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NFL, Drugs and Prison: The ballad of Sam Hurd


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

Photo: Gary Myrick, License: N/A

Hurd at his sentencing in Dallas

Photo: Wikicommons, License: N/A

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

“There’s a lot of similarities,” continues Ethington, comparing Hurd’s case to those of Michael Irvin and Roy Tarpley before him. Irvin pleaded no contest to felony cocaine possession in 1996 (for at least four grams of cocaine seized along with marijuana at Irvin’s raucous birthday party) while on the Cowboys roster and received four years of probation. In 1994 while playing for the Dallas Mavericks, Tarpley was permanently banned from the NBA after a series of alcohol-related incidents, including multiple DWI’s.

“The celebrity status of the defendant just adds fuel to the government’s fire to carry forward,” says Ethington. “‘Trophy hunting’ is what it’s called. The prosecutors even call it trophy hunting. All three of those individuals needed to be scrutinized by law enforcement authorities, but none of the three of them deserved to be incarcerated, and certainly not for a long period of time, like 15 years.”

Prosecutor John Kull presciently refuted such claims during the sentencing when referring to Hurd, stating, “He’s not being prosecuted because he’s an NFL player. He’s being prosecuted because he’s a drug dealer.”

By McCrum’s estimate, Hurd will be behind bars for 11 to 12 years due to good-time credit and time served. Unlike his grandfather and father before him who were always there for their children and still are, because of his bad decisions, Hurd will miss at least a decade of his young daughter’s life.

“I think it’s sad for our city,” says Mike McCrum. “It’s one of our sons, one of our brothers.”

•••••

Thanksgiving break is in effect for the San Antonio Independent School District but G.W. Brackenridge is bustling with activity. A handful of students are busy decorating the school’s Christmas tree while diligent custodians keep watch over the newly waxed floors. Inside the structure that houses the school’s athletic facilities, where the squeaks and bounces of a pair of basketball games echo in the background, resides a photographic homage to Samuel Hurd.

“We put it up to show this is a young man that came out of this neighborhood, out of this environment,” says Hall, who hung up the photo when Hurd joined the Cowboys. “The struggle that he had, he made it to the top. It’s a dream all young men have that play this game of football. He made it to the highest level in football and he was successful. It was good for the kids around here that he came out of this neighborhood and he made it.”

Standing at about six-feet tall, the glossy print depicts Hurd in varying stages of his football career. The young Brackenridge eagle is pictured in his white and purple No. 80 jersey, on his way to 23 touchdowns. Wearing No. 84 for the Huskies, the NIU graduate looks poised in red, his future as a professional athlete beckoning. With Cowboys stadium looming above him, Hurd beams in his white No. 17 jersey, the “2006-Present” caption freezing him forever in Dallas glory days.

Hall has been instructed to remove the piece by the end of the Thanksgiving break, which he says he understands. The only reminder of Hurd that will remain is a plaque recognizing him as the Brackenridge High School Male Athlete of the Year from 2001-2002.

“If you work at something for so long and became successful and it went away because of stupidity, you would feel shitty about life,” writes Hurd from Seagoville later that day. “But I am hurt that what I wanted to be able to tell my grandchildren will have to be a tale of the ups and downs of football.”

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