Former NFL players seem to have it worse than other athletes. Rates of head injuries, bankruptcy, and criminal activity seem to be higher for football than any other sport. Many theories have been proposed as to why this might be. Perhaps it's because of the vicious nature of football and the injuries the athletes have to deal with in the sport. Another factor could be the short span of a pro football player's career. For whatever the reason, NFL players often seem to struggle when their playing days are over.
A few frequent themes came along as we were putting this list together. The first noticeable trend was the rate of NFL players who have been convicted of truly horrible crimes. There are far more former football players who have committed truly violent crimes than any other major North American sport. Still another trend was the rate of players who suffer from the impact of repeated head trauma later in their lives. One other highly noticeable trend was the number of football players who have gone broke later in their careers.
The NFL has taken some strides to improve the quality of life their athletes after their playing careers end. They've added some financial assistance programs, but as many of the athletes in this article can attest, those are often not enough. Here are 15 depressing where are they now stories for NFL stars.
15 JaMarcus Russell
In 2016, Russell penned a letter to every NFL team in the league, stating he would be willing to play for one season for free to prove himself. Nobody responded. Perhaps in 2017, Russell will finally accept his status as arguably the biggest draft bust of all time. He was the firsr overall pick in the 2007 draft, a class which also included WR Calvin Johnson. The Raiders had been looking for a quarterback since losing Rich Gannon and Russell looked to be the savior of the franchise.
The LSU standout held out for a better contract after being drafted. The franchise and Russell finally reached an agreement. He wouldn't play until late in 2007 as the team wanted to develop him. The problem was he never developed. By 2010, Russell was gone and concerns about his work ethic prevented other teams from bringing him in. His future remains up in the air.
14 Ryan Leaf
Ryan Leaf was once thought to have great potential in the NFL. Nowadays he's out of football, having even been forced to resign from a voluntary coaching position at West Texas A&M due to his abuse of painkillers. His abuse of painkillers also led him to commit multiple burglaries. He was arrested in 2012 on multiple counts of burglary and sentenced to seven years in jail. He would be granted parole in 2014, however.
The now 41-year-old was drafted by the Chargers in 1998 and promptly ticked off his teammates, media and Chargers fans. Even before the season started, Leaf was skipping practices, film sessions, and the final day of a symposium for new NFL draftees (which earned him a $10,000 fine.). His Charger teammates began openly complaining about his behavior as well. His play was so abysmal the Chargers released him after the 2000 season.
13 Lawrence Taylor
Since his playing career has ended, NFL Hall-of-Famer Lawrence Taylor has lost millions of dollars and is now registered as a sex offender. Taylor had always been known as a hard-party animal living the fast lifestyle. He went through drug rehab multiple times during his playing career. Taylor would say in a future autobiography that he spent thousands of dollars a day on drugs.
Despite being taken for millions of dollars by penny stock fraudsters, Taylor seemed as though he had gotten his life together up until 2011. That was the year Taylor was arrested for and charged with statutory rape after allegedly having intercourse with a 16-year old girl. As part of a plea agreement, Taylor received six months probation.
In 2016, Taylor was once again arrested for a DUI and was handed 12 months of probation.
12 Chris McAlister
Let the Chris McAlister story serve as a lesson for any pro athlete with millions of dollars and a fiancee, get a prenup!!
McAlister won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2000 and went to the Pro Bowl game on three different occasions. Yet in 2011, when reporters caught up with him he was broke and living with his parents. Not only that, he said his parents had to provide him with a basic living allowance as he had no income. A big reason why McAlister was so broke? A court had ordered him to pay $11,000 a month to his ex-wife. Making matters worse for McAlister is that he had only been married to her for 13 months.
In 2015, it was revealed that McAlister was working as an intern on the Buffalo Bills staff.
11 Warren Sapp
Hall of Famer Warren Sapp filed for bankruptcy in 2012, never the hallmark of a pro athlete who managed his money well it seems. Sapp had made some foolish investments over the years and everything began to fall down on him. His 10,000 square foot mansion had to be auctioned off to help pay back his debts.
In 2015, things got even worse for Sapp when he was arrested for solicitation of a prostitute and assault. Following his arrest, the NFL Network released him from his contract, leaving the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer' with no source of income.
Then in 2016, just to top things off, Sapp was reportedly bitten by a shark while fishing for lobsters in Florida. The wound was not serious, however. The wounds to Sapp's pride, bank account, and legacy, however, have had a much deeper cut....
10 Brad Johnson
Former Minnesota, Washington, Tampa Bay and Dallas quarterback, Brad Johnson, played 178 games in the NFL. Evidently, the beatings he took in those games took their toll on his body.
Media reports have noted that Johnson is in such bad shape physically he has to go up and down steps one at a time. He's only 44 years of age. The era Johnson played in during the 90s and early 2000s was much different than it is today. Back then, players were encouraged to play through the pain of injuries, even if that meant turning to powerful painkillers, which Johnson often did. He was administered the drug "Toradol" by his Viking coaches, which while not addictive, has since been shown to decrease an athlete's ability to self-assess injuries. Johnson has said he would like the NFL to do more to support former players in situations like the one he's currently facing.
9 Tony Dorsett
Tony Dorsett's list of accomplishments is a long read. He's a Super Bowl champion and a four-time Pro Bowler. He's also in both the Pro and College Football Hall of Fames.
Unfortunately, Dorsett's post-football life has been complicated by the impacts of the repeated head trauma he endured as a player. In 2013, Dorsett announced publicly that he was experiencing many of the symptoms of CTE, the degenerative brain disease associated with repeated concussions. Among the symptoms, Dorsett stated he was experiencing memory loss.
