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Original Issue

The COMEBACK Chronicles

NFL training camp is a now-or-never time for the Navy's Napoleon McCallum and two other players trying to restart their football careers

Nothing enlivens sports like a comeback. Tommy John, Sugar Ray Leonard and John McEnroe have all been more intriguing the second time around. Every season of every sport has its stories of rebirth, of course, but few are as varied and dramatic as those incubating for the 1989 NFL season.

The last time Lieutenant (j.g.) Napoleon McCallum of the U.S. Navy carried an NFL football, he gained four yards up the middle against the Indianapolis Colts. That was on Dec. 21, 1986, when he was a running back for the Los Angeles Raiders. In the 946 days since then, McCallum's athletic future was kicked about in a high-level game of political football. During that time, he spent six months on a warship, visiting exotic lands along the Indian Ocean and enduring the threat of Iranian air attack in the Strait of Hormuz. Then he was traded by the Raiders to the Chargers and was reassigned by the Navy to a recruiting office in San Diego. Now he is poised to resume his playing career while fulfilling the remaining 16 months of his obligation to the Navy.

Says McCallum: "I haven't thought of this as a comeback. I'm supposed to play, and that's what I'm going to do."

The last time outside linebacker Otis Wilson sacked a quarterback in a regular-season game was on Dec. 20, 1987. He crashed through the Seattle Seahawks' offensive line and drove Dave Krieg to the turf at Soldier Field in Chicago. In the 582 days since then, he suffered torn ligaments in his left knee and underwent reconstructive surgery. He drove himself through hundreds of hours of physical rehabilitation. He was discarded by the Bears, the franchise for which he had played his entire career. And he was signed by the Raiders, who are trying to rebuild their defense.

Says the 31-year-old Wilson: "I'm coming back with a vengeance. Everyone in this business wants a 21-year-old. But playing football is an attitude. I'll take any rookie into the gym and he'll fall asleep on me because he'll be tired."

The last time Derrick Fenner ran from scrimmage was on Nov. 22, 1986. He was a sophomore tailback for North Carolina, and on a pitchout against Duke he gained 32 yards, giving him 1,250 for the season. In the 975 days since then, he flunked out of one school and walked out of another after being blocked from playing by the school's conference. He was arrested for unlawfully transporting a handgun, and he pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine. He was indicted for killing a man, and he spent six weeks in a Maryland jail before the charges were dropped. He was shot outside a bar last Christmas Day. In April he was drafted in the 10th round by the Seattle Seahawks.

Says Fenner: "This is a comeback, definitely. Especially considering where I was two years ago—in jail. I want to have a successful stay in football, and at the end of it, it'll be something to put down on paper. I think it'll be real interesting to read."

Each of these players was a star, and each was away from football for a year or more. Now all three of them are trying to do the most difficult thing in sports: They are trying to recover lost time. Each attended minicamp in the spring and got reacquainted with team meetings, shadow drills and blowing whistles. But that, as the football people say, is just gym shorts. Soon they will put on full gear twice a day and endure withering contact while trying desperately to make an impression. Meanwhile, coaches who once might have given them the benefit of the doubt wonder how sharp, how sound, how hungry they are now or can be again.

As these three men compete at training camps that open this week, their identities as athletes—and possibly millions of dollars—will be on the line. They have come a long way, but they have not yet come back.

After standing watch while two NFL seasons ticked away, Napoleon McCallum, 25, is on a mission. There is no way he will lose another minute from his athletic prime. McCallum has a datebook, a rust-colored binder crammed with pencil-scratched appointments, addresses and the Chargers' marching orders for his weight workouts. It's his personal double-duty roster, his way of balancing his obligations to the Navy and to himself. "I don't miss much," he says. "I've learned how important it is to manage your time."

At 0700 hours, the June sun has yet to muster enough strength to burn off the haze over San Diego. In the parking lot at Jack Murphy Stadium, a man steers his weathered sedan from garbage can to garbage can, stopping to rummage for returnable bottles to toss into the car's open trunk. McCallum, fueled by an 0630 breakfast of Sugar Pops, milk and a peanut butter sandwich, climbs from his red Mitsubishi Starion carrying his Navy whites on a hanger, heads to the locker room and slips on his Charger gym clothes. None of his new teammates are in sight. "They can afford to sleep in," he says.

