We often see athletes as these super-hero figures who are larger than life. They get to play a game for a living, make millions of dollars and live a life of luxury seemingly exempt from the woes of Average Joes. Most sports fans would gladly trade their lives with the lives of their favorite athletes even if for just a day.
But athletes are just like you and I: they are human. They deal with the same problems and issues that everyone else goes through with a big difference is that their problems are on a public stage. Their relationships, their arrests, their divorces, their money is all for public consumption and fans know more about athletes than vice versa.
Just like regular people, athletes and specifically football players can run afoul of the law. Some of these are your typical, but unfortunate, drunk driving arrests or drug arrests; whereas others are much more serious and often involve other people. Usually when others are involved the arrests tend to be for the most serious of crimes as the people below can attest.
We will look back at some of these arrests, what led these players to commit the crimes and how long they will be locked up. The names below span the gamut and include everything from fringe NFL players to Super Bowl champs to guys appearing on Hall of Fame ballots. Here are 15 football players who are serving time and the crimes that got them there.
15 Nate Webster: Violating With A Minor
Nate Webster was a backup linebacker on those great defensive Buccaneer teams of the early 2000s. He won a Super Bowl with the team in 2002 and later played for the Bengals and Broncos. After a nine-year NFL career, Webster moved back to the Cincinnati area where he became a high school coach. In 2011, Webster was arrested and indicted for having sex with the 15-year-old daughter of one of the Cincinnati Bengals coaches. Webster threatened the girl with a gun to keep the relationship quiet and said he would kill her and her entire family if she went public with the relationship.
Prosecutors offered Webster a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for three years but the former linebacker rejected it. The case went to trial and Webster was convicted on four counts of unlawful conduct with a minor and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He could have been out of jail by now if he accepted the plea deal but now he’ll be in prison until 2024.
14 Stanley Wilson Sr.: Burglary
Wilson is best known for having a cocaine relapse on the eve of Super Bowl XXIII in 1989. He was previously suspended for both the 1985 and 1987 seasons for drugs and his violation in 1989 was the third strike. Wilson told teammates that he needed to leave a meeting to go get his playbook. He never returned and a coach would later find him in the midst of a cocaine high in the bathroom. Wilson was deactivated for the Super Bowl and would never play another NFL game.
After leaving the game Wilson continued to struggle with drugs and was in an out of rehab several times. He never kicked the habit and turned to burglary to support his addiction and stole $130,000 worth of property from a Beverly Hills home in 1999. That earned him a 22-year prison sentence with a scheduled release date in 2021. Ironically, Wilson’s son, Stanley Jr., also played in the NFL and also had problems with drugs. In 2017, Stanley Jr. was arrested for the third time for attempted burglary while naked.
13 Darryl Henley: Attempted Conspiracy To Commit Murder
Henley was a part of UCLA’s 1989 NFL Draft class that also produced Troy Aikman and five-time Pro Bowler, Carnell Lake. Henley was a cornerback who started in the same defensive backfield as Lake with the Bruins and then played six seasons with the Rams. Before the 1995 season, Henley was convicted of cocaine trafficking but that was just the beginning of his troubles. He then plotted a scheme to hire a contract killer to murder both the presiding judge of that case as well as a Rams cheerleader who testified against him. Instead of going to another trial on 13 counts including conspiring a murder, Henley accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to two of the 13 counts. As a result, he was sentenced to 41 years in prison with a release date in 2037.
12 Jimmy Hitchcock: Fraud And Money Laundering
Hitchcock holds the honor of being part of the legendary 1995 draft class by the New England Patriots and coach Bill Parcells. The Patriots drafted Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, five-time Pro Bowler Ty Law and three-time Super Bowl champion Ted Johnson before drafting Hitchcock in the fourth round. Hitchcock started across from Law at cornerback with the Patriots and then posted a seven interception season with the Vikings in 1998. After retiring in 2002, he got caught up in fraud and conspiracy in 2013.
Hitchcock engaged in a scheme that created bogus checks which made it appear that buyers had made down payments when they hadn’t. He also bribed a bank employee to provide false verifications of deposit to support the transactions. In 2014 he was sentenced to four years in federal prison for fraud, bank bribery and money laundering.
