It was a rare teaming of physical and political muscle last night at the Capital Hyatt: former football players, including Mel Blount, Lemar Lundy and Lenny Moore, rubbing bulky shoulders with the more slender frames of Sens. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), beer magnate Joe Coors, J. Warren Cassidy of the National Rifle Association and others. The reason for the encounter was a salute to a 6-foot-5 Christian activist and ex-footballer, Rosey Grier.
Grier, an ordained Christian minister with success both in Hollywood and on the football field, is still very much an activist for the disadvantaged youth of this country as well as for school prayer and related issues.
There was still a little show business left in him, however. At the beginning of the party, sponsored by the Coalition for Freedom and Grier's "Are You Committed" center in Los Angeles, Grier played on-camera host for a Los Angeles television station, interviewing Helms ("I praise the Lord for Rosey Grier"), Coors ("People like you are going to turn this country around"), ex-footballers Mel Renfro and Lundy, comedian George Kirby and others about their religious faith and their advice for American youth. Grier then went inside to be praised from the platform by emcee Merlin Olsen, with help from others.
"His heart was bigger than his body," said Olsen, who helped Grier pulverize quarterbacks as a member of the Los Angeles Rams' Fearsome Foursome defensive line, at the reception before the speeches. "I think that's still true." In front of the mike, Olsen amended that sentiment: "His heart is bigger than his girth, which is considerable."
Helms delivered a greeting from President Reagan and spoke of a recent visit to the Golan Heights during which Helms asked an Israeli officer how the Israeli army had managed to destroy so many enemy tanks while losing so few of its own. The officer replied, " 'We economize . . . We don't have reverse gear.' "
"Rosey Grier never had a reverse gear," Helms added. "He's forging right ahead."
"I don't know where I'm going, but I'm trying to follow a path of love," Grier said at the end of the evening, when all the tributes (including a citation from the Maranatha Christian Ministeries for his work with college campus youth) were through. "People say to me, 'How can you love everybody?' I say, 'It's easy. I just choose to do it.' "
Grier's biggest project is the "Are You Committed" jobs training center for youth in Los Angeles, which he opened last year. He is encouraging other former sports figures to do the same in their cities. Among those expected to follow suit are Lenny Moore in Baltimore, Roger Staubach in Dallas and Lemar Lundy in Chicago, Grier said. He estimated that about 12,000 youths had visited his center. "We want young people to have vision to achieve greatness . . . We are the ones to make it better. We are the foot soldiers."
After the speeches, a television was wheeled into the room so people could take care of some other business -- watching "Monday Night Football."