To put it simply, when the sun is up, McCallum is either working or working out. For now, his life as an officer and a running back is fluid and programmable; both of his jobs—recruiting minority officers for the Navy and training for the NFL—have flexible hours. His life will be streamlined when training camp begins on Saturday, because McCallum plans to cash in the remaining 40 days of his accumulated leave to do battle on the field. But once the NFL season starts, he will be caught up in an unforgiving twin grind: jumping on his recruiting chores Mondays and Tuesdays while nursing his wounds from Sundays, then facing dual shifts at the office and at the practice field Wednesdays through Fridays.

McCallum isn't daunted by what lies ahead. "I know I'm not going to be as exhausted as I was with the Raiders," he says. In his round-the-clock season of 1986, he rushed for 536 yards in 15 games while serving as assistant food-services officer aboard the USS Peleliu, an amphibious helicopter carrier docked at Long Beach. With relentless on-ship duties, practices and commuting to L.A., his schedule was so tight that he took his wife, Karen, to the team movies on Friday nights—risking his fellow Raiders' wrath—so he and she could spend time together.

As McCallum goes about his training regimen, he is clipped and calculated. "If I don't get it done in an hour, I'm just playing around," he says. An occasional smile ripples across his calm face. It was his brisk nature that pulled McCallum through his two seasons away from football. After he graduated from Annapolis in December 1985 as the Middies' all-time leading rusher, the Navy allowed him to play for the Raiders while he was stationed on the Peleliu. But in April of '87, James Webb succeeded John Lehman as secretary of the Navy, and Webb believed the academy's finest should fight for yardage in one uniform only. Despite McCallum's requests to stay near L.A., his next orders, in May 1987, dispatched him to the USS California, a guided-missile cruiser that was based near Oakland and headed to sea. He wondered whether he would be permitted to play again before his five-year hitch was up, by which time he would have turned 27—ancient for an NFL back.

Nonetheless, he brought his Soloflex weight-training machine aboard the California. He pumped iron in his cramped stateroom during lunch. At dinnertime he would run sprints on the forecastle, or complete 10 laps around the deck, five laps to a mile. Then there were his duties as the ship's disbursing and retail-sales officer, supervising 16 sailors. "I'm normally a positive person, but five or six times I asked myself, Just why am I doing this?" McCallum recalls. "Why am I working out when I'm not going to play? That kind of stuff just keeps creeping into your head.

"But my feeling was: Once was, always will be. I was a football player, and if you were one, you're going to be able to go back."

While at sea about his NFL career, he argued publicly that he could serve the Navy's interests as a football player, acting as a sort of human recruiting poster. A good omen came in March 1988, when William Ball succeeded Webb as secretary of the Navy. The good news came in October '88, when the California was near the Philippines, in the form of a telegram from Karen:


Happy was an understatement. San Diego is home to the largest Navy base on the Pacific Coast. McCallum believed he had a good chance to be posted there after he returned to shore duty.

So did the football operations director of the Chargers, Steve Ortmayer, who had obtained McCallum and tackle John Clay for tackle Jim Lachey. Ortmayer had been an executive with the Raiders when they drafted McCallum. "You gain a little admiration for a person when you see him sacrifice as he did to handle both jobs," Ortmayer says.

McCallum's superiors later approved his request for a detail in San Diego. On May 10 the orders he had been hoping for came through, and the Navy announced that McCallum was "free to seek employment in his off-duty hours."

Looking back on his time at sea, McCallum is proud to have earned combat pay for spending 45 days last winter escorting oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz. "It's intense and real impressive, too, how everyone works to get the job done," he says. "You really put all your training to use."

His favorite nautical tale, however, involves crossing the equator. He pulls a T-shirt out of his knapsack that commemorates a venerable rite of passage. In a traditional shipboard hazing, he had to crawl on the deck through fetid food, suck a cherry out of the belly button of the ship's fattest sailor and have his head dunked in a toilet filled with a medley of bubbling brown sludge, of which McCallum says, "You only hoped it wasn't....

"The master chief wanted me to say, I love Bo Jackson,' but I kept saying, 'I love myself,' " McCallum recalls. "So he'd stick my head in that stuff again."

Having learned the Charger offense at minicamp in May, McCallum enters his battle for playing time on equal footing with his fellow running backs. Although he won't have to beat out Jackson or Marcus Allen, the Raider runners, he will have to outplay Gary Anderson, Lionel James and former Redskin Tim Smith for time in the Chargers' one-back set.

