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Steelers make LI's Zereoue last pick of first day

Morgantown, W.Va. - Nine and a half hours after the agonizing wait began, West Virginia junior tailback Amos Zereoue clenched his fist and hung up the phone with the Pittsburgh Steelers. "Wooooh, wooooh," he screamed. "First day, baby, first day!"

Hempstead's Zereoue, the former Mepham star, had hoped to go early in the second round of the NFL draft yesterday but fell to the last pick in the third round, the 95th selection overall.

"I would have liked to have gone earlier, but I'm just glad Pittsburgh took a chance. I'm going to make sure they're not disappointed," Zereoue said while watching the draft on TV with a few teammates.

Zereoue's draft position dropped largely because teams didn't want to take a chance on his smallish size - 5-8, 203 pounds. "They've said this before; I'm too short, too small. I'm going to have to go out and earn my money and show people that I was a better player than selected," he said.

"They'll find out when they tackle him in training camp that two inches doesn't mean anything," said Mountaineers defensive end and fellow Long Islander Ryan Brady, who played for Harborfields. "He can bench-press more than 90 percent of the linemen on the team."

Zereoue, affectionately known here as Famous Amos, will begin his pro career in Pittsburgh, just 60 miles from where he became one of the most popular players in school history. "I think it's a perfect fit.

This part of the country loves him," said his agent, Melville-based Steve Hayes. "Sometimes, situations that start out difficult turn out to be for the best."

The wait was difficult for Zereoue, but at 9:30 p.m., the call from Pittsburgh arrived. "It was relief after all that waiting," Brady said. "But what a great team; maybe it's a blessing in disguise."

During the Senior Bowl, Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher told Zereoue that he enjoyed watching him play for the past three seasons, since all

Mountaineers games are shown on Pittsburgh television. However, Zereoue was surprised by the call, because the Steelers had not shown interest in the weeks leading up to the draft.

The Giants were one team that was expected to be interested in Zereoue, but they opted for Ohio State running back Joe Montgomery in the second round instead. Ten running backs, including fullbacks, were chosen ahead of Zereoue, who was expected to go among the top five running backs, but Montgomery and Boston College's Mike Cloud were surprises.

Zereoue finished his career at West Virginia as the school's all-time career rushing leader (4,086) and all-purpose leader (4,673) and scored 42 touchdowns.

At Mepham, he surpassed Jim Brown's Long Island high school career records for rushing yards (5,360) and TDs (59) and twice won the Thorp Award, which honors the best player in Nassau County.

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