In 2015, Dorsett was interviewed by ESPN and stated sometimes he would begin walking to a place he'd been many times and suddenly forget how to get there. Still, the 1976 Heisman Trophy winner doesn't regret his life in football, he just didn't know what his post-football life had in store for him.
8 Nate Webster
Nate Webster played eight seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He's now sitting in prison on some rather disturbing charges.
He'd been out of the NFL for all of three years in the summer of 2011 when he was brought up on charges which included sexual battery, unlawful sexual contact with a minor and gross sexual imposition. According to prosecutors, Webster had intercourse with a 15-year-old girl in 2009 and threatened physical harm to her if she told authorities. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
After the trial, prosecutors told reporters that Webster had been offered a deal which would have seen him only serve four years in jail. Webster rejected the deal in favor of going to trial.
7 Darren Sharper
Sharper played over 200 NFL games. He won a Super Bowl, was a five time Pro Bowler, led the league in interceptions twice and was voted to the NFL 2000s All-Decade team. Evidently, he also was committing a lot of sex and drug related crimes.
The list of his crimes is even more overwhelming than that of his football accomplishments. In a nutshell, Sharper drugged and sexually assaulted as many as 16 victims across four different states. The victims would state that Sharper spiked their drinks which made them pass out, with one of the victims stating she woke up while Sharper was assaulting her. His various convictions should keep in jail until he's in his 60s, because of his personal life away from the field, he should not be included in the HOF.
6 CJ Spillman
CJ Spillman had worked his whole career to get to the NFL. As an undrafted free agent, he signed with the Chargers, was cut, and eventually picked up by the 49ers off waivers. His level of play picked up with the 49ers and he earned himself a $6 million dollar contract.
After finishing up with the 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys decided to sign Spillman in 2014. Not long after the season started, it was picked up in the media that he was under investigation for sexual assault. Spillman continued to play for the team despite the investigation. He even forced a couple of fumbles in the playoffs. The team opted not to re-sign the 29-year-old in the off-season, however.
Spillman was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman at a hotel the team had been staying at. He was handed five years in jail for his crime.
5 Ray Rice
The infamous video of Ray Rice's aggravated assault to his then-fiancee led to the NFL indefinitely suspending Ray Rice. The now 30-year old, Rice was able to successfully get his suspension overturned by the courts. He still hasn't played any football since, however, as no team is willing to risk the bad press which would come with signing him.
The Ravens terminated his contract following the release of the video. Previously he had won a Super Bowl with the team and had been selected to the Pro Bowl three times. His accomplishments with the franchise are significant enough that had he not done what he did, he would have never had to pay for a meal in Baltimore again. Now nobody wants to mention his name.
Rice and the Ravens reached a deal in a wrongful termination case which is believed to be around the $3.5 million mark. He's current trying to rewrite his wrongs by working with youth football programs and working public speaking engagements.
4 Johnny Manziel
Johnny "Football" was one of those young hotshot athletes coming out of college that you just knew wouldn't even come close to living up to their potential. He had so much talent but it seemed so obvious he would be an athlete who would fail to improve their game.
There are two kinds of athletes; those who believe they will win by practicing harder, being smarter and learning the game, and then there are those who believe they will win because they're naturally better. Manziel is the latter. The latter doesn't tend to do too well once faced with stiffer competition than they're used to.
Despite only being 24 and seemingly still having time to turn it around, nobody is interested in dealing with him. Manziel has expressed interest in playing in the Canadian Football League, which some of have used as a stepping stone back to the NFL.
3 Jamal Lewis
It doesn't look good for the NFL when one of its former players has to sell their Super Bowl championship ring for some extra cash. That is exactly what former Ravens running back Jamal Lewis did in 2015.
The odd thing about the story is that the ring wasn't even for the Super Bowl Lewis won with the Ravens. The team gave Lewis a ring for their Super Bowl XLVII victory even though Lewis was long retired by then. They just wanted to honor him for being one of the greatest Ravens in team history. While the honor probably meant something to Lewis, the $50,000 he received for the ring evidently meant more.
In 2011, Lewis was sued by Regions Bank for $660,000 in unpaid loans.
2 Rae Carruth
Rae Carruth was convicted of murder in 2001 and is expected to be released in approximately 13 months. Carruth was a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers in 1999 when he arranged and participated in the murder of his girlfriend, who was eight months pregnant with his child at the time.
The murder took place in Charlotte, North Carolina. The victim, real estate agent Cherica Adams, was driving behind Carruth's vehicle when another car pulled up beside and fired bullets into the car. While Adams was able to dial 911, she fell into a coma and died shortly after being admitted to hospital. The child was born but suffered permanent brain damage as a result of being without oxygen.
He was sentenced to 18-24 years for the crime when a jury found him not guilty of the more serious first degree murder charge.
1 O.J. Simpson
70-year-old O.J. Simpson is scheduled to be released later this fall. He was granted parole on July 20th, 2017, but an exact date for his release has not yet been named.
Part of the reason an O.J. release date has yet to be named is prison officials are reportedly concerned regarding his safety and the media circus which is bound to ensue when he leaves their facility.
What is next for O.J. Simpson? He'll soon have more freedom than he's had in nine years, but it still must be a confined existence for him. Some believe that O.J. will be able to make a great deal of money through autographs and personal appearances, so he may have a means to make a living, but what kind of crazy life is it when everyone around you assumes you are guilty of killing two people and getting away with it?