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SanAntonioSteelerFan
02-01-2010, 09:40 AM
A guy who was probably one step away from death and living under a bridge because of drug abuse who looks like he made it back. Very nice story.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/01/sport ... nted=2&hpw (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/01/sports/football/01hargrove.html?pagewanted=2&hpw)


The New York Times

February 1, 2010
Super Bowl Is Unlikely Stopover on Player’s Journey to Sobriety
By KAREN CROUSE

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.

After another failed test, Hargrove received an automatic one-season suspension. Through the N.F.L. substance-abuse program, Hargrove was directed to a treatment center in South Carolina. He spent three months there before moving to the Transitions Program in Florida, where a framed poster in the reception area reads, “Commitment: The distance to success is measured by your own drive.”

In the beginning, Hargrove was skeptical that Barchan and his staff could help him. The turning point came when his counselor, Vernon Martin, asked him to write a three-page goodbye letter to his parents.

“Six pages, back and front, I wrote, and I was bawling as I did it,” Hargrove said. “When I was done, it felt like 130 pounds was lifted off my shoulders. It hit me then that I had a lot of feelings I hadn’t dealt with.

“The stuff I had to say to my mom was all loving, but there was also so much remorse and pain that I had and guilt and shame and even anger. And writing about my dad, I’ve always told myself how much I loved him and forgave him, but I really didn’t. I hated him so much. I had nothing but anger towards him on that paper.”

After completing the mandated three-month program, Hargrove chose to stay seven more months. He stripped the varnish from his world in daily therapy sessions and worked out regularly with another counselor, Luis Gonzalez, who is 52 and in his 13th year of sobriety. “Sometimes you get drained in this field,” Gonzalez said. “Anthony re-energized me.”

Hargrove’s Transitions team has not fared as well as his Saints. A few fellow patients have relapsed and a few others have died, he said. “You get the calls and it’s hard,” he said. “There’s always some guilt, like why have I been spared?”

Last February the N.F.L. reinstated Hargrove, who had been sober 10 months. With his agent’s help, Hargrove made a videotape and sent it and a letter to every club.

The Saints were the only team to bring him in for an interview. They signed him to a one-year contract for $620,000, the league minimum for someone with his experience level. Hargrove said the owner, Tom Benson, told him: “This is another shot for you. Make it work.”

New Orleans throws a party at the drop of a hat, but Hargrove does not look at the city and see its temptations. He sees his struggle mirrored in New Orleans’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

“The city was all torn up, and people had to start all over,” Hargrove said. “A hurricane came into my life and tore up everything I knew, and I had to start all over.”

Hargrove lives in an apartment complex a mile from the team’s practice facility and attends A.A. meetings at least twice a week.

“For me it’s a constant mind cleansing,” Hargrove said. “It’s about keeping the right thoughts in my head and not worrying what people are saying about me. I feel like people think I’m crazy or are always assuming I’m still using.”

During the N.F.C. championship game, Hargrove was a jackhammer in Favre’s side. He leveled Favre in the third quarter, incurring a personal foul and a subsequent fine from the league. As Favre rose to his feet, he said to Hargrove, “Is that all you have, little man?”

Hargrove says his opponents haven’t seen anything yet. “The guilt, the shame, the up-and-downness of your moods, when you’re battling all that, you’re using up so much energy,” he said. “The athletic talent was always there, but now that I’m freed from my addictions, I’m a much more consistent player.”

But is he strong enough to tackle the distractions of a Super Bowl? When asked the question, Barchan and Gonzalez exchanged worried glances.

“There’s a long history in the Super Bowl of players finding trouble,” Gonzalez said, ticking off a few names: “Stanley Wilson, Eugene Robinson, Barret Robbins.”

Barchan said: “He went from a road of desperation, of despair, to the Super Bowl. My concern always is, win or lose, how will he react?”

Hargrove is not worried. After the N.F.C. championship game, as celebrations broke out all over the city, he happily sat in his apartment with his older brother, Jermaine, eating double cheeseburgers from McDonald’s and watching game highlights on TV.

“I’ve thought about how I could have easily left Miami, not stayed in the program there, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Hargrove said. “I look at everything that’s happened as a divine plan at work.”

Chadman
02-01-2010, 09:56 AM
Well done young man.

Chadman can remember suggesting Hargrove being a decent FA option for the Steelers a few years back. It would seem that life took him on a path he needed more than Chadman thought would suit him.

