One has to be a unique type of individual to play football at the highest levels such as at a top collegiate program or in the National Football League. After all, football is a savage sport based largely upon unbridled violence that involves athletes taking gruesome punishments each time they play competitive games. It feels as if a new study detailing the risks associated with playing football is released to the public just about every year. One cannot help but wonder if we are not all that far off from a time when the majority of parents spread throughout North America decide that tackle football is a sport that shouldn’t be played by any person until he turns 18 years old and is, in the eyes of the law, an adult and capable of making such an important decision.
Perhaps head traumas suffered by players, the essential qualities of the game or some combination of both has played roles in so many NFLers disgracing the league over the years. Men who were players at the time they committed atrocities and also former NFLers have been found guilty of disgusting and unthinkable crimes, and we can only imagine and guess how many of those individuals dealt with concussions, chronic traumatic encephalopathy — CTE — and other physical setbacks that affected how they lived their lives away from football. No sport as grueling as football is perfect, of course, but one doesn’t have to be an expert to see the writing on the wall and understand big changes are coming to the NFL and other levels of the sport sooner than later.
15 Rae Carruth
We start with the infamous story about former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth. In January 2001, Carruth was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years, 11 months behind bars because of his role in the murder of Cherica Adams that occurred in November 1999. Adams was pregnant with Carruth’s child at the time she was gunned down, and it was later alleged Carruth conspired with three others to have her killed because she wouldn’t get an abortion and he did not want to pay child support. Miraculously, Adams’ son, Chancellor Lee Adams, survived the shooting. In October 2016, Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer reported Saundra Adams, Cherica’s mom, plans to take the young man dealing with cerebral palsy and brain damage to meet Carruth if the former NFLer is released in October 2018 as expected.
14 Eric Naposki
Linebacker Eric Naposki had a short stint in the NFL in the late 1980s, but he was unable to find a long-term home with either the New England Patriots or Indianapolis Colts. Naposki’s name reentered North American sports headlines in 2009 when it was learned he and his lover were charged with the murder of William Francis McLaughlin that occurred all the way back in 1994. According to a Fox Sports story, Naposki’s lover requested McLaughlin’s murder so that she could inherit $1 million from a life insurance policy upon his death. Naposki reportedly shot McLaughlin six times after his lover gave him the key to a home she shared with McLaughlin at the time. In August 2012, Naposki received life in prison with no possibility or parole.
13 Tommy Kane
Former wide receiver Tommy Kane played for the Seattle Seahawks from 1988 through the 1992 season, and he caught a total of nine touchdown passes during his stint in the NFL. Roughly 11 years after he played his last meaningful down of NFL football, Kane allegedly stabbed Tamara Shaikh inside of his own mother’s house, located in Quebec, not too long after he and Shaikh had separated. Kane and Shaikh had four children, all of whom were under eight years old, at the time she was killed. Following the crime, it was learned Kane had dealt with depression, and it is believed that played a role in the former NFLer being sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2004 after he was able to plead guilty to manslaughter rather than face second-degree murder charges.
12 Sam Hurd
There was a time in 2007 when it seemed as if Sam Hurd could become a superstar wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. He failed to develop as a reliable starter for Dallas, however, and his NFL career ended in December 2011 when the Chicago Bears cut him after he was arrested on drug-related charges. According to reports, Hurd attempted to purchase both cocaine and marijuana in order to create a drug ring. From the time of the original arrest until he was sentenced in 2013, Hurd was arrested again after he reportedly failed a pair of drug tests and violated his bond. In November 2013, Hurt was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He claimed his addiction to marijuana resulted in his eventual fall from grace.
11 Keith Wright
The Houston Texans took a flier on defensive end Keith Wright in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL Draft, but Wright quickly became a forgotten figure who was out of the league, entirely, following the 2006 season. In November 2012, Wright was sentenced to a total of 234 years and eight months behind bars after he was convicted of multiple crimes related to alleged home invasions that occurred in the Sacramento, California area. Per a CBS Sacramento story, Wright was convicted of 19 charges, in total, and they included armed robbery, kidnapping, false imprisonment and sexual assault. The specific details of the crimes, particular those regarding “forcible oral copulation,” make for uncomfortable reads, and it’s easy to understand why Wright will never again be a free man.
10 Nate Webster
Linebacker Nate Webster found himself facing legal problems before he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2000, as he was arrested in October 1999 and charged with false imprisonment and battery regarding an incident with a former girlfriend. While he settled a lawsuit and continued playing in the NFL in 2001, he once again landed in trouble in 2011 when he was arrested and indicted on sex-related charges after it was alleged he had an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old female, and also used guns to threaten her into keeping their relationship a secret. In June 2012, Webster was sentenced to 12 years in prison. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Webster could’ve decreased his sentence to four years had he accepted a plea deal.
9 Anthony Smith
Nobody could’ve fathomed how the story of defensive lineman Anthony Smith would end when he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the 11th pick of the 1990 NFL Draft. Roughly nine years after the draft, Smith reportedly kidnapped two brothers and then brutally tortured and murdered them. Smith was also accused of torturing and killing Dennis Henderson in 2001. By the time the legal process completed, the former player was convicted of each of those crimes and sentenced to life in prison. Perhaps craziest of all is that he was also charged with the 2008 murder of mechanic Maurilio Ponce, a victim shot eight times. In 2012, a mistrial was declared because jurors couldn’t come to a definitive verdict. It’s anybody’s guess what else Smith did or didn’t do between 1999 and the time of his incarceration.
