Green Bay Packers' Raji seeks to emulate "The Fridge"

By Simon Evans

DALLAS (Reuters) - William "The Refrigerator" Perry shot to global fame by rushing for a Super Bowl touchdown 25 years ago and on Sunday, the man who lays claim to his sizable heritage, B.J "The Freezer" Raji, will seek to follow him in gaining a championship ring.

The 337-pound (153 kg) Raji shot to nationwide attention in the Green Bay Packers' 21-14 NFC Championship win over Chicago when he intercepted a pass and rambled 18 yards into the end zone before celebrating with a decidedly wobbly dance.

He was instantly dubbed "The Freezer" in recognition of the previous record holder for heaviest man to score a post-season touchdown: Perry was two pounds lighter when he scored on a one-yard run for the Chicago Bears in their 46-10 Super Bowl victory over New England in 1986.

Like "The Fridge", Raji is used primarily as a defensive tackle but has also has a role as a fullback when the Packers have the ball.

"I was probably about one-year-old when he was playing so to sit here and say I've seen a lot of him, I would be lying," Raji told Reuters when asked how much he recalled of Perry's play.

"That is a name that is going to go down in NFL history forever, so even bringing his name up with my name is an honor," he said.


Raji's celebratory dance became a YouTube hit but he says he has not been working on any special Super Bowl moves should he reach the end zone again.

"The last one was spontaneous, so we'll just see what happens," he said with a grin.

But Raji is less amused when asked if his noticeable gut, not unusual among linemen, is a sign of a weight problem.

"With big guys, you always have a worry about keeping your weight down. But myself, I am trying to stay on top of that. I have no weight problem or anything like that," he said.

Raji's family background is an unlikely one for an NFL player.

His father emigrated to the United States from Nigeria and both his parents are Pentecostal ministers in Harlem, New York.

"It was different. When I was young, I was not mature enough to see the blessing in that. When you are young, you are thinking that they are being hard on you, they don't want you to have fun.

"But now looking back on it, I am only 24 but I have done some things that the normal 24-year-old has not done.

"I am just very appreciative of them. I love them and I am blessed to have them as parents."

With a father who was more likely to tune into a soccer game on television, Raji said he found it awkward when he first tried his hand at the American game.

"I remember being uncomfortable and not understanding the game, the practice atmosphere, not knowing what to do. I didn't even know how to get into a stance back then," he said.

His father, Busari, has also had to quickly learn about the sport that has propelled his son to fame.

"I am his son, he loves me and anything I was in to, he was in to. He definitely is understanding it a little bit better. There are some things that he still doesn't understand, but that is going to come with time," he said.

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)