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Hailing their 'gentle giant'



Published: Tue, August 7, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Former teammates gathered in Warren to say goodbye to a friend.

By PHIL NOVAK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

WARREN -- The streets were lined with cars and the sidewalks piled with on-lookers. Family members, friends and former teammates packed the church. And the man they called the "gentle giant" was laid to rest.

Korey Stringer's death shocked everyone who knew and loved him. On Monday, they gathered at the First Assembly of God church to pay their final respects.

"He was a fun guy and a wonderful guy to be around," said Orlando Pace, an offensive tackle for the St. Louis Rams who was Stringer's teammate at Ohio State. "I was just happy to be a part of his life. He's a good friend of mine, and I care about him, love him and I just want to show my respect to him and his family.

"He touched our lives, and we're fortunate for that."

Coping: Minnesota Vikings teammate Cris Carter said the team is trying to handle the situation as well as it can.

"It's a road we've never been down," he said.

"I really don't know the path; there's no book to read. As a team we're really struggling, really grieving."

Pace said he understands how difficult it must be for Stringer's teammates.

"I'm sure it's going to be tough on those guys, but I'm sure he would just want them to go ahead and move on and win a championship," he said.

"He's gone and we're sad about that, but he's gone on to a better place."

Attributes: That's the approach Carter is using, trying to stay positive by remembering the great things about Stringer -- the things that made him a terrific person as well as a terrific football player.

"I just remember him laughing on Monday, laughing about cramping up and laughing at the other guys who were cramping up," Carter said.

"I'm just remembering the person he was. He was really committed to his family and to his team, and as his wife said [during the funeral], he was just a real person."

Tennessee running back Eddie George, Stringer's teammate at Ohio State, said he will remember his charisma and his character.

"The whole reason we're here is not to remember an athlete as much as to remember someone who had an impact on other people's lives," George said. "We celebrate his life."

Tovar's view: Former Ohio State teammate Steve Tovar, now a linebacker with the San Diego Chargers, said Stringer was a prankster, a friend and a great guy.

"Every time I've seen him he had a smile on his face or was trying to make people laugh," he said.

"It's just his personality. Korey was Korey. He's going to be sorely missed and I don't think there's a person around who won't miss his personality."

Pace, who played on the same offensive line with Stringer at Ohio State, said he will miss his friend.

"Losing a guy like that is tough," he said. "He always kept things pretty loose and kept guys laughing and pretty loose in the locker room. He's a well-liked person and he really affected a lot of guys."

pnovak@vindy.com




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