Mike Rozier was a star running back at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden in the late 1970s, before going on to a great college career at the University of Nebraska. Twenty years after he left Nebraska, Mike Rozier owns both the Nebraska all-time rushing and scoring records, yet it is possible that he might never have gone west to Lincoln had not Nebraska assistant Frank Solich been such a keen observer of high school game films. Solich was studying movies of another player in Rozier's hometown of Camden, New Jersey. "Mike kept sticking out on the film," Solich remembers. Rozier was a Wishbone fullback in high school, yet still managed to gain 300 yards in a single game. He didn't miss that mark by much against Kansas late in the season, when he rambled for 285 yards and registered four touchdowns in another monster-score win for Nebraska. All through the year, Rozier maintained an average of nearly eight yards every time he carried the ball. "He's a super prospect," says Gil Brandt, Vice President of the Dallas Cowboys in charge of player personnel, and one of the finest judges of football talent. "He has everything it takes to be a successful pro running back." Mike Rozier takes such praise the way he takes an opposing defense - in stride. "God gave me this gift. I just do the best I can to use it," he says. Rozier won the 1983 Heisman Trophy, college football's highest award..
Mike Rozier played for the Pittsburgh Maulers in the USFL in 1984, and the Jacksonville Bulls in 1985 in the same league. Rozier, was the second Heisman Trophy winner to sign with the USFL. Rozier suffered through a tough rookie season with the new expansion team the Pittsburgh Maulers, running for 792 yards on 223 attempts with 3 touchdowns. Mike considered leaving the USFL following his first season in Pittsburgh, but decided to join the Jacksonville Bulls and fellow Heisman winner Archie Griffin in vaunted backfield. Mike excelled in his sophomore season to run 320 times for 1,361 yards and an impressive 12 touchdowns for Bulls.
The Houston Oilers chose Mike in the supplemental draft in 1984 where he played for seven years, during which time he was a Pro Bowl selection twice, in 1987 and 1988. He finished his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons in 1991.
The football stadium in back of Woodrow Wilson High School has been renamed Mike Rozier Stadium, in his honor.
SEPTEMBER 5, 1983
Click on Image to Enlarge
Rushing | Receiving | +----------+-----+--------------------------+-------------------------+ | Year TM | G | Att Yards Y/A TD | Rec Yards Y/R TD | +----------+-----+--------------------------+-------------------------+ | 1985 hou | 14 | 133 462 3.5 8 | 9 96 10.7 0 | | 1986 hou | 13 | 199 662 3.3 4 | 24 180 7.5 0 | | 1987 hou | 11 | 229 957 4.2 3 | 27 192 7.1 0 | | 1988 hou | 15 | 251 1002 4.0 10 | 11 99 9.0 1 | | 1989 hou | 12 | 88 301 3.4 2 | 4 28 7.0 0 | | 1990 atl | 13 | 153 675 4.4 3 | 8 59 7.4 0 | | 1990 hou | 3 | 10 42 4.2 0 | 5 46 9.2 0 | | 1991 atl | 11 | 96 361 3.8 0 | 2 15 7.5 0 | +----------+-----+--------------------------+-------------------------+ | TOTAL | 92 | 1159 4462 3.8 30 | 90 715 7.9 1 | +----------+-----+--------------------------+-------------------------+
Seasons among the league's top 10
Year Opp Result | RSH YD TD | REC YD TD ---------------------+-----------------+----------------- 1987 sea W,23-20 | 21 66 1 | 1 7 0 1987 den L,10-34 | 9 25 0 | 1 6 0 1988 buf L,10-17 | 13 44 1 | 0 0 0 1989 pit L,23-26 | 5 12 0 | 1 5 0 1991 nor W,27-20 | 7 35 0 | 0 0 0 ---------------------+-----------------+----------------- TOTAL | 55 182 2 | 3 18 0
Camden Courier-Post - November 21, 2004
25 years later, prep
football game shootout resonates
Although he would rise to the pinnacle of college football just four years later by winning the Heisman Trophy, Mike Rozier's last play for Woodrow Wilson High School was spent looking down in the dirt on the field that would later bear his name.
"I never saw anything like it before - it was like cowboys and Indians," Rozier said while standing near the 10-yard line where he hit the ground a quarter of a century ago.
It was 25 years ago Monday. It was Nov. 22, 1979. It was Thanksgiving Day.
And it was, perhaps, the most infamous moment in the history of South Jersey scholastic sports - the moment in the third quarter of the Woodrow Wilson-Camden football game when a shootout between rival motorcycle gangs left nine people with bullet wounds and sparked panic among many in the estimated crowd of 5,000 spectators.
"Most of the shooting was right over there," Rozier said, pointing to the northwest corner of the stadium with one hand and holding the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the outstanding college football player in the country, with the other. "I have pictures, you can see gun smoke, cops have their guns out."
Camden vs. Woodrow Wilson is regarded as one of the best rivalries in South Jersey sports. The annual Thanksgiving Day football game traditionally draws several thousand spectators as alumni, family and friends of both programs gather to reminisce and watch the two teams battle for city bragging rights.
The teams have played every Thanksgiving Day since 1979 without incident. This year's game will be Thursday at Camden's home field at Farnham Park.
The teams have played 73 times in a series that began in 1931. Camden holds a 44-26-3 advantage.
"Camden-Wilson was always a great game," said former Camden Athletics Director Wally MacPherson, who was the Panthers' AD in 1979 and was at the game. "That (shootout) didn't have anything to do with the two schools or the teams."
