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Only a Few Can Keep Him in Line : Blitz King: Rushing the quarterback is a specialty of Fresno State linebacker Ron Cox, who already has 14 sacks this season.

October 19, 1989|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fresno State's Ron Cox does not show much respect to offensive linemen. They try to keep him from the quarterback, but he goes right on past them.

Already this season, he has 14 sacks, enough to make it hard to pick a personal favorite.

"That's a good question," Cox said. "I've had so many."

But Zelma Hunt is someone who can keep Cox in line. When the 74-year-old proprietor of Hunt's Cafe in Fresno tells Cox to hop-to, she gets a response.

She is his grandmother, a woman he has lived with since he was a preschooler, building a relationship so close that when it came time for Cox to choose a college, he picked Fresno State so he could stay at home.

"My grandmother, she's 70 years old and she took care of me all my life," Cox said. "I wanted to stay here and take care of her."

Not that she seems to need much taking care of. Even though arthritis keeps Hunt away from Bulldog Stadium, she listens to Fresno State's games on the radio or watches on television, and still works in the family business as she has for the past 39 years.

"She's a tough woman," Cox said. "She doesn't give an inch."

Cox's parents live in Fresno, but Cox spent so much of his time at his grandparents' house as a preschooler that it was finally decided he should live with them.

His grandfather died when Cox was 8, and since then his grandmother has raised him. And in that time, Cox has grown into a 6-foot-2, 240-pound outside linebacker who can bench press 400 pounds on the weightlifting equipment his grandmother bought for him.

Hunt is proud of her grandson and proud of the way he has grown up.

"He honors me," she said. "He doesn't talk back, never gets into trouble and never has given me any trouble. I tell him, 'You're grown now, if you don't want to do like I say, you can walk right out that door.' "

Cox hasn't done that. But the time is coming when he will no longer be able to continue his football career in Fresno, where he is one of the leaders of a team that carries a 13-game winning streak into its game against Cal State Fullerton Saturday night in Fresno.

Cox will be eligible for the National Football League draft after this season, and as one of 14 players on a list for the Butkus Award, which honors the nation's top linebacker, his prospects are good.

But the thought of leaving his grandmother in Fresno causes him some worry.

"He says he wants me to close the business up and go with him," Hunt said. "There are lots of drugs here, but people here know me and don't seem to bother me."

Cox can see it now--a pro contract and a home with a five-car garage: three for himself, one for a future wife, one for his grandmother.

But those are concerns of the future. For now, Cox is focused on the Big West Conference title. Like any team Fresno State will face this season, Fullerton will go into Saturday's game knowing that any chance of going to the California Raisin Bowl depends on that game.

"Every game is tough because everybody plays like it's the California Bowl," Cox said. "It's not who we play, it's how we play them. Everybody plays us on a real emotional level."

The game won't be on television this week--"I'm very mad about that," Hunt said--but she will be listening on the radio, seeing in her mind's eye the remarkable player her grandson has become.

"He's the most vicious person I ever saw," Hunt said. "He goes through (the line of scrimmage) like a tornado, tearing everything up. They put two or three people on him, and that just makes him mad."

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