McCallum's main concern about time these days focuses on a stopwatch. He was never a burner—his best clocking over 40 yards is a 4.6 he ran at Annapolis—and he is not likely to have gotten speedier. His other anxiety as camp approaches wasn't allayed by his quarter-backing the California's flag football team. "The big question is, Can I take a hit?" the 6'2", 224-pound McCallum says. "I believe I can. It's just mental, and I have enough mental discipline to take it. But I'm sure the first time it happens I'll go, Why am I doing this?"

After working out at the stadium, McCallum showers, slips on his Navy uniform and drives 15 miles to the Naval Training Center, arriving at 0845. He spreads his datebook in front of him on the desk. He has an interview to conduct (1100), paperwork to complete (1400 to 1600), a meeting to attend on the problem of college dropouts among black males (1800), calls to make, and running to squeeze in at lunch. Nothing on the walls near his desk suggests he has a second career, but there is a blue wooden pencil holder in the shape of a football, which McCallum likes to pick up and play with while he talks.

One of McCallum's jobs is to recruit "culturally diverse" officer candidates for the Navy. He has a goal of finding 15 prospects a month; he must encourage five of them to take a test, and try to ensure that one of them passes and applies to the service. This gives him a loose schedule—"I don't work hours, I work for objectives"—and a forum in which to speak about the Navy. "As he gets better in football, the national attention he gets can only help us," says his commanding officer, Captain Samuel Hallmark.

Before McCallum goes out to run his half-dozen quarter-mile sprints at 1200, he interviews a sonar technician interested in an NROTC college scholarship. He grills the young petty officer about the differences between managing and leading, and about how he would describe himself. Then he asks the recruit if he has any questions.

"I have one," he says. "How do you handle this—work and football? I can't imagine it. Me and another guy were talking about it. It's unbelievable. You seem tired."

McCallum looks concerned. If he looks weary now, how will he look once the season starts? Has he fallen behind already? "I'll handle it," he says after a moment. "You never know your limits until you have to push yourself."

Otis Wilson emerges from his Mercedes 560 SEL, glittering. He's in his Sunday-morning attire—a Fila warmup jacket, a diamond earring in his left ear, a Rolex on one wrist, a gold bracelet on the other, a nearly blinding wedding band and a diamond pinkie ring. Practically everyone else at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is wearing a numbered T-shirt. There are road races of various lengths being held along Lake Michigan in an event billed as the First Chicago Run for the Zoo. Wilson is there at 9 a.m., doing one of the things he does well and often. He is making an appearance.

"You running today, Otis?" asks a contestant trotting to her starting line. "I run fast, sweetheart," Wilson says, "not far."

He signs a few autographs around his Mercedes—"Watch the fingerprints, please, buddy. I just waxed it yesterday"—and works his way to a sports celebrity tent, where he is making a paid appearance. A bunch of kids and grownups ambles in his wake. You would think—the P.A. announcer mistakenly does—that he was still a member of their beloved Chicago Bears. After grabbing a can of juice, Wilson spends the next hour signing autographs and dispensing charm.

Wilson, an NFL player for nine seasons—and an All-Pro in 1985—is 6'2", 227 pounds and $550,000 a year of snorting, sacking aggression. He is other things, too, and most of them attract attention. He sings with the all-jock Chicago 6 band, and his soulful tones during a recent performance prompted a woman in San Juan to take off her top and throw it at him. He is a dedicated clothes hound who has been known to show up at a Chicago Bulls game in a full-length fur. He is the host of a sports talk show on a Chicago cable-TV station. He is also generous with his time, and he talks a good game of anything.

It doesn't take a couch or a Viennese accent to gain access to Wilson's ego, as the runners flocking to the tent quickly discover. He tosses out words he'll try to catch up to later. You happy to be playing for the Raiders, Otis? "I don't care where I play, sweetheart, so long as the check don't bounce." Make the Bears sorry they didn't sign you, Otis. "I don't need to make them sorry; they already are." Why are you leaving us, Otis? "I'll tell you the truth, sweetheart. It was Mike Ditka."

The main reason for Wilson's departure was something that happened before last season, in an Aug. 22 exhibition 'game at Dallas. As Wilson was making a tackle, a Cowboy offensive lineman fell on Wilson's left knee. Wilson walked off the field, but he didn't play again in that game or for the rest of the year. The diagnosis was a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. After an injury like that, an athlete usually looks for a new career.

