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Remembering O.J.

Former teammate, Cranberry Township Supervisor Skorupan recalls good and bad
O.J. Simpson stretches while talking to defense attorney F. Lee Bailey at the start of the morning break in his double murder trial in Los Angeles on March 10, 1995. At left is defense attorney Carl Douglas and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Guy Magnera. (AP Photo/Pool/Reed Saxon)

CRANBERRY TWP — While O.J. Simpson’s life after football left him with a tarnished legacy, former teammate John Skorupan remembers the Hall of Fame running back’s life on the gridiron.

A longtime Cranberry Township Supervisor, Skorupan was a linebacker for the Buffalo Bills for five years while Simpson played there. Skorupan grew up in Beaver and played college football at Penn State.

John Skorupan

“He was a good teammate ... a great teammate,” Skorupan said of Simpson. “He loved being in the locker room with the guys. It was sort of his escape from the pressures of being a star.”

Simpson died of cancer on Wednesday at age 76.

Skorupan was a rookie with the Bills in 1973, the year Simpson rushed for 2,003 yards to become the first NFL running back to ever eclipse the 2,000-yard mark.

“We had some good teams back in the day,” Skorupan said. “We just had the misfortune of playing MIami twice a year and they were pretty darn good.

“We were out of the playoff chase going into our last game that year against the Jets in New York. When Juice got the 2,000 yards (in that game) ... that was special for everybody.”

Skorupan described Simpson as “a giving teammate. He did a TV commericial for Foster Grant sunglasses and made sure every player on the team got a pair. He did a boots ad the year I tore up my knee and got me a pair of boots I could wear.”

Before his playing career in Buffalo was over, Simpson had already started to do movies. He got to training camp late one season because he had to wrap up filming beforehand.

After arriving to camp late, Simpson “bought a $5,000 stereo for the locker room. He always did good by his teammates. He took care of us.”

When the team went on the road and would go to a restaurant the night before a game, Skorupan said Simpson would be besieged by autograph hunters.

He never wavered in signing for them anyway.

“We all enjoyed being around him,” Skorupan said. “The Bills got him a big house in a town just outside of Buffalo and Juice would host a Halloween party. His first wife, Marguerite, never took part in those things. Juice started seeing other women ... That became part of his M.O., who he was.

“They eventually divorced, then Nicole (Brown) came into the picture.”

Simpson was married to Marguerite from 1967-79, then to Brown from 1985-92. When Brown and friend Ronald Goldman were murdered, Simpson was charged in what became one of the most iconic murder trials in American history.

When the ‘not guilty’ verdict was read, Skorupan admitted he was surprised.

“I thought he was gonna be found guilty,” he said. “Juice was always the one to break it off with a woman. He never had a woman leave him until Nicole. He was always crazy jealous when it came to women. Nicole leaving him ... His ego couldn’t handle that.”

Skorupan went through three knee replacements and had shoulder surgeries since retiring from the NFL. His eight-year career including five with Buffalo, three with the New York Giants.

Simpson was traded to the San Francisco 49ers the year Skorupan moved on to the Giants.

“I never really knew him after that,” Skorupan said of Simpson. “He beat up a man to get some memorabilia back he said was stolen, he served years in jail for that. But he lived on the other coast when all of that stuff happened. I didn’t pay much attention to it.

“Like with anybody, I try to remember the good times. And we had a lot of them in Buffalo.”

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