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Hanging with Rudi


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Monday, February 28, 2005

Just hangin' out with Rudi

Middletown card collector wins a day with a Bengal

By Maggie Downs

Enquirer staff writer

MIDDLETOWN - At first, Ron Deuser thought someone was playing a joke.

Eventually Deuser realized he was the national winner of the NFL Player of the Day Promotion.

"I'm still shaking like this," Deuser said, gesturing with trembling hands.

Deuser beat out more than 20,000 card collectors for the win, sponsored by Players Inc and NFL Properties LLC.

The prize?

A day with Bengals running back Rudi Johnson, who came to Deuser's Middletown home in a limousine. The two spent the afternoon at the local hobby shop, All Pro Sports Cards on Central Avenue, where Johnson signed free autographs for more than two hours.

It appeared as though the whole town turned out. The line for autographs stretched down a couple of long blocks. Most of the fans were dressed in black and orange cold weather gear.

Police helped with crowd control, while entrepreneurs in line tried to sell 50-cent Johnson cards for $5. People came from Indianapolis and Columbus to meet their favorite Bengal.

Todd Wiseman called off work for the day to get Johnson's autograph. While waiting in line, he mugged for TV cameras, holding a hastily written sign that said, "I quit my job for this!"

"Stuff like this never happens here. For a sports fan, this is just about as good as it gets," he said, dressed in a Bengals jersey and cap.

He said missing work was just something he had to do. "It would be like having a scratch-off ticket for $100 and not cashing it."

Afterward, Johnson was the special guest at a private party at the Manchester Inn and Conference Center, where Deuser is a cook.

"I'm not cooking today!" Deuser laughed. "This time I got to order the food and they fixed it."

Deuser also received a $250 shopping spree, which he used to pick up a number of Bengals items, all of which he had signed by Johnson, and several baseball caps.

"This whole thing is like having a second birthday," said Deuser, who turned 50 on Valentine's Day.

Johnson's arrival drove the fans into a fervor. Screams of "Roooo-di!" began as soon as Johnson stepped out of the limo. Beyond autographing jerseys, photographs and posters, the player was asked to sign body parts and hold babies.

"It's a great chance to, you know, interact with the fans and see them face-to-face," Johnson said. "They show me a lot of support. You can't ask for anything more than that."

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