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It’s mesmerizing to think about how stupid some pro athletes can be. Guys given the ultimate opportunity: doing what they love in return for millions of dollars who throw it all away.

Today, we’ll be looking at the top five football players of all time whose criminal records overshadow their on-field records. Some have served multiple sentences, and are duly noted.

Keep in mind that this list only contains players who were actually convicted of crimes, so O.J. is not on the list.

Starting at five and working our way up to one, let the countdown begin:

5. Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson (1975-1980)

Teams: Dallas Cowboys (1975-1979), Houston Oilers (1980), San Francisco 49ers (1980)

Crime(s): Sexual assault, bribery

Sentence: 4 years, 8 months

Analysis: Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson had all the makings of a great player in the league. He was picked No. 18 overall in the 1975 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys after being one of the first linebackers ever to run a 4.6 40. He made his only Pro Bowl in 1977, but Hollywood had a serious struggle with drugs. During Super Bowl XIII, Henderson was caught doing cocaine on the sideline. Seriously? Tom Landry gave him the boot just before the 1979 Thanksgiving Day Game because he was such a distraction.

Henderson was arrested in November of 1983 after being caught smoking crack with two teenage girls in California. The girls accused him of threatening them with a gun and sexually assaulting them. Henderson stated that he gave them crack in exchange for sex. He pleaded no contest to his charges and was released after 28 months. If you believe in karma, this guy should be your poster boy: After claiming he had ditched the “Hollywood” part of his life and turned himself around, he won the $28 million jackpot in the Texas Lotto. He then used the money to East Side Youth Services & Street Outreach. Interesting story, right?

4. Nate Newton (1986-1999)

Teams: Tampa Bay Bandits (USFL) (1984-1985), Dallas Cowboys (1986-1998), Carolina Panthers (1999)

Crime(s): Drug trafficking (x2)

Sentence: 7 years, 6 months (2 separate convictions)

Analysis: Many people know the story of Nate Newton. He enjoyed a 14-year NFL career with six Pro Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl rings. After football, Newton’s crowd, coupled with his greed, led him to marijuana trafficking. On Nov. 4, 2001, Newton was pulled over in St. Martin Parish, La., where police found 213 pounds of pot. Five weeks later, he was pulled over with 175 pounds of marijuana on I-45. He ended up being released after about two and a half years, and has since turned his life around.

3. Darryl Henley (1989-1994)

Team: Los Angeles Rams

Crime(s): Drug trafficking, attempted conspiracy to commit murder

Sentence: 41 years

Analysis: Darryl Henley got a little more out of control than most of the others on this list. Originally, Henley sentenced to 20 years in prison for trafficking cocaine. Unfortunately, that didn’t sit well with Henley. Two years later, he pleaded guilty to hiring a contract killer to murder the judge and a witness from his cocaine trials. That earned him 21 more years. Henley is currently in jail and his expected release date is March 28, 2031.

2. Eugene “Mercury” Morris (1969-1976)

Teams: Miami Dolphins (1969-1975), San Diego Chargers (1976)

Crime(s): Drug Trafficking

Sentence: 20 years, later overturned to 3 years

Analysis: Many of you may know Mercury Morris from his constant criticism of the New England Patriots, and the comparisons between them and his 1972 Dolphins, over this past season. Morris has a Super Bowl ring and three Pro Bowls to go with his cocaine trafficking conviction. In 1982, Morris was sentenced to 20 years with a 15-year mandatory sentence. Four years later, his sentence was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court, and he was able to reach a plea bargain which allowed him to get out after serving a 3-year sentence. You have to wonder though, if he had spent those other 17 years behind bars, would he still be such a prick?

1. Michael Vick (2001-2006)

Team: Atlanta Falcons

Crime(s): Conspiracy, related to dog fighting

Sentence: 23 months

Analysis: And at the bottom of the bottom of the bottom, we find Michael Vick. Sure, his crime wasn’t as terrible as some of the aforementioned, and his sentence isn’t nearly as bad, so why is he No. 1 on my list? Simple: he had his entire NFL career in his hands, and he threw it in the toilet and crapped on it. Mercury Morris and Nate Newton weren’t arrested until after they were retired. Hollywood Henderson turned his life around and won the lotto. Darryl Henley is the only one on this list in the same boat as Vick, as Henley also had a promising career in front of him. But even Henley is now running his own Web site from prison to reach out to the world and let them know his story.

If I were Vick, I wouldn’t be banking on winning the lottery or playing on people’s sympathy. Henley has apologized and is serving a huge term for trafficking cocaine. Vick RAN A DOG FIGHTING RING. Those are two very different things. Vick did something completely inhumane that couldn’t possibly have pissed off more people unless he made the dogs piss on the American flag during their breaks.

This guy had a $100 million contract, was the face of his franchise, and had already made three Pro Bowls. He was only 27. He didn’t get “roped in with a crowd;” he MADE the crowd. I have no sympathy for this man, and neither should anyone else.

Well, here they are. Take a good look, and I guarantee that in comparison to these guys, you’ll feel like a genius.

Honorable Mention:

Jamal Lewis, Stanley Wilson Sr., Art Schlichter, Robert Ramses, Bam Morris, Tank Johnson

Send Greg an e-mail here: [email protected]
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