Dallas was the site of one of the Bears'—and Wilson's—finest hours, as they stormed to a 44-0 victory in the 11th game of the 1985 season. Wilson and his good friend Dave Duerson, the Bears' strong safety, began to bark as they toppled America's Team, starting a craze of canine yapping that reached a kennellike peak in their 46-10 blowout of New England in Super Bowl XX the following January. This time in Dallas, though, Wilson was the one who heard the dogs. In the locker room at halftime, he said to Duerson, "You watch. I bet you any amount of money I won't be in a Chicago uniform no more."

A week later Dr. Lanny Johnson grafted a tendon from Wilson's left hamstring onto the ruptured ligament. After spending the most miserable month of his life in a cast, with his weight dipping to 210 pounds, Wilson began to work out. He reported to Halas Hall at the Bears" Lake Forest complex almost every day and stayed from nine to five. Later he worked three hours a day three times a week with Ron Russ, the manager of sports medicine for the Centre Club in Libertyville, Ill. In addition to squats and presses and flexes, Wilson strained in an isokinetic torture device called a Cybex, and ran 10- to 12-mph sprints up a 12% grade on a treadmill. Russ says the knee and the hamstring are "95- to 100-percent" healed. "He should be ready without difficulty when the season begins," says Russ.

Even while Wilson rehabilitated his leg under the aegis of the Bears, he believed coach Mike Ditka wanted him off the team. Ditka won't comment on that. According to Wilson, Ditka has never held him in high esteem, labeling him and fellow linebacker Wilber Marshall "the big-mouth bookends." Marshall signed as a free agent last year with the Redskins. "You could see the writing on the wall," Wilson says. "Stevie Wonder could see that writing."

The final straw came in December, when Wilson visited Philadelphia coach Buddy Ryan the night before the Bears' 20-12 first-round playoff victory over the Eagles. A picture of Wilson with Ryan, the Bears' former defensive coordinator, appeared in a Chicago paper. Wilson and Ryan are longtime friends; Ditka and Ryan aren't. A month later the Bears announced they would not retain Wilson, allowing him to pursue unrestricted free agency.

Because of his injury, Wilson wasn't a hot property. Teams were interested, but only at their price. So why didn't he just pursue modeling, singing, TV talk-show hosting? Why not make appearances and go on with life? Partly, he says, because he had something to prove to himself and to the Bears; partly because he had set a goal to play 12 years and had chalked up only nine; and mainly, he says, "because I love it, I love this game. I love that feeling, coming around the corner, taking the quarterback down and hearing that crowd. That's an adrenaline rush that gets me to the point where I feel invincible. That's the ultimate high. So why stop that when you still have it in your blood, when you still need that? Although I could accept it if I had to stop, there's nothing wrong with me. So why?"

Al Davis, the owner of the Raiders, called in late February. He said money was no object, as long as Wilson's knee was sound. "Al told me, We're going to attack people like the old Raiders did: Bloody their noses and send them home," Wilson says. "That was just what I wanted to hear."

The Raiders plan to employ a version of Ryan's aggressive 46 defense, in which Wilson thrived; he averaged 70 tackles and eight sacks from 1984 to 1987. As Ryan once said of Wilson, "He goes to play. Open up a can of whip-butt and put it on them." Wilson feels that his can of whip-butt is good for three more years. In minicamp, he ran, cut and juked without pain in his knee. And as for tackling, he says, "That's the easiest thing. You catch somebody, choke 'em and throw 'em down."

Wilson's home may be in Chicago, but his heart is wherever there are vicious sacks to be made. "Now I'm in California, with my umbrella in the sand on the beach and my helmet in one hand," he says. "And I'm going to play some football."

Over the last three years, Derrick Fenner missed the wrong buses, skipped the wrong classes, created the wrong image, trusted the wrong friends, drove the wrong truck and was outside the wrong nightclub on the wrong day. He also was wrongly accused of murder.

It is impossible to know how much this run of misfortune has changed Fenner, now 22, as he navigates his Pathfinder through the chic streets of Georgetown. He can recount the most harrowing times of his past while pointing out his favorite boutiques and eateries. When he settles in behind his chicken sandwich at Houlihan's, his most pressing concern seems to be that the French fries have been delayed. There is no bitterness or bewilderment in his voice. Instead, he exudes a strange cool, perhaps from an awareness that no matter how often or how badly he stumbles, he has always been able to right himself.