Diving on his belly
Nineteen people were injured when a series of fights between members of the Wheels of Soul and Ghetto Riders motorcycle gangs escalated to gunplay at around 12:50 p.m. - midway through the third period of the football game.
Rozier remembers diving on his belly on the field, along with most other players. He remembers the confusion and panic on the part of thousands of spectators, many of whom charged across the field, away from the commotion that was behind the home stands at the East Camden school.
He also remembers continuing his football career - and being asked about the shootout every step of the way. "That shooting went nationwide," Rozier said. "When I got to school (at the University of Nebraska), people didn't believe me. I had a scrapbook, so I showed it to them and then they believed me."
Rozier's cousin, Tara Dixon, who had graduated from Camden Catholic the previous May, was on the home sidelines that day before leaving the game with a friend.
"I decided to walk to Mike's mom's on 27th Street, then the shooting began," Dixon said. "It was by the grace of God that I went to Aunt Bea's."
MacPherson said it was the most memorable game he ever attended, even though he admitted it was for the wrong reasons.
After Rozier won the Heisman Trophy and was a first-round draft pick by both the United States Football League and National Football League, Woodrow Wilson named its home field "Mike Rozier Field."
The 1979 game was stopped with Camden leading 14-6 with 5:05 left in the third quarter. The game was never finished.
"Sometimes I get together with the guys and we sit back and talk about that game, someone always brings it up," said Rozier, who lives in in the Sicklerville section of Winslow. "I remember all the gun smoke and me jumping on the ground and coaches trying to get me out of there."
According to police accounts, the motorcycle gangs arrived around halftime, each coming from different entrances. They walked toward each other and started fighting. Then the shots began to fill the air at 12:50 p.m.
Camden police officers joined in the gunfire as hundreds of fans at the stadium on 31st and Federal streets began to flee. Police estimated that as many as 25 shots were fired.
"I had no idea whatsoever what was going on," MacPherson said. "I heard it, luckily I was down the other end of the field."
The initial shots were fired between the two motorcycle gangs, according to police. Police were uncertain why the gangs were feuding, although it was believed the showdown erupted as a result of Ghetto Riders breaking away from the Wheels of Soul gang but continuing to wear their "colors."
"It had nothing to do with either school," MacPherson said.
Injuries and arrests
Three Camden men were left in critical condition with bullet wounds, although they survived. Five others, including a Camden woman and her young son, were hit by gunfire and were hospitalized and later released.
Authorities confiscated six handguns while 37 gang members were arrested and charged with two counts each of aggravated assault. Seven of those arrested suffered gunshot wounds. No police were injured.
According to New Jersey State Police spokesman Sgt. Kevin Rehmann, the Wheels of Soul continues to operate as a motorcycle club out of Camden.
MacPherson said there were never any discussions to continue the game another day. The memories linger
But that doesn't mean there still isn't talk about the Thanksgiving Day game between Woodrow Wilson and Camden in 1979. "We all talk about it, all the guys I played ball with back in the day, we all talk about it," Rozier said.
Rozier plans to be back for the big game on Thanksgiving Day.
"Thanksgiving game, everybody comes back, guys from way back in the '70s and '60s come back for the Camden-Wilson game," Rozier said. "Everyone gathers around, Camden High and Wilson, now we are all buddies. Last year we had a cookout right there."
Standing in the same spot he hit the dirt 25 years ago, Rozier pointed to the northwest corner of the stadium. That's where the shooting began."
Camden Courier-Post - December 13, 2007
guy' shares experiences of his life growing up in Camden
The Brimm Medical Arts High School freshmen couldn't relate to the $7 million starting salary, or being on TV every Saturday or getting inducted into not one but two halls of fame.
But they could relate to growing up in Camden, having pride in Camden and dealing with the line of fire in Camden.
Mike Rozier, 46, the Camden native and star Woodrow Wilson High School running back who won college football's top honor, the Heisman Trophy, in 1982 -- before playing for two NFL teams during a 10-year career -- returned to the city last month to speak to the Exposures class at Brimm.
He shared both the glory of the football high life and his personal experiences with the pitfalls of Camden. Eleven years ago, after retiring from the NFL, Rozier was shot four times outside a housing development in Camden while visiting a boyhood friend.
The friend, who was also shot, had robbed the gunman a few years earlier, Rozier said, and Rozier got caught in the middle of the revenge shooting. Both victims were only wounded, but Rozier's friend was killed a few years later in another gun battle.
He used the incident as an allegory to tell the students to figure out what they want to do in life, and then "prepare yourself for it."
"If some of ya'll don't get along with your parents, suck it up, find a teacher, a neighbor that you can look up to and talk to," he said.
The Exposures class at Brimm is intended to expose students to people involved in the community who might be able to help with character building.
Rozier, who now speaks to students as a full-time occupation, talked about growing up in East Camden and sharing a bedroom with two of his six brothers. He also remembered how the principal at Woodrow Wilson helped keep students in line with a paddle named Betsy.
He acknowledged that he wasn't a good student, and he had "lots of tutors" at the University of Nebraska, where he starred as a running back.
Once a household name in Camden, most of the students at Brimm didn't know who Rozier was before the class started. So Rozier modestly filled them in, even though he omitted certain accolades, like the fact that Woodrow Wilson's football stadium is named Mike Rozier Field.
"I'm from here, I still walk around here," he said. "I probably know half your uncles and your aunts."
The students, who had to summarize his speech for a class assignment, seemed to understand where he was coming from.
"It did help that he was from Camden because he knew what it's like," said student Lakira Williams.
At the start of the speech, Rozier turned down an offer to use a podium.
"I don't need a podium," he said. "I'm just a regular guy from Camden."