For many people out there, making it into the NFL is a dream come true. While they are in the league, things are going amazing for them. Not only are they rich and famous, but also get to play a game they love for a living. However, life in the NFL isn’t always peaches and cream. Injuries happen and with so much money and power, it can all go to your head.
Add to this the fact that the average NFL career is relatively short and many players go bankrupt after leaving the NFL and you have a potential recipe for disaster for players. Over the history of the NFL, there have been several players that have had a very rough time at the end of their career and after they left the NFL.
This article will take a closer look at 15 players in particular whose lives hit rock bottom after their time in the NFL. These guys were all at the top of the world for a period, but then fell hard and experienced some rough times for a variety of different reasons.
15. Vince Young
In his college days, Vince Young showed superstar potential and many thought he would become an instant sensation in the NFL. While he never turned into a star, he did have a few successful years as an NFL QB. However, he let his large ego get the best of him and got in a verbal altercation with his head coach, which is a big no-no and it basically ended his stint with the Titans. He went on to join a few other teams, but it never worked out with any of them. Since retiring, Young has tried to play in the CFL, but that didn’t work either. Young has had personal troubles and mental health problems and even disappeared for a few hours without his phone, which caused a lot of worry in the NFL that he might do harm to himself or others. He also struggled financially and wasn’t that great of a saver.
14. Warren Sapp
There is no doubting that Warren Sapp is one of the best defensive linemen in the history of the NFL. Sapp made seven Pro Bowls and is a Hall of Fame player. His incredible size and strength made him a nightmare for opposing offensive lineman. However, off of the field, he has had a lot of problems. In 2012, Sapp filed for bankruptcy and was found to have less than $1,000 in his bank account to go along with a ton of debt. However, in addition to his retirement money problems, he has also had problems with the law as he not only got caught soliciting a prostitute, but also was arrested for domestic violence a couple of years ago. On the field, he was great and respected, but off the field, not so much.
13. Lawrence Taylor
If you speak about the best defensive player in NFL history, you will get a lot of answers. However, one name that will come up a lot will be Lawrence Taylor. LT won just about every award there is out there, and was a ferocious pass rusher who was very hard to stop. However, when you go off the field, Lawrence Taylor the person is a little bit of a different story than Lawrence Taylor the player. He has lived a controversial lifestyle, as he used cocaine during the entirety of his career, and his drug problem only got worse after he retired. Because of this problem, he was jailed a few different times for drug charges. He has also been registered as a sex offender for allegedly getting sexual with a 16 year old girl.
12. Aaron Hernandez
By now, we all know the horrific and tragic story of Aaron Hernandez. He was drafted in 2010 and formed one of the NFL’s best tight end duos on the Patriots with Rob Gronkowski. However, Hernandez is without a doubt best known for his arrest in 2013, for the murder of Odin Lloyd. The arrest obviously brought an end to his career, but his troubles with the law were far from over. He was suspected of more murders and was eventually sentenced to life in prison. However, in mid-2017, Hernandez was found dead in his cell from an apparent suicide. The story is horrible any way you look at it and it is hard to get more “rock bottom” than being jailed for murder after a short NFL career.
11. Lawrence Phillips
Lawrence Phillips was one of the best college running backs of all time and seemed like he would go on to be an NFL star. However, his potential and his skills on the field were far overshadowed by his off-the-field behavior. He was getting into trouble during high school, college and even during his time in the pros. His behavior was terrible and his rap sheet was a mile long. He was arrested several different times during his career, including a domestic assault charge and a 2015 arrest for the murder of his former cellmate. He could have faced the death penalty, but he committed suicide in early 2016, while in prison. Plain and simple, the guy was a nightmare to deal with on and off the field, in two totally different ways.
10. Johnny Manziel
Where to start with Johnny Manziel? “Johnny Football” was one of the most thrilling-to-watch college football players of all-time, and his over the top personality made him a fan favorite to some, but hated by others. After being drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns, Manizel was seen as the future star of the team. However, bad play and questionable off-the-field behavior (both before and during his NFL career) led to his NFL career fizzling out before it really got going, after only two seasons. Since being out the NFL, things have gotten even worse for Manizel as has been suspected of domestic violence on a number of different occasions and seems to be all but done with pro football at a high level. Here’s hoping he can get it back together, but we doubt it, even if he’s just 25.
9. Luther Elliss
Elliss had an NFL career that spanned nearly a decade and he made two straight Pro Bowls in 1999 and 2000. He was a first-round pick and was an outstanding lineman in his time. His time in the NFL was great, but once he retired from the NFL, he ran into some major problems. Despite making millions and millions of dollars, Elliss went broke soon after retiring. However, Elliss’s issues weren’t with drugs or gambling like lots of people, he simply made terrible business decisions and investments that cost him everything. He is the perfect example of how one doesn’t need an addiction to hit rock bottom, sometimes good-hearted choices and investments just don’t work out.
