Dave Rozumek, in many ways, embodies the blue-collar mentality of working-class Lawrence.
Once a 175-pound Lawrence High defensive end who wasn't offered a single scholarship out of high school, Rozumek would go on to become a starting linebacker in the NFL.
Rozumek returns to Veterans Stadium for Thanksgiving Day football tomorrow, but will now be on the opposing sideline wearing the Royal Blue and White as the athletic director for Salem High, who the Lancers host for the first time on the holiday.
It is the first time the Blue Devils have played on Thanksgiving since losing to Haverhill in 1997.
"It brings back emotions just being around Lawrence again," said Rozumek, 57. "It feels great to be back at Memorial Stadium, even if it does look a lot different (after being renovated). But it will feel very strange on game day being on the opposing side.
"(Lawrence AD) Tim Finn and I were talking during the Greater Lawrence Christmas Basketball Tournament, and in conversation he asked if I would be interested in playing on Thanksgiving. I said, 'Absolutely.'"
Rozumek played for Lawrence High from 1968-71, playing alongside fellow future NFL player Ray Preston (San Diego Chargers, 1976-1984), earning Eagle-Tribune All-Star honors as senior. But at 6-feet and 175 pounds, Rozumek received little attention from colleges.
"He was just a skinny kid back then," said Charlie Samataro, then an assistant for the Lancers. "He was an excellent player and such a hard worker. But you never thought he would end up in the NFL."
Without scholarship options, Rozumek made the decision to walk-on at the University of New Hampshire.
"I was recruited some by UNH coach Jim Root," said Rozumek. "But UNH made a coaching change (to Bill Bowes) and I got lost in the shuffle. They suggested I go to prep school, but I decided to walk-on."