up to him. I know he's got a brain in there somewhere, and he's going to use it someday."
And, yes, Willie looking around the Saints' locker room, realizing how different the pressures on him are from those on other black athletes—no one in his family expecting money or cars or houses from him, but asking instead for something larger and deeper, something that may cost him even more.
"If we who have lived the black experience can't relate to those still trapped by it," asks his father, "who in America can? I want Willie to take this on, because the problems among black teenagers are so severe, so pernicious, that if we don't turn a large number of them around in the next 20 years, I don't know what our future will be. I'm an optimist, and I'm frightened. If Willie can reach out to the lost, to the trapped, that will be a living legacy."
But first, of course, there is one small matter to clean up, the 12 credits Willie must complete to receive his college degree. "He'll never hear the end of it if he doesn't," vows Andree's mother, Phoebe. "From all of us. It's the minimum."
"I'll do it," pledges Willie. "I'll start on it this spring. I know how lucky I am to have a family like I have."
Everywhere there were signs of the cultural exchange occurring in the Roaf family. The eggheads were placing Saint pennants in their windows, Saint bumper stickers on their cars, Saint towels on their bathroom racks. And Willie, god bless him, was actually quoted early this season using a five-syllable word.
"Whoooooeeeee!" Grandfather William cackled. "Spon-ta-ne-i-ty. I called him to congratulate him. Where'd that rascal get that word?"