Bullet hole reminds Rambo of gang-play

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

Ken-Yon Rambo reads the local papers like everybody else these days and shakes his head.

With the proliferation of gang warfare in Calgary stealing headlines daily, the 29-year-old Stamps receiver is reminded constantly of an upbringing that saw him packing heat and cheating death as a member of the Long Beach Ca. Insane Crips gang.

And while a football scholarship to Ohio State allowed him to escape the senseless territorial battles that cost several of his friends and family members their lives, Rambo still bares the scars of a bullet that lodged inches from his spine.

It serves as a reminder -- for him and any kids who will listen -- of how purposeless life can be fighting for a cause you don't even understand.

"I shake my head, man, because I've been through it and I know what it's all about being in a gang territory," said Rambo, who has emerged not only as the Stamps go-to receiver and leader but a role model.

"I shake my head when I see people die for nothing. This is a small city, and there isn't too much crime, so when I see most of the crime is gang-related, it's kind of like, 'What are y'all doing?' It's crazy. They need to get it stomped out before it's a big problem."

In an effort to tackle the No. 1 crime issue in Calgary, the city announced a plan Monday to spend $25 million more on cops. The news came just one day after the city's latest homicide victim was identified as a member of the Crips.

Having grown up in a city in which the local paper ran a list of shootings in the back of the paper every day, it's all too familiar to Rambo who was shot himself 12 years ago as a promising 17-year-old football player.

"I went to the convenience store one afternoon, and when I came out I saw some guys who weren't from my neighbourhood, I jumped in the car and tried to leave," Rambo said. "But as soon as I did, they walked up and shot three times.

"I got hit once and the bullet went under my left arm and got stuck in my back. That bullet was three inches away from my spine. It was a blessing, man.

"I peeled out into the street backwards and didn't care if I hit anyone," Rambo continued. "I drove to a grocery store and told some construction workers I got shot.

"They got me to lie down and got me help."

Instead of scaring him straight, it only added to his resolve in a war that saw him chased to school regularly by a number of rivals.

"After I got shot, I felt like I was the king of the world," said Rambo, who carried a pistol to most house parties.

"I thought, 'Shoot, I can take this again.' "

Having been born into the turf war in which gangs are simply the only way of life, it wasn't until a scholarship to OSU gave him perspective on the dead-end life he was leading. Meeting new people and seeing another part of the country, he realized there's a whole new world of opportunity and hope out there.

"Coming out of the gang stuff, I got a different view of it -- that crap is like kid stuff to me," said Rambo, who was drafted, appropriately enough, by the Oakland Raiders.

"I'd come home from school and see my friends were still in the same spot. And that was the turning point. It made me a better person going from inner (city) to outer."

Last year, Rambo teamed up with Henry Burris and the Calgary Police to record a video warning kids of the perils of gang life.

This year, the former Dallas Cowboys player is hooking up with Burris with increased regularity to lead the CFL in receptions and yardage, proving possibilities are endless once you escape the gang world.

"It's kind of hard to grow up in it like I did, because you've got to learn the hard way," said Rambo, uncertain if music, movies or simply drug money is what has lured a growing number of Calgarians to the underground.

"They'll learn eventually ... there are other things in life."

Like living.


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