"One thing that always kept me going was knowing that one day I would pursue my goal of football," Fenner says. "Football has always been there, and I feel like right now, there's nothing that can happen to me that hasn't already happened. If I can go into Seattle and make the team and get playing time, then I'll know I'm on my way. I don't see any reason that can't happen."

People who know Fenner well describe him in a dizzying plurality of ways: charming, immature, bright, vain, delightful, arrogant, optimistic, self-destructive. He describes himself as "young and single and wild." To the Seahawks, he has more quantifiable attributes: Fenner is 6'4" and 230 pounds, with the musculature of a bodybuilder, the speed of a scatback and the soft hands of a wideout. As a sophomore at North Carolina, he was the fifth-leading rusher in Division I football.

"If Derrick Fenner can capture—or recapture—what he had and mature from there, he has a chance," says Seattle general manager Tom Flores. "He was a good choice for us, because if he doesn't make it he's just a 10th-round pick, and I know that sounds kind of cold. But if he does make it, he's a great addition to our team and a great story."

Fenner grew up in Oxon Hill, Md., a racially mixed, middle-class suburb of bungalows and apartment complexes outside Washington, D.C. He was an only child and grew up in a two-bedroom apartment with his father, Spear Fenner, an auto-body worker, and Spear's wife, Clara, a drugstore cashier. When Derrick was 12, Spear and Clara told him something he had only suspected: She was not his real mother. He had been born out of wedlock to Spear and Emma McNair, who didn't feel she could properly care for Derrick, her first child. "I understood what she did and why," he says. "But it was hard when I found out she had three other children and she kept all of them. I was like. Why didn't you keep me?"

Life moved fast for Fenner. When he was 11 he spent four hours in a holding cell after he was caught breaking and entering an electronics store with a friend. It was the friend's idea, Fenner says, and he tries to explain it away. "Anytime you're an only child you become a spoiled brat. I wouldn't try to get away with things on purpose," he says, "but I was around when the trouble started. You know how it is when you're a kid. You don't want to look wimpy."

That would have been tough for Fenner to do. By the time he was a sophomore at Oxon Hill High, he was 6'4" and 200 pounds. His first love was basketball, but success came quicker in football, and as one of his former lawyers. Craig Kelly, says, Fenner is "an instant-gratification kind of guy." The first time Fenner touched a football in a high school game, in the 10th grade, he ran 65 yards for a touchdown, and he was instantly gratified. Soon he was hooked on the idea of playing in college and even in the NFL.

With his high school grades averaging lower than 2.0, he needed a 3.0 his senior year to qualify for a scholarship. He earned a 3.2. Fenner chose North Carolina because of its tradition of tailbacks. He made an immediate impression at Chapel Hill, driving around campus in a red BMW 325 with a cellular telephone and wearing an ever-changing wardrobe of stylish clothes. He says the car was a leased gift from Spear and Clara for his getting a scholarship. The clothes, Fenner says, were a gift from a high school friend who had designed them himself.

In Fenner's first game as a freshman, after being told the night before that he would start, he rushed for 109 yards against Wake Forest. Despite his talent and success, North Carolina's official attitude toward Fenner was plain to see in the 1986 media guide: "...must improve his work habits and become a more consistent player.... Needs to be more disciplined...."

Coach Dick Crum put him on the bench for the season opener his sophomore year against The Citadel, but he came off of it to ramble for 216 yards. The next week, Fenner was suspended for missing the team bus. Against Virginia later in the season, he was held out of the starting lineup for being late for two practices. Still, he slogged through a muddy field for 328 yards, an ACC record. He might have added to his 1,250-yard season, which led the ACC that year, in the Aloha Bowl. But before the team left for Hawaii, his grades came out: Fenner had failed two classes, and the university withdrew his scholarship.

He returned home and took correspondence courses to regain his eligibility. Then came the night of May 23, 1987, in Hyattsville, Md. In the courtyard of an apartment complex known to be the site of crack dealing, a group of unidentified men exchanged gunfire. Marcellus Leach, 19, was struck in the head and neck and died. A week later, the Hyattsville police, who had received an anonymous tip that Fenner was present at the shooting, called him in for questioning. On June 1, the day after Fenner drove back to North Carolina for summer school, he learned he was being charged with first-degree murder.

