Would NFL draft pick look good in jail cell?
By Jerry Magee
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
April 9, 2008
Lineups are not limited to police procedurals. The NFL in a sense has one – of the players eligible for the league's April 26-27 draft who have arrest records or have been involved in matters that touched on their characters.
There are a number of these individuals, as many as 25, according to the findings of Nolan Nawrocki, Pro Football Weekly's draft analyst. Their availability comes at a time when the league is taking a hard line concerning players' conduct through policies put in place by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“I think that we are beginning to understand that we hold ourselves to a higher standard,” Goodell said before Super Bowl XLII. “We saw a tremendous reduction in rookie incidents because I think we were able to do programs that educated players on what we expect of them.”
Historically, however, teams seldom have hesitated in drafting athletes of talent who had troubled experiences off the field.
“Talent usually wins out,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “They hope kids that have made mistakes at a young age will mature and grow up to become professional football players.”
In view of the league's emphasis on citizenship, how Darren McFadden and others are received in this year's draft represents a test of the NFL's resolve to be mindful of players' conduct. A running back from Arkansas, McFadden was college football's Freshman of the Year in his first year at Fayetteville. In his next two seasons, he was a runner-up for the Heisman Trophy. He has size (6-feet-1¼, 211 pounds) and 4.36 speed.
But McFadden has “issues.” Twice within a year and a half, he was involved in improper activities, first when he was investigated late in 2007 for the illegal possession of a vehicle, a violation of NCAA rules. Later, in January 2008, he was involved in an altercation at a Little Rock piano bar. McFadden was handcuffed “because he was agitated and was provoking aggressive behavior,” according to a police report. The athlete was released once he calmed down.
“Everybody is definitely overwhelmed about his talent,” said Jerry Jones, author of “The Drugstore List” of draft ratings. “The question is, 'What are you getting with it?' ”
“Any team that considers drafting him early better make sure it does its due diligence,” Nawrocki said. “Off-field distractions and hangers-on could keep him from ever realizing his immense potential.”
Among the other draft-eligible athletes with backgrounds that are not wholly savory are these:
QB Colt Brennan, Hawaii – In February 2004, then attending Colorado, he was arrested on felony burglary and trespassing charges and misdemeanor sexual assault and indecent exposure charges after allegedly walking uninvited into a female student's dorm room and sexually assaulting her. Brennan pleaded not guilty but was convicted on both counts and sentenced to seven days in jail, 60 hours of community service and four years' probation. He was dismissed by Colorado.
WR James Hardy, Indiana – In May 2006, he was arrested and charged with domestic battery and interfering with the reporting of a crime when he allegedly attacked his girlfriend and infant son. When the police arrived, the girlfriend's shirt was torn and she had marks on the side and back of her neck. The charges were dropped after Hardy participated in a pretrial diversion program.
WR Josh Hyman, Virginia Tech – He was arrested in June 2006 on a misdemeanor credit card fraud charge. A former girlfriend accused him of making a charge on her card without permission. Charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence.
WR Maurice Purify, Nebraska – He was arrested in May 2007 and charged with two counts of assault, failure to comply, resisting arrest and trespassing. Purify was accused of hitting a bouncer, who several times had denied him entrance to a bar, and striking the man's girlfriend. Purify resisted arrest and it took four officers to subdue him. He was sentenced to a year of probation in July.
TE Louis Irizarry, Youngstown State – While attending Ohio State, he was arrested in October 2003 and convicted on assault, negligent assault and disorderly conduct charges after engaging in a fight with two male students and pushing his girlfriend. He spent three days in jail. In May 2004, he was arrested again and this time was charged with felony robbery in the second degree after he and a teammate assaulted a student and stole his wallet. He was sentenced to three years in jail, but he served only six months.