8. Chris McAlister
During his time in the NFL, Christ McAlister was one of the premier defensive backs in the entire league. He played from 1999 to 2009 and made three Pro Bowls and even won a Super Bowl as a member of the Baltimore Ravens in 2000-01. He was a talented corner and as a result, he made quite a bit of money and was on top of the world. However, in 2010, only a year after retiring from the NFL, McAlister claimed he was completely broke. He was stuck paying a five-figure child support payment every month, but for a guy that made tens of millions, he should have been able to pay that. He had a bad partying habit and it cost him a ton of money and at one point, he was even living with his parents! He is a perfect example of squandering away a ton of money without getting much back at all.
7. Maurice Clarett
Maurice Clarett is one of the most interesting stories in sports history. In college, Clarett was incredibly dynamic and one of the best players in the nation. He seemed ready for NFL stardom and was well on his way to being a household name. However, after disagreements with the NCAA and more, he was dismissed from Ohio State. He was eligible for the NFL draft in 2005, but showed up sluggish and out of shape. He was still drafted, but decided to sign an un-guaranteed contract and after showing up overweight to training camp, never made the final roster of the team that drafted him. He would never again find himself on an NFL roster and his life continued to spin out of control. it culminated in a 7+ year prison sentence for several different crimes. He has gotten on the right track recently, but no doubt he was at rock bottom for a good while.
6. Bernie Kosar
During his NFL career from the mid-1980s ton the mid-1990s, Bernie Kosar was a very solid quarterback and put up decent numbers for a number of different teams. He even won a Super Bowl and went to two Pro Bowls. Things during his NFL career were great, but once he retired, things went in a completely different direction. After the American recession in 2008 and 2009, Kosar lost a LOT of money. In fact, he even filed bankruptcy with debts of nearly $20 million. He lost most of it thanks to real estate and business mistakes. He is one of the prime examples of how just because you were a great player and made lots of cash, doesn’t mean you will automatically be good at being a businessman to make money.
5. Sam Hurd
Hurd signed with the Cowboys in 2006 as an undrafted free agent as a wide receiver. While he was never able to turn into a quality starter, he was a great special teams player and managed to have an NFL career that spanned a little over half a decade in total. However, in 2011, his NFL career and essentially his life as a free man would change forever. I guess Hurd felt he wasn’t getting paid enough in the NFL, as he attempted to facilitate a large drug deal of marijuana and cocaine. This, of course, is a huge no-no and he was arrested. After failing a subsequent drug test, Hurd was sentenced to 15 years in prison and is currently serving out his sentence in a prison in Texas.
4. Deuce McAllister
Deuce McAllister managed to have a pretty solid career in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints. Can’t ask for more than a Super Bowl win and a few Pro Bowl visits, right? He played there for eight seasons and was one of the better NFL running backs during his career. Because he was so talented, he made a TON of cash in his NFL career and the number is rumored to be about $70 million. For most people, $70 million would mean they (and the rest of their family) would never have to work another day in their lives. However, for McAllister, it only ended up lasting him a couple of months. Some bad business decisions led him to find himself millions of dollars in debt and bankrupt less than a year after retiring from the NFL.
3. Ryan Leaf
Whenever the term “draft bust” is thrown around, it is often thought that Ryan Leaf is the absolute worst of all time. He was taken with the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft after Peyton Manning. However, Leaf and Manning’s careers couldn’t have been more different as the former only lasted a few years and played terribly on the field, and exhibited a lot of questionable behavior off of it. While that is pretty bad, things actually got much worse for Leaf after he retired. He had a severe problem with drugs and was arrested and jailed numerous times as a result of his addiction. He currently works as a program ambassador for a series of sober living houses, so hopefully he is getting his life back on track.
2. Andre Rison
Andre Rison was a professional football player for nearly two decades and played for many different teams. In his prime, he made multiple Pro Bowls in a row and holds the record for scoring touchdowns with the most teams, as he scored a touchdown with seven different NFL teams during his career. While he made a ton of money with a number of lucrative contracts, that didn’t stop Andre Rison from squandering it all away. His spending was out of control and he says he has spent more than $1 million on jewelry alone. He was one of the main athletes featured in the Broke documentary, which is about athletes who struggle with money after they retire and why it happens.
1. O.J. Simpson
You knew the number one spot would be none other than O.J Simpson. On the football field, “The Juice” was a legend in both college and professional ball. He won several awards and was one of the best players on earth during the 1970s as a member of the Buffalo Bills. However, O.J. Simpson is without a doubt best known for his trial and acquittal of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend, Ron Goldman. While he wasn’t found guilty, many people still believe he was the murderer. However, his problems with the law went far beyond that and he had numerous other charges, one of which led to a 10-year prison sentence from 2007 to 2017. Going from one of the best players in the world to a criminal who many believe is a murderer, is about as “rock bottom” as you can get.
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