"My first reaction was, Are you crazy?" Fenner recalls. "I was scared to death. It's something you can't imagine, a nightmare, to think of being locked up for the rest of your life for something you didn't do. It's like something you see on TV in a movie." A Prince George's County grand jury later indicted him for first-degree murder, attempted murder and unlawful use of a handgun. He was also charged with cocaine possession and unlawful transport of a handgun, the result of an earlier incident in which a .38-caliber revolver and 25 vials containing trace amounts of cocaine were discovered in a borrowed truck he was driving. He denied knowing anything about the gun or the vials. The maximum penalty he faced was two life sentences plus 47 years.

On June 2, Fenner was locked up in the county jail. For the first three days of his incarceration, he could barely sleep. He thought of ways to attack a guard and hold him hostage so that he could escape. He thought of killing himself by jumping off a balcony and hitting his head on a metal bar. He spent the next 44 days in a seven- by 10-foot cell, until he was released on $100,000 bond. "Even with a murder trial hanging over him, he continued to work out," says Fred Joseph, the lawyer who defended him. "There never seemed to be any question in his mind that he would not just be a pro, but an All-Pro."

Fenner pleaded guilty to the drug charge and was sentenced to three years' probation, but the prosecutors dropped the murder charges on Nov. 30, 1987, citing "conflicting evidence" that raised substantial doubt about his involvement. Tyrone (Smokey) Davis is now serving 50 years in the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore after being convicted of second-degree murder in the Leach case. Davis and Fenner grew up together. A picture of them in tuxedos and red cummerbunds, with Fenner's elbow on Davis's shoulder, sits on Spear and Clara's living-room table.

In August 1988, Fenner enrolled at Gardner-Webb College, a Baptist NAIA school in Boiling Springs, N.C., that offered him a football scholarship. Fenner passed his classes, got along well with his teammates, spoke at churches and walked; coach Woody Fish had ordered him to leave the BMW at home. But Fenner was never allowed to suit up for a game. The South Atlantic Conference eligibility committee blocked him on a technicality. "I think the conference was concerned with Derrick's image," Fish says.

Fenner lost interest in school, and Fish lost interest in Fenner after an incident at 4 a.m. last Christmas Day. Outside RSVP, a club in southwest Washington, Fenner's chest was grazed by a bullet. Police said Fenner had had an argument with several men inside the club a half hour earlier. Fenner says he was an innocent bystander when a fight broke out. No charges were filed.

The NFL says it conducted a security check on Fenner before declaring him eligible for this year's college draft. Before the RSVP shooting, Kelly says, Fenner might have gone in the fifth or sixth round. One scout, Kelly says, compared him with Bo Jackson.

Now, for once, Fenner may be in the right place. Although the Seahawks have some other young backs, they seem to be disenchanted with 28-year-old Curt Warner. Fenner reported to Seattle's minicamp a week early and stayed two weeks late. "If I told him to be in my office at eight o'clock in the morning, he'd be there early with his book open and a number of intelligent questions," says running-back coach Chick Harris. But he faces a steep slope. "How much of the competitive edge has he lost?" asks Flores. "We'll find out."

At a fitness center near Oxon Hill, Fenner bench-presses under the stern eye of 38-year-old powerlifter Melvin (Bear) Colbert. Fenner plays a lot of racquetball, shops a lot in Georgetown and hits a lot of clubs. "I know I can't go out and get rowdy and throw some guy through a window," he says. "But I go out to have a good time. I don't see any reason to lock myself in a room."

He dreams of starring in the NFL, of acting, modeling, opening his own boutique. Some who know Fenner believe he will do what it takes in the short term to be a success. When he needed the 3.0 average in high school, when he needed to toe the line at Gardner-Webb, when he needed to be diligent at minicamp, Fenner came through. It is when he achieves success that things seem to go wrong—a gifted child who will somehow prove that he was never truly worthy of his mother's love. Still, like all returning players, he dreams his dream.

"I'm really ready now," he says. "It's not too late."



In 1985, McCallum became the academy's alltime leading rusher, with 4,179 yards.



McCallum works out early and alone. His teammates, he says, "can afford to sleep in."



Wilson sometimes sings with the Chicago 6 and band member Walter Payton, right.



Wilson Past: two of the Bears' seven sacks in their Super Bowl XX rout of the Patriots.



Wilson Present: "So why stop when you still have it in your blood, when you still need it?"



Fenner has the speed of a small back and the physique (6'4", 230 pounds) of a big one.



As a sophomore Tar Heel in '86, Fenner led the ACC in rushing and was fifth in the U.S.



Fenner, shopping in Georgetown, has another dream—to open his own clothes boutique.



Even in jail, Fenner believed he would be All-Pro one day.