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Super Bowl Is Unlikely Stopover on Player’s Journey to Sobriety

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; METAIRIE, La. — The road to the Super Bowl rarely runs through a halfway house. Which is what makes Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove’s story special — and, to those who care about him, a little unsettling. Eight months after ...

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Old 02-01-2010, 10:55 PM   #1
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Super Bowl Is Unlikely Stopover on Player’s Journey to Sobriety

METAIRIE, La. — The road to the Super Bowl rarely runs through a halfway house. Which is what makes Saints defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove’s story special — and, to those who care about him, a little unsettling. Eight months after being treated in South Florida for alcohol and drug addiction, Hargrove is headed back there for Super Bowl XLIV.

The ramifications hit Hargrove with the same force as his bone-rattling collisions with Vikings quarterback Brett Favre in New Orleans’s overtime victory against Minnesota in the National Football Conference championship game.

“This is a Super Bowl,” Hargrove said Wednesday during an interview at the Saints’ practice facility here. “I might only have one shot at it. I don’t want to come all this way and blow it. My teammates have said I can go out one night and have fun, but I know I can’t. The one night I do try to enjoy myself is when something can happen.”

Hargrove’s team last season consisted of counselors and recovering addicts at the Transitions Recovery Program in North Miami Beach, less than nine miles from Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, site of Sunday’s game between the Saints and the Indianapolis Colts.

The rehabilitation center was Hargrove’s home for 10 months after the N.F.L. suspended him for the 2008 season for his third violation of the league’s drug policy.

Described as a thug by officials from his former team, the Buffalo Bills, in notes that preceded his arrival at the center, Hargrove, 26, showed up wearing a smile that disarmed everyone he met. He came across as a 6-foot-3 teddy bear. Trying to square the gentle giant in their midst with the “angry young man who may still be using” described in Hargrove’s admittance papers, the program’s executive director, Lee Barchan, was perplexed.

“We didn’t understand,” he said the other day from his second-floor office. “Did he have a twin? Was he schizophrenic?”

As his therapy would reveal, Hargrove’s smiling facade masked enduring pain from a Dickensian childhood. He spent three years in and out of homeless shelters and foster care after the Brooklyn tenement where Hargrove, his mother, Rosa, and two of his four half-siblings were living burned down when he was 6.

He has few memories of his father, and his mother died of AIDS when Hargrove was 9. Shortly after, in the summer of 1993, an aunt who lived in Port Charlotte, Fla., adopted him.

A quarterback and defensive back at Port Charlotte High, Hargrove played at Georgia Tech for two seasons before flunking out. For the next year, to help support the first of two children he fathered, Hargrove worked as a teacher’s aide, a security guard and, for seven months, a baggage handler at the Hartsfield airport in Atlanta.

Phil Williams, an agent who played football at Florida State, met Hargrove through a Georgia Tech connection and was immediately drawn to him. “When my family met him, we instantly knew there’s something different and beautiful about this kid,” he said.

Williams prodded Hargrove, who weighed over 300 pounds, to get in shape and helped arrange workouts in which Hargrove completed the 40-yard dash in a stock-raising 4.6 seconds.

The St. Louis Rams drafted Hargrove in the third round in 2004. He was 20 and living a dream. In his second season, he started at right defensive end and recorded 6.5 sacks.

Before his mother died, she made him promise to take care of his siblings, and now he had the means to do so. But instead of being a godsend, the money “tore a wedge in our family,” Hargrove said, adding, “It ruined me.”

He felt emptier than ever.

“When I was homeless and living in shelters, to me that was the best part of my life,” Hargrove said. “Because when I was with my mother, even though we were getting kicked out of shelters and living on the streets, you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t in a loving situation. My mom lit up my world.”

Hargrove experimented with alcohol while living with his aunt and uncle. By his second year with the Rams, he was regularly abusing marijuana and cocaine.

“I was numbing myself,” he said. “It was easier to smoke an extra blunt or have an extra drink than deal with my depression.”

Early in the 2006 season, Hargrove went missing for two days. He was in somebody’s basement, he said, snorting lines of cocaine as long as a shoe box in an overdose attempt.

“Pushing it as far as I could go,” he said, adding: “I had tried to kill myself a few times, but it had never worked. I was taking sleeping pills and I tried to take a whole bottle of them, but I’d wake up a day and a half later and be like, ‘O.K., that didn’t work.’ And I’d have to go to work weak.”

The Rams traded Hargrove to Buffalo a few weeks after he went AWOL, and he played well the rest of the season. But during training camp the next season, Hargrove was at a nightclub with Bills teammates when he was involved in an altercation and charged with harassment, resisting arrest and criminal mischief. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2007 season for violating the N.F.L.’s drug policy.

“And still I was taking stuff, weed, to work,” Hargrove said, shaking his head.

He added: “Sometimes I can just hear my mother, especially during that time. I felt like there were a lot of things she was telling me.”

Such as?

“She didn’t want me to die,” he said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/01/sp...html?th&emc=th



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Last edited by Halo; 02-02-2010 at 12:51 PM..
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Old 02-02-2010, 12:26 AM   #2
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Re: Super Bowl Is Unlikely Stopover on Player’s Journey to Sobriety

I love this guy's story. Feel good player of the year.
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Old 02-02-2010, 12:33 AM   #3
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Re: Super Bowl Is Unlikely Stopover on Player’s Journey to Sobriety

I hope he wins Comeback Player of the Year. His story is so touching. Definitley tugged at my heart strings.
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Old 02-02-2010, 09:12 AM   #4
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Re: Super Bowl Is Unlikely Stopover on Player’s Journey to Sobriety

Personally, I also haven't drank since July 2009. I think Hargrove is meant to be on this team.
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