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With his name finally cleared, Raji ready to rise again

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- A curvy walkway leads to the large, white, rectangular home where B.J. Raji lives with his parents and two siblings. It brings you to a beveled glass door and then inside to a living room with furniture that is white and gold. A glass chandelier shimmers throughout the room. Not a speck of paper or a pillow is askew.

Amid this order, amid unmistakable peace and calm, Raji discusses the storm that surrounded him and appeared to put his high draft status in jeopardy when news reports surfaced on April 2 that he had failed a drug test for marijuana at the Feb. 18-24 NFL Scouting Combine.

Those reports were retracted this week when the NFL released its positive combine drug test results to NFL teams and Raji's name was not on the list.

Mock drafts and NFL Network experts have B.J. Raji going as high as No. 8 to Jacksonville, or as low as No. 12 to Denver, in their latest mock drafts. Check out all the picks.

"The first time I heard of my combine test result being positive was after my pro day at Boston College on March 12," Raji said. "It was being whispered to me right after that, so, I called the doctors who administered the test at the combine and asked them about those two tests, one for steroids, the other for substance abuse. I knew it wasn't true. They confirmed it wasn't true.

"So, I didn't think anything more about it. And then I am getting ready for a trip to visit with Tampa Bay and this report comes out on TV, in newspapers, on the web that I failed a marijuana test at the combine. I didn't think much about it. I got on the plane to Tampa. Once I landed and checked my phone, I had 30-something text messages. I knew it was all false and that test was negative. But what people see on TV and what goes all across the world, people sometimes believe in even if it isn't the truth; sometimes what they hear becomes reality."

The interim, waiting for his name to finally be cleared, hurt his family, Raji said.

His father, Busari Sr., is from Nigeria, a man of discipline who tells his son of how he walked miles for water as a child, a man who has taught him respect. His mother, Mamie, is a pastor of 45 years at Bethel Holy Church of Deliverance, Inc., in Harlem, who constantly reminds him to never forget to pray. His youngest brother, Ade, 13, is an eighth grader.

"I wondered how it could be that something so great like the draft and the anticipation for it could turn into something so embarrassing for them," Raji said. "It was a big, negative blow to my parents. My brother, Ade, had kids coming up to him at school flashing newspapers in front of his face telling him that his brother used drugs. I do know that with great things comes some type of pressure. I got through it knowing there is a certain peace of mind when you know you have done nothing wrong."

Will he sue the outlets that originally reported the story?

"I can't speak too much about that," Raji said. "But we are not going to just let it go."

Most NFL teams have.

Raji is once again considered a consensus top-10 pick when the draft commences on Saturday. At nearly 6-foot-2 and 337 pounds, he can be an anchor for a defense, a player who can dominate at nose tackle or at tackle, who can rise in a 4-3 defense or a 3-4. He excels at forging inside an offensive backfield, a rare trait for any defensive linemen. He also has adept lateral movement to catch quarterbacks and ball carriers. NFL scouts say he has the tools to become a player similar to New England's Vince Wilfork or Washington's Albert Haynesworth.

He spent five years at Boston College and missed the 2007 season due to academic woes. Raji said that was because he "sort of checked out" of school mentally because he was considering entering the draft early and changed his mind when it was too late to catch up. Rather than bolt for the draft, anyway, he sat out, returned for his senior year in 2008 and graduated with his degree in Sociology last December.

"So, what just happened to me is not the first time I've faced adversity," Raji said. "My dad speaks to me about how birds fly in the form of 'V', and how that lead bird provides the wind for the other birds to fly. And that soon in life I am about to become that kind of leader. I think that is something I was born to do."

He has visited Tampa Bay, Detroit, Denver, San Francisco, the Jets, New Orleans, Washington and Cleveland. He particularly vibed with Browns coach Eric Mangini and with Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

His mother describes her son as humble and obedient.

"He has spent a lot of time in the church and around adults and being an example for children," she said. "If there was a task the elders asked him to do, even if he didn't want to do it, he would just go do it. From the time he first started walking he was running. We used to run behind him and in front of him because we were so afraid he was going to fall and seriously hurt himself. He never did."

Raji through his latest ordeal kept the faith.

And found fitting his mother's Easter Sunday sermon -- 'I'll Rise Again.'

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