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NFL, Drugs and Prison: The ballad of Sam Hurd

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Sam Hurd as a Dallas Cowboy, where he was special teams captain

Photo: Gary Myrick, License: N/A

Gary Myrick

Hurd at his sentencing in Dallas

Photo: Wikicommons, License: N/A

Wikicommons

Hurd, during his brief stint with the Chicago Bears before his arrest


•••••

After being passed over in the 2006 NFL draft, Hurd was picked up by the Dallas Cowboys, the closest thing to a home professional football team in San Antonio. For his family, though, Hurd’s wedding to girlfriend Stacee Green trumped his signing with the Cowboys. The dream of playing in the NFL that Hurd had at one point forgotten, because he felt he wasn’t “good enough or big enough,” was now a reality.

“It was almost unbelievable because so many kids play this game and that’s the dream,” remembers Hall. “At the end of the day that’s where they want to be, so it was just kind of mind boggling. It was exciting for the Brackenridge High School community and for me also. Anytime a young man or anybody can achieve something on that level it’s very special and it brings San Antonio to the light. I thought it was a great thing.”

Hurd’s initial impact with the Cowboys was on special teams, which Hall attributes to Hurd’s great work ethic. By 2008, the young player found rotation in a receiving corps that included names like Terrell Owens and Miles Austin, before injuring his ankle and requiring surgery. In 2010, he was named Special Teams captain and later that year he received the team’s Ed Block Courage Award, which recognizes an individual’s inspiration, sportsmanship and courage.

“It was awesome but I never really got to enjoy it because [of] the pressure of always needing to accomplish more,” says Hurd of his time with the Cowboys and catching passes from Romo. “I felt excited, but wanted so much more from the game. It was great because we both were new to the scene and it was amazing to be playing at that level. We both were excited but had a job to do and knew the game was bigger than our little moment of fame.”

It was during Hurd’s recovery in 2008 that his dependence on marijuana increased, with his habit eventually requiring purchases of two to four pounds a month. Trouble came calling in 2011 in the form of Toby Lujan, a mechanic Hurd had befriended who offered to flip $88,000 that Hurd had set aside to buy a house for his mother. Loyal to a fault, Hurd admits that he lent his friend the cash despite suspecting drugs were involved with the flip. When Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents tracked down Lujan that summer and confiscated the cash, Hurd was effectively on the path to federal court.

•••••

“I have never in my lifetime sold, participated in or used cocaine,” says Hurd as he stands before Judge Solis. “My biggest regret was ever smoking marijuana,” he adds. “My life is made up of good fortune combined with a train wreck of bad decisions.”

Leading up the sentencing, McCrum describes Hurd as increasingly more solemn, steeped in the feelings of regret and remorse. Corbin-Newsome characterizes him as remorseful but at peace, finding strength in his spirituality. As he pleads with Judge Solis, setting aside a written statement to speak from the heart, Hurd’s deep voice pushes the courtroom’s serviceable audio system.

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