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From NFL dropout to Super Bowl champion: The Anthony Hargrove Story

Oct 29, 2011, 12:59 PM | Updated: 11:15 pm

MT-10-2-JG
From NFL dropout to Super Bowl
champion, DT Anthony Hargrove has had a long journey.
(Rod
Mar/Seahawks.com)

By Michael Simeona, 710Sports.com Editor

The journey to the National Football League is different for each
player. Most can appreciate the sacrifice it takes to have the opportunity to
play on Sunday’s.

But for Seahawks defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, his road to the
NFL was different than most.

When he was six, the Brooklyn tenement he lived in with his mother
and two siblings burned down, leaving them homeless for several years
before his mother died of AIDS when he was nine. Shortly after his mother’s
death, Hargrove and his two siblings were adopted by their aunt from
Florida.

With the change of scenery, Hargrove gained a love for football where
he played quarterback and free safety for his high school team in Port
Charlotte, Florida.

He played well enough to be offered a scholarship to Georgia Tech,
where they moved him to defense full-time. After starting every game at
defensive end during an impressive sophomore season, Hargrove was
declared academically ineligible for his junior year.

He spent his lost season parking airplanes at Hartsfield-Jackson
Atlanta airport and staying in football shape at a local sports performance
facility. There, he got the opportunity to perform for multiple NFL scouts
and was immediately recognized as one of the most promising defensive
players in the draft.

Hargrove was selected by the St. Louis Rams with the 91st overall pick
in the 2004 draft, having played only a year-and-a-half of football in
college.

“When I got to the NFL, I personally thought that all my problems and
my answers were solved,” Hargrove said on Thursday’s Seahawks Weekly.
“But they weren’t.”

Early in his third season with the Rams in 2006, Hargrove had an
unexplained two-day absence that caused him to be made inactive by the
team. The glamorous lifestyle of a professional athlete was starting to take
over his life.

“You knew when I was in the building because you could smell me
come in,” he said.

The Rams traded Hargrove to the Buffalo Bills shortly thereafter, where
his off-field problems continued to plague him.

“When you finally leave somewhere you think it’s the people, places,
and things,” explained Hargrove. “I was out of St. Louis, you know it was
everybody else’s fault, and I wasn’t being honest at that point with myself.
When I left for Buffalo, I thought I left that person in St. Louis. But I was
wrong because everytime I looked in the mirror that person was still there.”

Before the 2007 season began, Hargrove was suspended for the first
four games of the regular season for breaking the NFL’s substance abuse
policy. Also during training camp, Hargrove was arrested for beating up
several cops.

Immediately following his fourth season in the NFL, Hargrove failed
another drug test. Due to past violations of the substance abuse policy,
Hargrove was suspended for the entire 2008 season.

Hargrove
Anthony Hargrove won a Super Bowl
with New Orleans a year after leaving rehab.
(AP)

“That was a changing moment in my life, because at first when I was
suspended from the NFL I felt that I could do whatever I want – I don’t have
to worry about people checking in on me, I don’t have to worry about
answering my phone or going to practice, I can now party and I can do the
things that I really wanted to do – but those were all lies,” said Hargrove.

“As everybody was going back to work, I realized that I wasn’t going
back to work. Money was getting low, no agent was calling, no teams were
calling.

“My life was going nowhere.”

Hargrove knew his life was spiraling out of control, so he entered
himself into rehab.

“One of the things they tell you in rehab is that you have jails,
institutions and you have death. I had already been in jail, I’d been in
several institutions so my last place was death. And that’s what I was
facing, and that was my reality – that I was going to die.”

Hargrove spent 13 months in treatment: three months in a phsychiatric
hospital in South Carolina, and ten months in a treatment facility in Miami.
It took over a year to rehabiliate him back to health, and on Valentine’s Day
2009, Hargrove was finally reinstated back in the NFL.

A few months later the New Orleans Saints took a chance on Hargrove,
and signed him to a one-year contract. Defensive coordinator Gregg
Williams saw Hargrove’s potential at defensive tackle, where he flourished
during the 2009 season.

The Saints went on to win their first Super Bowl in Miami, the same city
where Hargrove rehabilitated himself a year earlier. His New Orleans
teammates appreciated his story enough to award him the Ed Block
Courage award, given to the player who exemplifies commitment to the
principles of sportsmanship and courage.

“For so long in my career I was the guy in the locker room that you
always had to worry about,” Hargrove explained. “The coaches would say
‘You can’t count on this guy because you don’t know if he’s going to show
up for work. You don’t know what state of mind he’s going to be and you
don’t know the condition this guy is going to be.’ So, for my teammates to
honestly vote and say ‘Hey, we see what you’re doing. We believe in you
and we trust you,’ it meant the world to me.”

From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, Hargrove finally got
his life back in order. It’s a journey no player chooses to take, but it has
made Hargrove a better person all around.

“On Sunday’s, all you have people see is your last name and I wanted
the legacy for ‘Hargrove’ to be more than just a guy who threw away his
NFL career for drugs and alcohol.

“I wanted to be something my children could be proud of, that my
brothers and sisters could be proud of, and for my mom in heaven
watching down right now to be proud of.”

Hargrove can find solice knowing that his journey to the NFL has made
more than just his family proud.

Follow Michael Simeona on Twitter @Msimeona

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