Rambo's second comeback

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:21 AM ET

Sure, there was a time when Ken-Yon Rambo wondered whether this day would ever come.

Hobbling around on crutches a year ago, awaiting surgery on his torn ACL, the 31-year-old Stamps receiver wondered if he'd ever get a chance to repeat as the CFL's leading receiver.

The combination of his age, the possibility of losing a step and the fact CFL contracts aren't guaranteed had him pondering life after football.

However, for a man who literally fought for his life 14 years ago, fighting for his career was much less traumatic.

Once the knee surgery was done and his rehab was mapped out for him, he was confident he'd overcome his latest setback.

"I've been through some things in my lifetime, and it's just another bump in the road," philosophized Rambo, who plans to suit up for his first game of the season Saturday against Winnipeg.

"I talk to my mom -- she has a lot of wisdom. As she says, 'You have a course and you just have to keep on going.' It's life."

His future seemed very much in doubt at age 17, when the native of Long Beach, Calif., found himself caught in the crossfire of a perpetual turf war.

As a member of the Insane Crips who regularly packed heat while attending parties as a teen, Rambo's chance encounter with rival gang members at his local convenience store ended with him getting shot in broad daylight.

As he fled to his car, one of the three bullets fired at him struck under his left arm, lodging in his back just three inches from his spine.

Racing from the scene to a nearby mall, Rambo told construction workers he'd been shot and was immediately tended to by well-intentioned bystanders.

"You learn things as you go in life whether it's the easy or the hard way," said Rambo.

"In Long Beach, that's a way of life. Things like that happen all the time. I'm not the first person in my neighbourhood to get shot -- I have a lot of friends I went to school with that are paralyzed from shootings and things of that nature. You just have to bounce back and get on with your life."

That's what Rambo did then -- parlaying a stellar high school career into a life-saving scholarship to Ohio State -- and that's what he's doing now, on the eve of his return to the game that saved his life.

"It's a blessing where I am today," said Rambo, referring to being far from the mean streets of his hometown.

Moved to the inside as a slotback, where he'll have to deal with more traffic than he did as an outside receiver, Rambo insists he won't be tentative upon his return.

While anxious like everyone else to see how his knee responds to his first hit, he insists he won't go out of his way to avoid contact or change his routine.

"Things like that happen -- I'm just going to keep the party going and pick up where I left off," he smiled.

After all, that's exactly what he did following the shooting.

"I kept on going (to the convenience store)," he added, matter-of-factly.

"I'm not going to stop going somewhere because someone got shot there. No one is going to stop me going where I want to go. It's my life."

Teaming up with Henry Burris and the Calgary Police Service a few years back to record a video warning kids of the perils of gang life, Rambo now looks forward to hooking up with Burris on the field.

But then, anything's better than constantly having to answer questions on how he's feeling.

"I'm sick of all that-- there's only so much you can say," said the 2008 CFL receiving champ. "It's game time now. I just wanna keep moving forward."

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca


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