[size=18px]Vikings: Sadness behind, rookie emerges on line[/size]

C.J. Mosley made the roster despite a summer full of family trauma. His only wish is his lost loved ones could see him now.

Mark Craig, Star Tribune
Last update: December 9, 2005 at 8:44 PM

The Mosleys in Virginia and the Hopes down in Waynesville, Mo., had their hearts set on watching young C.J. Mosley play football for the Minnesota Vikings.

"My family knew it was my dream to play in the NFL," Mosley said. "And I really wanted all of them to see me play."

He wishes they could have seen those three sacks the past two weeks, that forced fumble against Cleveland, or that first career start at Detroit last week. Then there's his first home start this Sunday, against St. Louis at the Metrodome. That would have been nice, too.

But it didn't happen for two of the people closest to Mosley. His maternal grandmother, Sarah Hope, and paternal grandfather, William Mosley, died while C.J. was trying to make the team in training camp as a sixth-round draft pick out of Missouri.

"Camp was really hard for me," Mosley said. "Stuff happened to me in camp. A whole bunch of stuff."

So much stuff that Mosley's mother, Angela, wasn't going to tell him out of fear it would affect his performance.

"My grandmom [Sarah Hope] had a stroke, and then my granddad [Richard Hope] also had a stroke," Mosley said. "My grandmom passed. Then I found out my mom got breast cancer."

There was more.

"Then," Mosley said, "my granddad on my father's side [William Mosley] passed."

C.J. concentrated as best he could on football. He's still somewhat homesick, although it doesn't show on the field.

"My brother sent me pictures of my mom," Mosley said. "She's getting treatment now. She's got a nice, shiny pin head. She's doing all right."

So is the son.

In fact, he's doing so well the Vikings don't miss the guy he's replacing. And the guy he's replacing, Kevin Williams, was an All-Pro defensive tackle last season.

When Williams sprained his knee against the Browns two weeks ago, Mosley came in and matched or surpassed Williams' season highs in four important statistical categories. Mosley's two sacks surpassed Williams' season total by one. His forced fumble, seven tackles and five solo tackles each matched Williams' season highs.

Mosley, who has played in eight games, is tied for second on the team in sacks, with three. The two players he is tied with, Keith Newman and Darrion Scott, have played in all 12 games with a combined 20 starts.

"C.J. is good at being in the right spot at the right time," middle linebacker Sam Cowart said. "I wouldn't say he's an overachiever. I'd say he's a guy who works hard, got an opportunity and took advantage of it."

Mosley, a 6-2, 314-pounder, wasn't the team's first choice to replace Williams. Second-year pro Spencer Johnson was, but Johnson was injured.

"C.J.'s all we got, so he's got to play," veteran nose tackle Pat Williams said. "But he's OK because his ability is all natural. I just told him, 'When you're on the field, you can't think about nothing. Just go full speed.' "

The Vikings projected Mosley as a fourth-round selection. When he was still on the board with the 191st pick, they nabbed him. Initial comments by team officials suggested Mosley, who left Missouri after his junior season, was a more likely candidate for the practice squad.

"If that's what they thought," Mosley said, "they're probably pretty happy right now."

Vikings guard Anthony Herrera said Mosley had "one move, a little inside club move" when he arrived at training camp. "Now, he's got a whole lot of stuff," Herrera said.

Mosley bristles when asked if it's true he had only one move back in August.

"I just used that one move because I didn't want to get in trouble," Mosley said. "When I first got here, I just tried to stay out of the coaches' mouths by not doing bad things and showing bad habits that would get me in trouble."

It's a survival mode Mosley picked up from being an Army son. His father, Calvin Sr., moved the family from Fort Knox, Ky., to Germany, California, Georgia and Kansas.

"I was the new dude a lot," Mosley said.

When his parents divorced, Mosley, 14 at the time, went to live with his mother in Waynesville. For the record, he was never a Rams fan growing up in Missouri.

"I'm a Viking," Mosley said. "I'm happy here. The only thing I wish is my grandmom and granddad could have seen it."