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Christopher Miller

NFL stars are throwing their talent away

Weekly column from sports columnist Christopher Miller about NFL superstars ending their careers early because of legal issues. 


At this time of year, about mid-April, any news relating to the NFL is typically positive news tailored towards the upcoming NFL Draft. As it is right now though, the 2015 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away and the headlines out of the NFL were anything but positive. In fact, the news has focused on the off-field legal troubles of past and present NFL players.

Within the last week alone, former New England Patriots star, Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Former University of Nebraska and NFL running back Lawrence Phillips also made headlines this week. Phillips is an inmate at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California where he is serving a seven-year term for felony assault with a deadly weapon and is set to serve an additional 25 years once that sentence elapses for a domestic assault on his girlfriend. As if these actions weren’t appalling enough already, he is suspected of killing his cellmate this past week.

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Lastly, we saw current NFL superstar Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was reinstated after an incident in September 2014 in which Peterson was arrested for punishing his son with a switch, leaving welts on his legs and genitals.

My reaction to these events is of both disgust and confusion. All three of these men were, and in some instances, still are amazing athletes. They could have used their extraordinary athletic abilities to make more money and achieve more fame than they would even know what to do with.

But now, two of these men will spend the rest of their lives incarcerated and the other will spend the rest of his life and playing career trying to justify his questionable and abusive parenting tactics.

Just a quick glance at the athletic resumes of these three athletes speaks to their tremendous talents on the football field.

In three years of college football at the University of Florida, Hernandez was an All-American, a National Champion and a John Mackey Award winner. The John Mackey Award is given annually to the nation's best tight end.

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With the Patriots, Hernandez had success in his first two years in the league. He had so much success that he was given a new 5-year $40 million contract extension in 2012. Now at 25, when he would be at the peak of his career, he sits on suicide watch in federal penitentiary located just miles from Gillette Stadium where he played every Sunday.

Lawrence Phillips, much like Aaron Hernandez, had great potential. Phillips was a two-time National Champion at Nebraska and a top-10 pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. His professional career, however, was brief with no major accomplishments to speak of. Phillips only played three seasons in the NFL due to repeated legal problems.

For Peterson, his resume is full of accomplishments. He has been an NFL MVP, a six-time Pro Bowl selection, NFL record holder and more. Up until his recent suspension, he was regarded as the NFL’s top running back.

Although Peterson’s recent drama did not end his career, there is little doubt that it did irreversible damage to his career and his legacy.

It is impossible to answer why we are continuing to see superstar athletes who seem as though they will have brilliant careers in the NFL just throw it all away. In no way am I saying that these men do not deserve such punishment for the horrific things they have all done, but I am saying it is a shame to see so much talent wasted and thrown away. This is a trend that is becoming far too common in the NFL if you ask me. Hopefully, athletes everywhere can learn from the sad story of Aaron Hernandez’s and Lawrence Phillip’s demise.

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