11 Robert Rozier: Crimes Committed As Part Of A Cult
Rozier was just the third Alaskan-born person to ever play in the NFL even though his career was rather short. He was drafted out of Cal in 1979 and played six games at defensive end with the Cardinals. He then spent some time in the CFL and with the Raiders practice squad before his career ended in 1981. Soon after he committed many petty crimes and served a six-month prison sentence.
He then joined a cult which required him to kill people at random in order to stay in the cult. In 1985 he admitted to killing seven people and was charged with murder. After agreeing to testify against the cult and its leader, Rozier then served 10 years in prison. He was released in 1996 and placed in the witness protection program. However, three years later police discovered that he had bounced 29 checks and, with this being his third felony, he fell under the third-strike law and was sentenced to 25-to-life.
10 Art Schlichter: Fraud, Forgery And Possession Of Illegal Substances
Schlichter was a star quarterback at Ohio State and was then the fourth overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft. He was selected by the Colts and picked before four future Hall of Famers including Marcus Allen. He proved to be a bust in the NFL and threw just 3 touchdowns in his career but he had even bigger problems off the field. Schlichter developed a gambling habit while still in high school and it only got worse from there. He blew his entire $350,000 signing bonus my the middle of his rookie year and had over $700,000 in gambling debt once the 1982 strike ended.
He would be suspended for the 1983 season once the NFL found out about his gambling habit which is prohibited by league rules. He would then bounce around in semi-pro football and estimated he had committed 20 felonies during his life. His latest arrest came in 2011 when he pleaded guilty to fraud and filing a fake tax return. He also tested positive for cocaine while on probation and under house arrest. All of that landed him a 10 year sentence and he’ll be locked up in a South Carolina prison until 2020.
9 Will Allen: Fraud And Money Laundering
This cornerback-playing Will Allen shouldn’t be confused with the safety-playing Will Allen who has a foundation which helps disadvantaged kids. Will Allen the cornerback played 11 seasons in the NFL with most of that time split between the Giants and Dolphins. Three years after his career ended in 2012, Allen was charged with running a $35 million Ponzi scheme that took advantage of some pro athletes. Allen and his business partner defrauded investors and were eventually caught by the SEC. Of the $35 million they received in investments, only $22 million had been repaid.
They both plead guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in 2016. In March 2017, Allen was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay $16.8 million in restitution.
8 Derek Loville: Trafficking Illegal Substances
The only three-time Super Bowl winner on this list, Loville won his first ring with the 1994 49ers and then replaced Ricky Watters as the team’s starting running back the next season. In 1997 he moved to the Denver Broncos where he backed up Terrell Davis and won two more Super Bowls. In 2016, Loville was busted as a part of an international drug trafficking ring that also included money laundering and sports gambling. Loville was part of a federal investigation in which the DEA got involved and the operation involved the use of scare tactics to get debtors to comply with their demands.
One of these tactics involved sending the debtors videos of people being beheaded and another tactic was a video of a masked man desecrating the gravesite of one of the debtors’ parents. Loville wasn’t the main perpetrator behind the operation so he got off relatively easy and was sentenced to 15 months in jail.
7 Dave Meggett: Burglary And Se***Battery
The Darren Sproles of the 1990s, Dave Meggett was Bill Parcells’ third-down back with three different teams. Meggett was a two-time Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl winner and had the most punt return yards in NFL history at the time of his retirement in 1998. He was also a coach at American International College and served under Parcells when he was with the Dallas Cowboys. Meggett was living and working in North Carolina in 2006 when he was accused of sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend. That crime was a misdemeanor and Meggett only received probation after being convicted.
However, three years later he was convicted on felony charges of sexual conduct and burglary. Meggett had broken into the house of a college student in South Carolina and sexually assaulted her. That crime would land him 30 years in prison and he will be locked up until 2034.
6 Russell Erxleben: Fraud And Money Laundering
“Punters are criminals too!” Erxleben was mainly a punter in the NFL, but he was also a kicker at the University of Texas. He still holds the NCAA record for the longest made field goal (off a tee) at 67 yards. He is the only three-time All-American punter in NCAA history and played six seasons in the NFL with the Saints and Lions. After retiring, he went back to Austin and became a financial advisor but soon afterwards the IRS was on his tail. He admitted to making misleading statements regarding the performance of the company he founded and plead guilty to fraud and money laundering.
