Chris Mazyck will never forget the early-morning hours of March 9,
1991. After dropping off his date, he experienced car trouble and
pulled into the deserted parking lot of a Columbia, S.C., grocery
store. As he tinkered with his car, the sound of squealing tires
broke the 2 a.m. silence. A white car screeched to a halt beside him.
Mazyck can still see the face of the kid who stepped out of the white
car. Mazyck had seen him before: He had come by the house an hour
earlier to visit Mazyck's younger sister. Mazyck hadn't liked the
looks of him, so he turned him away at the front porch.
Now this kid was stepping out of the car and pulling a handgun
from the waistband of his pants. He squeezed off six shots, each slug
burrowing deep into Mazyck's thick left leg. ''The first shot shocked
me so much I didn't even hear the second and third. I heard two or
three more shots, but I didn't feel anything,'' Mazyck says. ''The
sixth shot hit a major artery, and that's when I hit the ground.''
Mazyck, then a 20-year-old redshirt freshman home during spring
break from Penn State, picked himself up, his thigh shredded, his
sweat suit soaked with blood, and hobbled across Trotter Road to a
convenience store 100 yards away. ''All I cared about was
surviving,'' Mazyck says. ''After I got across the street, I took
five or six steps into the parking lot before my femur snapped.''
% A customer leaving the store saw Mazyck on the ground and
rushed him to the hospital. The bleeding from his leg was so profuse
that he needed 23 pints of blood pumped into him, and for the first
24 hours the doctors at Richland Memorial Hospital didn't know if he
Mazyck was in the hospital for the next three weeks. He thought
little about football until he returned home and wheeled himself
through his trophy room. There, the former South Carolina High School
Player of the Year fully realized the consequences of the shooting.
''I broke down and just cried,'' he says. ''I realized I had been
lucky to play football and thought that it was all over.''
Mazyck's left leg was in a cast for seven months, and when he
returned to State College in the fall, he weighed 340 pounds -- 60
more than his playing weight. But as the leg healed, he was able to
work out again, and by the spring his weight was down to 280.
Mazyck played sparingly as a fifth-year senior in 1993, backing up
All- America Lou Benfatti at defensive tackle. Last April, the NCAA,
acting on his petition, granted Mazyck an extra year of eligibility.
In August '94, as he prepared for his sixth season in State
College, Mazyck graduated with a degree in administration of justice.
Meanwhile, his attacker, who had been imprisoned in North Carolina on
drug charges, had bragged to fellow inmates about shooting a football
player. He was later convicted on additional charges of assault and
battery with intent to kill, though the case is under appeal.
A starter in '94, Mazyck had eight tackles for losses, including
two sacks. Returning an interception for a touchdown against Ohio
State during the Nittany Lions' homecoming on Oct. 29 was the
highlight of his year. Standing on the sideline near the end of the
game, Mazyck realized how far he had come. ''As I was taking my tape
off,'' he says, ''I looked up at the skies and said a prayer. I said