Sometimes it's great to read or hear about great guys doing great things- stories about the Charlie Batch's of the world.

Other times it's great to hear how the bad guys can "Darth Vader/Annikin Skywalker- Return Of The Jedi ending", turn their lives around & conquer their own personal demons.

Pretty sure a few of you will say that he should never have put himself in that situation in the first place- and that is true in itself.

But what a great example of personal courage & desire to 'make good'.

Well done Anthony Hargrove.

:tt2

(Chadman resisted adding the beer clanking icon...didn't feel right..)

ANPSTEEL
02-02-2010, 12:37 AM
That is a really good story.

Life can be a tough sport... we seek to suppress our demons in many ways.

I hope he is able to stay the path.

Slapstick
02-02-2010, 12:40 AM
If he can stay on the path while living in New Orleans and then travelling to his home town for the Super Bowl, I would say that his chances are increasing...

hawaiiansteel
02-02-2010, 12:44 AM
thanks for sharing this feel-good story, this is the first time i've heard it.

i might have to cheer for the Saints now... :tt2

stlrz d
02-02-2010, 12:48 AM
Not to rain on any parades, but professional sports is filled with stories like this. And I admire each and every guy who overcomes those tremendous obstacles to get where there are.

The NFL should work harder to make known these stories...not just when a championship game rolls around, but any time a guy overcomes such obstacles.

SanAntonioSteelerFan
02-02-2010, 12:48 AM
thanks for sharing this feel-good story, this is the first time i've heard it.

i might have to cheer for the Saints now... :tt2

You're welcome, aloha steel!

It sounds like the night or two just before the Super Bowl is filled with EVIL for those who have these kinds of problems. Remember that Raider's center who wound up in some whore house in Tijuana strung out on coke and chicken wings the night before the big game?

I hope Hargrove stays clean, and shows up and has a great game!

birtikidis
02-02-2010, 12:50 AM
thanks for sharing this feel-good story, this is the first time i've heard it.

i might have to cheer for the Saints now... :tt2

You're welcome, aloha steel!

It sounds like the night or two just before the Super Bowl is filled with EVIL for those who have these kinds of problems. Remember that Raider's center who wound up in some whore house in Tijuana strung out on coke and chicken wings the night before the big game?

I hope Hargrove stays clean, and shows up and has a great game!
lol yea, he ended up incarcerated where i used to work...

ANPSTEEL
02-02-2010, 12:58 AM
thanks for sharing this feel-good story, this is the first time i've heard it.

i might have to cheer for the Saints now... :tt2

You're welcome, aloha steel!

It sounds like the night or two just before the Super Bowl is filled with EVIL for those who have these kinds of problems. Remember that Raider's center who wound up in some whore house in Tijuana strung out on coke and chicken wings the night before the big game?

I hope Hargrove stays clean, and shows up and has a great game!
lol yea, he ended up incarcerated where i used to work...

is that the same guy that was shot multiple times by the police?

Shawn
02-02-2010, 12:58 AM
Thanks for posting this San...what a terrific story. I have personally heard alot of stories like this one (minus the football) and I'm always floored by the transformation. It never gets old for me.

hawaiiansteel
02-02-2010, 01:04 AM
thanks for sharing this feel-good story, this is the first time i've heard it.

i might have to cheer for the Saints now... :tt2

You're welcome, aloha steel!

It sounds like the night or two just before the Super Bowl is filled with EVIL for those who have these kinds of problems. Remember that Raider's center who wound up in some whore house in Tijuana strung out on coke and chicken wings the night before the big game?

I hope Hargrove stays clean, and shows up and has a great game!
lol yea, he ended up incarcerated where i used to work...




Oakland Raiders center Barret Robbins disappeared the day before the Raiders played in the Super Bowl in San Diego. His family was worried that the bi-polar mentally unstable Robbins was dead while the team was concerned about who would start at center.

Robbins skipped his San Diego hotel without his wallet and his cell phone to go and party in Tijuana, Mexico the day before and the day of the Super Bowl.

"I was in a very bad state of mind at that point," Robbins said. "In my mind we had already won the Super Bowl and we were already celebrating."

BradshawsHairdresser
02-02-2010, 06:33 PM
Once a thug, always a thug.










Just kidding. Great story...hope to hear more of them :D