After spending 7 years in jail and being released in 2006, he was then arrested in 2013 for his involvement in a Ponzi scheme. He bilked investors of $2 million in the scam and again plead guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. This time he was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison and will be locked up until 2022.
5 C.J. Spillman: Se**** Assault
Spillman is the youngest player on this list and the one who most recently played in the NFL. He played six seasons for three teams and last played in 2014 with the Cowboys. In September of 2014 Spillman sexually assaulted a woman at a resort that the Cowboys were staying at in Texas. The team was made aware that there was an investigation into Spillman but they still let him play in a game the next day. He then continued to play in every game for that season while the investigation was ongoing. After the investigation was over, Spillman was charged with sexual assault in the summer of 2015. He had also previously been accused of rape in 2013 but got off in that case. He wouldn’t be so fortunate this time and in 2016 he was sentenced to five years in prison. He will be released in 2021 when he’s 35, and with a sexual assault conviction under his belt, his NFL career is over.
4 Darren Sharper: Crimes Across Four States
Arguably the biggest name on this list, Sharper would be in serious consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame if not for his crimes. He was on the NFL 2000s All-Decade team, was a five-time Pro Bowler, and retired sixth all-time on the interceptions list. However, just two months after his last NFL game in 2011, Sharper was accused of rape in Miami and this would be a sign of things to come. He and others developed a complex scheme to drug and then rape women all across the country.
He was charged with rape or sexual assault in Arizona, California, Nevada and Louisiana and while court records show that there were 9 victims; the presiding judge believes there could have been as many as 16 victims. He was handed down jail sentences from all four states as well as a federal court. The sentences will run concurrently so the longest sentence (20 years) is how long Sharper will spend in prison.
3 Rae Carruth: Conspiracy To Commit Murder
Carruth was one of the best receivers in Colorado history as he led the Big 8/Big 12 in receiving yards in both 1995 and 1996. He was taken in the first round in 1997 by the Carolina Panthers and ahead of such players as Jason Taylor, Ronde Barber and Derrick Mason. He made the All-Rookie team in 1997 but his career came to an end in 1999 when he was waived the day after he was captured by police hiding in the trunk of a car. Carruth had conspired to murder his girlfriend who was 8 months pregnant with their unborn child. Carruth drove his vehicle in front of his girlfriend’s car while a friend of his pulled up alongside her and shot her four times.
Carruth’s girlfriend would die one month later while the baby was delivered but suffered permanent brain damage after being without oxygen for 70 minutes. Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle, and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. Carruth was sentenced to 18 years, 11 months in prison and is scheduled to be released in October 2018.
2 Eric Naposki: First-Degree Murder
Naposki was born in New York City, played at Connecticut and then stayed in the northeast when he joined the Patriots. He was a linebacker and played in just 5 NFL games but then had a successful career overseas with the Barcelona Dragons. During an offseason in 1994, Naposki was back in the states and shot and killed an elder man for financial gain. Naposki was involved in a relationship with a young woman who managed the finances of the murdered man and those two plotted to kill him so they could theoretically reap the financial rewards. It would take 15 years for Naposki to be charged and he actually returned back to Barcelona to play during that time.
In 2011 he was found guilty of first-degree murder and in 2012 was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. He is currently housed at the Corcoran State Prison in California where Charles Manson is a fellow inmate.
1 Anthony Smith: First Degree Murder
Not to be confused with the safety Anthony Smith who infamously guaranteed his Steelers would defeat the undefeated Patriots in 2007; this Anthony Smith was a defensive end for the Raiders in the 90s. He was pretty damn good as well as he is one of six players in NFL history to record at least 10 sacks in each of his first three seasons. The others are Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, Dwight Freeney, Shawne Merriman and Jevon Kearse.
Smith last played in 1997 and then turned to a life of crime as his new career. In 2003 he was charged with firebombing a furniture store but he saved his worst for later. In 2011 he went to trial for murder and while awaiting trial, he was then charged with three more murders. Smith and two others allegedly kidnapped the men, tortured them and then killed them. The jury deadlocked on the first murder Smith was charged with but he was convicted on the other three. He was sentenced to three life sentences without the possibility for parole.