In the early morning hours of April 16, 2004, three Benedictine High School athletes drove to an area about two miles from school and a block from the home of one of the teens.
They targeted two men who had just pulled to the curb in their vehicle
for a robbery. They thought the driver, 20-year-old Rodney Roberts,
might have money and drugs. They also thought Roberts, who had a
reputation in the neighborhood as laid-back and quiet, would be an easy
They were wrong.
According to reporters in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, sophomore Lorenzo
Hunter was at Roberts' side while 18-year-old Raymond Williams, Ohio's
Mr. Football, went around to the passenger side.
Both aimed phony guns, believed to be replicas of 9mm weapons. Jon
Huddleston was nearby. One of trio demanded cash.
The passenger reached into his pocket and threw loose cash out the
Lorenzo then took the robbery a step further. He ordered Roberts out of
the car, likely hoping to get more cash. But as Roberts got out, he
pulled a handgun and fired.
Williams and Huddleston ran off and Roberts and his friend left,
leaving Lorenzo in the street where he would die of three gunshot
This is the life Whitner escaped as a star athlete at Glenville High School,
where he was coached by Ted Ginn, father of Whitner's Ohio State
teammate Ted Ginn, Jr.
Whitner, who also played on the same youth football team with Williams
for three years, was stunned to hear of the arrest.
"I'd give him the ball [back then] and with somebody in his face, Ray
would cut right, cut left, then cut it back right and he was gone 80
yards for a touchdown," Whitner told the Plain Dealer.
Williams, whose scholarship to West Virginia was revoked upon his
arrest, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and aggravated
robbery charges. Huddleston pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter.
Both received probation.
Whitner, now one of the top safety prospects in this year's NFL draft,
knows it very easily could have been him making that kind of mistake
had he not chosen to devote his life to football.
"I'm most proud of being able to come from Glenville and give the guys
at Glenville the courage they need to go on to college and even go on
the pros," Whitner told Scout.com. "Just being able to come back and
talk to a lot of the guys that are trying to make it to the place where
I've been and the place where I'm going is really important."
Where the 5-11, 205-pound Whitner is going is to the NFL, where he'll
be no worse than a mid-second round draft pick.
And he is definitely on the Steelers' radar. The defending Super Bowl
champions lost starting free safety Chris Hope in free agency and
released backups Mike Logan and Russell Stuvaints. The team signed Ryan Clark as a free agent from Washington, but still has just three
safeties on its roster.
It wouldn't mind making Whitner a member of the Steelers. And Whitner
would love to join a defense like Pittsburgh's.
"I just want to go to any team that has an attacking style of defense,"
he said. "That's what I like."
If the Steelers can't get Whitner, they also like Nebraska's Daniel Bullocks, Tennessee's Jason Allen, USC's Darnell Bing, Abilene
Christian's Danieal Manning and South Carolina's Ko Simpson as possible
free safety prospects.
The Steelers would likely have to select Bullocks, Allen or Bing in the
first round, while it could wait until the end of the second round to
grab Manning or Simpson. The Steelers could also make a move to trade
up in the second round if they passed on a safety in the first round
and one of the players they covet is still available in the middle of
the second round.
Considering the depth of this year's safety class, the Steelers could
also choose to wait until the middle of the draft to grab a quality
If that's the case, Penn State's Calvin Lowry, Miami (Ohio) defensive
back Darrell Hunter, or Ohio State's Nate Salley could be chosen.
The Steelers are also toying with the idea of taking Stanford
linebacker Jon Alston, a 6-0, 227-pound prospect, and making him a
safety as they did with Carnell Lake in the late '80s. Alston could
likely make the move given his 4.40 speed in the 40-yard dash.
Williams, by the way, has gotten his life back on track and will be a
running back next year at Toledo.
Courtesy of the Observer-Reporter
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