The love story finally ended for Henderson Mosley.
Central State’s greatest quarterback died last month at age 49 from kidney failure. He is being memorialized Saturday beginning at 12:30 p.m. with a gathering of family, former teammates and friends at the King Arts Complex in Columbus.
“He had a deep love and admiration for Central State,” said Doug Ward, Mosley’s longtime friend and a fellow Marauder athlete in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. “The school took him from the mean streets of (Washington) D.C. and gave him an opportunity to shine athletically and really put Central State on the map across the world.”
A two-time All American and eventual CSU Hall of Famer, Mosley led the Marauders to NAIA national titles in 1990 and 1992.
The latter crown came in storybook fashion when the 6-foot-3, 210-pound quarterback shed his crutches in the fourth quarter – he had severely sprained an ankle early in the game and his day was thought to be done – put his pads back on and limped onto the field to rally his team against Gardner Webb.
He threw two touchdown passes, the last one with just 36 seconds left to give CSU the 19-16 win.
“Mosley Miracle: Gimpy quarterback leads CSU to title” read the next day’s headline in the Dayton Daily News.
It was just one of many times Henderson was trumpeted in the DDN during his career. Here are a few other headlines:
“Mosley’s Magic Works Again”
“Mosley’s Back and All’s Right at CSU”
“Marauders Maul Morgan State, Mosley Leads “Bomb Squad”
“No One’s Better than ‘Mo’ in Central State’s 41-14 victory over Carson Newman”
After the undefeated Eagles – who had won five of the past six NAIA titles – were routed in that 1990 game, Ken Sparks, their coach, gushed about Mosley:
“I doubt if you’re going to see a better arm on any quarterback in the country at any level.”
And Mosley was just as good in basketball and baseball.
“I remember nights in the gym after football was over and intramurals had started up, he just took over the place,” said Theresa Check, CSU’s fabled women’s basketball coach and the former athletics director.
“The gym would be almost packed just to watch his intramural games.”
That led to Mosley joining the CSU basketball team and lettering twice.
As a baseball player, he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles and then the Toronto Blue Jays.
In 2005 – at Check’s urging – Mosley returned to CSU as assistant coach to help the school relaunch its football program which had been shuttered for eight years, mostly for financial reasons.
Two seasons into his return, he was named the assistant coach of the year by the Great Lakes Football Conference.
“He was an outstanding athlete who brought a lot of attention to our athletic programs,” Check said. “And he gave more when he came back to coach and get football back on track again.”
Mosley once explained to me just why he’d returned:
“Growing up I lived in the projects. I was surrounded by people selling drugs, fighting and killing.
People had nothing: No money, no hope They thought there was no way to get out.
“But Central State became my life support system. That’s why I wanted to give back.”
‘Cared about other people’
Yet, when I think about Henderson Mosley, it’s not the headlines and gaudy stat lines that first come to mind.
It’s the same for many of the other people who knew him well.
“He had an amazing personality and he was humble and shy,” said Ward. “He didn’t need all that shine that came with his acclaim. He cared about other people.”
Because of that, Check said, “Players were very much attracted to play for him.”
You saw that first hand in an October 2008 game when CSU was playing Missouri S&T at McPherson Stadium.
Alfonso Lopez – the Marauders’ 130-pound Mexican-American kicker who had never played football before that season – had missed an early-game field goal and an extra point. He’d missed two kicks the week before and finally, as he was drawing the wrath of a couple of angry fans, he was replaced.
Crushed, he knelt far away from the team, took off his helmet and later – saying he thought he was ”no good,” – he thought of quitting.
Mosley came over, put an arm around him and had an earnest conversation. He did the same at halftime.
Late in the game CSU – which had won just one of its first seven games – tied the score, 28-28. But celebrating band members and bench players ran onto the field and drew a penalty, meaning the extra point would be kicked from 35 yards … and into wind.
At Mosley’s urging, Lopez was sent back into the game. He made the kick and immediately was swarmed by his teammates who hoisted him onto their shoulders and gave him a victory ride around the field.
Mosley was a his best though in 2005, the year CSU reinstated football.
Helping out at a Special Olympics event at McPherson Stadium, he met Timmy Hayes, a Fairborn fifth grader whose cerebral palsy and Duchene muscular dystrophy left him in a wheelchair and often feeling left out.
Mosley made him a part of the CSU team, giving him a helmet, a jersey and a place on the sidelines at all practices and games.
“Timmy put things in perspective for us and made us realize we got nothing to complain about,” Mosley explained. “We’re just playing a game, but he’s dealing with a situation in life and yet he’s the one trying to keep our spirits up.”
After Ward and Mosley left CSU, they spent a couple of years sharing a place in Kettering.
Ward was working with Dayton Public Schools as a teacher and then a principal. Mosley was trying to springboard into the pros and ended up in the camps of three NFL teams, as well as in the Canadian and Arena football leagues.
He was working a warehouse job in Columbus when Check encouraged him to return to school to help restart the football program with head coach Theo Lemon while also finishing his undergrad work and getting his degree.
He did and walked across he graduation stage in 2008.
“I was so proud of him for what he did,” Check said.
In recent years Mosley struggled with his health and in the end was on dialysis.
“He had high blood pressure and other issues, too,” said Ward, now an assistant principal at Southwest DeKalb High in Decatur, Ga. “He battled, but finally I think his body just said, ‘I can’t take no more.’
“I was devastated when I heard the news of his passing, but I was also somewhat relieved that he wasn’t in pain anymore.
“But I’d be leaving you with the wrong idea if I didn’t tell you that his personality still lit up a room. He wasn’t one of those guys who got sick and got depressed.
“And, every so often, I’d get a phone call or a text message from him just saying, ‘Hey, I love you.’
And I’d say, ‘Man, I love you, too!’”
Saturday, Ward and so many others will say that again.
For them, the love story hasn’t ended.
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