Thursday, August 02, 2001

OSU teammate mourns Stringer




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        In terms of imitations, Korey Stringer did John Cooper about as well as John Cooper could be done. The big tackle liked to commandeer the microphone at Ohio State's football facility and issue instructions to his teammates in the Tennessee twang of the head coach.

        “He would call meetings and some of the time he would get away with it,” Max Langenkamp recalled Wednesday afternoon. “He was that good. Or he would say, "Max, I saw you drop that ball in practice today. You've got stone hands. Come see me now.' ”

        Langenkamp was laughing now, remembering the joy and the jokes he has always associated with Stringer. The two Buckeyes had come to Columbus together —
Stringer, the big tackle from Warren Harding and Langenkamp, the tight end from Moeller — and they were tight.

        When he learned of Stringer's death early Wednesday morning, Langenkamp was drafting a legal memo at Frost Brown Todd in the PNC Bank building in downtown Cincinnati. He soon abandoned the document because his concentration had been compromised. Rather than risk a mistake, he went home to await word on funeral arrangements.

        The two men had not talked in more than a year, yet their bond endured despite distance and disparity. Long before Stringer became an All-Pro with the Minnesota Vikings and Langenkamp enrolled in law school at North Carolina, they were suitemates as OSU freshmen and innocent victims of many of the same offensive line meetings.

        In 1994, when Langenkamp earned his lone varsity letter, Stringer was a first-team All-American. In some formations, they lined up side by side. More than once, Langenkamp watched Stringer open holes wide enough for a Winnebago.

Down to earth

        “We had three-a-day practices in the fall,” Langenkamp recalled. “Korey was always the one who would take your mind off of the struggles you were going through in practice. He was just the most down-to-earth person you'd ever meet. He was always cracking jokes and he sang songs quite a bit. He ended up being a team leader.”

        That Stringer ended up in the morgue Wednesday was attributed to complications from heatstroke. He was carrying 335 pounds when he reported for training camp, and he was unable to complete the Vikings' first practice Monday.

        He returned Tuesday resolved to tough it out in full pads with temperatures in the 90s and stifling humidity. He finished the practice but soon was headed for the hospital in an ambulance.

        Stringer's death raises questions that will confront football coaches, physicians and liability lawyers as teams train for the upcoming season. Noel Coward claimed only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, but only football players conduct simulated combat in suits of armor on the hottest days of the year.

Further review

        NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue ordered all 31 teams Wednesday to review their procedures for extreme heat, but he will be hard-pressed to mandate moderation. One of the foundations of football philosophy is that pushing players under extreme conditions makes them better when it matters most.

        Players often speak of “paying the price” in training camp. What they need to know is how much they can afford to pay.

        E-mail tsullivan@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/sullivan.

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