O.J. Simpson-Part II – O.J. Friend or Foe
By Dave Washington, Jr., Sports Editor
Jackson, MS – 1974 marked my third season with the Buffalo Bills. I will not be so presumptive as to say the drastic improvement of the Buffalo Bills during that period, was a direct result of my presence. However, I will say that much prayer and dedication by the guys and especially those that attended the chapel and Bible studies was quite evident. O.J. made appearances to the chapel services frequently but a constant no show for the Thursday, night Bible study at our home in Hamburg. Through many reminders from Robert James (Co-Chaplin) and me and I am sure calls from Ira Lee (DOC) Eshleman, Founder of Sports World Ministries, now “Sports World, Incorporated”. Doc and Sports World started that chapel program in pro football. Doc always referred to O.J. as “His Boy”. Doc, as well as so many of us, saw the pain O.J. wrestled with trying to live the double life.
I came to discover O.J. apparently had someone looking over his shoulder, sometimes warning him of his misdeeds, other times encouraging him to do the right thing. I thought it quite interesting that maybe two of his greatest advocates and prayer warriors had roots in Mississippi, Bishop T. Larry Kirkland, Sr., Presiding Prelate, 5th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Louisville, KY and yours truly. We were teammates during Alcorn’s glory days of the 18-0-1 two times Black National Football Championship teams. The teams were named interestingly “The Dream Team.” Reverend Kirk, as he was turned back in college at Alcorn State University, provided that voice for O.J. during Bishop Kirkland’s tenure in the “Favored Fifth” for twenty years as the popular pastor of Brookins Community A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles, CA. Bishop Kirkland grew that church from a mere twelve members into a congregation of more than eight thousand. Two black men (licensed/ordained preachers) with southern roots and a love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ would boldly refuse to be smitten by the O.J. mystique. But rather dealt truthfully with him in all areas of life.
The 1974 season at Buffalo saw the defense beef up as it only gave up 3,489 yards fifth-fewest in the NFL and only 1,611 passing yards allowed with a third best ranking in the league. At the end of the season, we found ourselves in the first round of the playoffs pitted against the Pittsburgh Steelers. On December 22, 1974, marked one of the worst days of my life as I saw teammate’s families from Buffalo, arrive in the parking lot of Three Rivers Stadium with U-Haul trailers in tow behind their family vehicles. I had never seen such a display of defeat before the contest even begin. Needless to say, Pittsburg went on to win the game by a score of 32-14. I have held to the theory all these years, had we won that game we would have five Super Bowl rings In our case and not Pittsburgh.
With a heartbreaking end to a great run in Buffalo, the Bills/(O.J.) were prompted to make three defensive moves from the starting line-up during the off-season. I was traded to the San Francisco 49’ers after what would be considered by most a formidable year at outside linebacker. I recorded five fumble recoveries, two interceptions and was selected All-Pro and played in the Pro Bowl in my three years at San Francisco. Middle linebacker Jim Cheyunski was traded to Baltimore, where he started eight of fourteen games, two interceptions, and one fumble recovery. Strong safety Neal Craig was traded to the Cleveland Browns and started ten of eleven games and recorded one interception. Each played a vital part of the make up our chapel and Bible study group. A total of 19 players were not on the roster the following 1975 season. We were scattered through the league and beyond. Even the Pastor of the little Southern Baptist Church we all attended in Orchard Park was transferred (traded) to Pittsburgh. I am not making this stuff up. It would be fitting to mention at this point that in 1975, the Buffalo defense had the distinction of giving up total passing yards (3,080) in a 14-game schedule during the merger era. How you like us now Buffalo? Did I say that…?
I am sure each player had issues to deal with as a result of leaving Buffalo and some may believe the O.J. influence on management is paramount in their success or lack thereof after Buffalo. I would like to believe as Doc would say often as he quoted his favorite scripture : “ And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” – Romans 8:28.
Dianne my wife of five years (now 46 years) was in her eighth month of pregnancy with serious complications with our third child. The Buffalo Doctors wanted to abort as the history of her complications only revealed three cases with a similar diagnosis, one case the child was stillborn, another the child was born with severe disabilities and the third both mother and child died in childbirth. I decided to retire and stay in Buffalo and hopefully find better Doctors. But God; had I not been traded to San Francisco, where the best Doctors in the world are housed at the University of California Medical Center, (UC Medical) we would not have received the care and treatment Dianne needed. The 49’ers arranged everything from a special flight to San Francisco for Dianne, to having Doctors specializing in the needs we had for a successful delivery. D’Angelo Matthew Washington was born September 10, healthy, alert and smart. Now an entrepreneur chemistry major with MBA and MSM degrees chasing the American dream. I can only hold to what I believe in: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive.” – Genesis 50:20
O.J. Friend or foe?
Part III – O.J. – Premeditated or Predestined?
Dave Washington, Jr., played linebacker in the NFL for 11 years. He is also Sports Columnist for local Mississippi weekly Newspapers, contributing writer for National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), sportsblog.com and columnist for several on-line News/Sports media and Editor Proplayercompanies.com/media. www.davewashington.com