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Punter Is Accused of Stabbing His Rival

September 14, 2006|From the Associated Press

GREELEY, Colo. — In a scenario that sounds like Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan, the backup punter at Northern Colorado has been accused of stabbing his rival in the leg -- his kicking leg.

Mitch Cozad, a sophomore from Wheatland, Wyo., allegedly attacked Rafael Mendoza in a parking lot this week. Mendoza was treated and released at a Greeley hospital, but it wasn't clear when he would return. Cozad was arrested on suspicion of second-degree assault and freed Wednesday on a $30,000 bond.

Mendoza, a junior from the Denver suburb of Thornton, will sit out this weekend's game against Texas State. He told Denver station KCNC-TV that he was recovering and also wished his team luck.

"I'm looking forward to getting back to playing with my team. I'm upset this happened but at the same time there's nothing I can do and just move on," he said.

The saga conjured up images of the 1994 rivalry involving figure skaters Harding and Kerrigan. Harding was banned from the sport for life after her former husband, Jeff Gillooly, hired a hit man to smack Kerrigan in the knee with a baton.

"I guess the only identified motive [in the attack on Mendoza] at this point in time is the competition for that position," Evans police Lt. Gary Kessler said.

Coach Scott Downing said he wasn't so sure.

Cozad and Mendoza were competitive, he said, but no more than players at other positions.

"No different than starting quarterback or starting right tackle," he said. "Everyone was held accountable to the same level."

Cozad was suspended from the university and the team and was evicted from his dorm room, university officials said. He had no listed phone number in Greeley, and a phone message left at his Wyoming address was not immediately returned.

The stabbing took place Monday in Evans, a small town adjacent to Greeley and about 50 miles north of Denver. Kessler said Mendoza was attacked after parking his car outside his apartment at about 9:30 p.m.

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