8 Art Schlichter
One could probably write a book about the life and times of former NFLer Art Schlichter. Schlichter was one of the top quarterbacks of the 1982 NFL Draft, but he is more so remembered as being one of the sport’s most notorious gamblers. Per the New York Times, Schlichter was found guilty of felony charges a total of five times between 1983 and 1997, and he was convicted of forgery and theft, crimes related to his need to eliminate gambling debts, in July 1997. In October 2011, Schlichter pleaded guilty for his role in an alleged sports-ticket scam. He was ordered to pay $2.2 million in restitution, and he earned a sentence of over 10 years in jail after he tested positive for cocaine while on house arrest. He’s one of the biggest draft busts in history.
7 Robert Rozier
Robert Rozier had a rather forgettable stint in the NFL as a defensive lineman, but his name will be remembered because of his association with the infamous Miami cult run by Yahweh Ben Yahweh. In short, Rozier pleaded guilty to the murders of four individuals and also confessed to killing three other people all to please Yahweh and establish himself as a member of “The Brotherhood.” The former player eventually testified against Yahweh, and that played a role in Rozier being released from prison after he served ten years. Roughly three years after tasting freedom, Rozier was accused of passing bad checks. He was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 25 years under a “third strike law.” It’s possible he’ll never again be a free man.
6 Dave Meggett
Fans of the New York Giants likely remember Dave Meggett as being the speedster who could feature in multiple roles on offense and special teams, and a player who won a Super Bowl with the club. They may not realize Meggett did plenty to ruin his reputation away from the field after his playing days with Big Blue ended. In 1998, the former running back was accused of assaulting an escort worker, but the trial for that case ended in a hung jury. He was later accused of sexually assaulting a former girlfriend, and he received probation regarding that alleged incident in 2007. In November 2010, Meggett received a prison sentence of 30 years after he was convicted of criminal sexual conduct and burglary regarding an incident with a female college student that occurred in January 2009.
5 Lawrence Phillips
Former running back Lawrence Phillips serves as an example for why teams shy away from drafting players who enter the league with “character concerns.” Phillips was allegedly involved in multiple troubling incidents while at the University of Nebraska, but he was nevertheless a first-round pick in 1996 because of his physical gifts. He wasn’t worth the trouble for teams for a variety of reasons, though, and that was only the beginning of his woes. In December 2009, Phillips received a sentence of 31 years behind bars for incidents that involved choking a girlfriend and driving a vehicle into three teens. In January 2016, Phillips’ body was found at Kern Valley State Prison. It’s believed he committed suicide. At the time of his passing, he was facing charges of killing a former cellmate while in jail.
4 Mark Ingram Sr.
Retired wide receiver Mark Ingram Sr., the father of current NFL running back Mark Ingram Jr., has hopefully learned lessons and will remain out of trouble now that he is a free man. Ingram spent multiple stints in jail after he retired following the 1996 season, and he received a prison sentence of more than seven years for bank fraud and money laundering in September 2008. The subsequent January, Ingram jumped bail all so that he could watch his son participate in the Sugar Bowl, but he was caught and arrested hours before the start of that game. He remained behind bars until early 2015, and he has since watched his son play in-person. While Ingram Sr. disgraced his legacy and the league, the hope is his story has a happy ending.
3 Aaron Hernandez
Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez unquestionably had Hall-of-Fame talent, but he couldn’t escape demons that plagued him for longer than most realized. In June 2013, he was shockingly arrested and charged with the murder of former friend Odin Lloyd, and he was convicted of that crime and given a sentence of life in prison in April 2015. After being found guilty of killing Lloyd, Hernandez faced murder charges due to being linked with the deaths of two men. He was acquitted of those two additional murders in April 2017, but his name was again in headlines five days later after it was learned he hanged himself inside of his cell. He was only 27 years old, theoretically in his physical prime, at the time of his death.
2 Darren Sharper
It wasn’t all that long ago when former safety Darren Sharper was a serious candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Sharper is now seen as a villain who disgraced the NFL and probably should never again be associated with the league. In 2016, Sharper received a prison sentence of 20 years for drugging and sexually assaulting two women according to the Los Angeles Times, but the story only, disgustingly, begins there. Per the LA Times, Sharper’s victims are allegedly spread across four states, and it’s been suggested a total of 16 individuals may have been drugged and assaulted by the former player. In 2015, William & Mary, Sharper’s alma mater, removed him from the college’s Hall of Fame. It’s difficult to imagine he’ll ever receive many votes for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
1 O.J. Simpson
Will former NFL running back O.J. Simpson be able to stay out of trouble if he is released from prison in October 2017 as scheduled? That’s the question many asked once Simpson was granted parole after he spent nine years in prison for his role in a robbery that occurred in a Las Vegas hotel room in September 2007. Simpson, of course, was acquitted of all charges regarding the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman at the end of the “Trial of the Century” in October 1995, but a plethora of football fans and other observers believe, to this day, he had at least some role in those murders. Assuming he behaves himself between the posting of this piece and October, he should be given yet another chance to start over. You can be sure Simpson tasting freedom is yet another example of a former NFLer disgracing the league in the eyes of critics.