From icon to incarceration: 6 athletes who traded their jerseys for jumpsuits
Maybe it’s the increasing popularity of social media or the non-stop sports coverage, but it seems like every week a professional athlete’s less-athletic endeavors make the news. Now, we’ve all seen the standard-issue DUIs, assaults, domestic batteries, drug busts and tax-evasion cases, but how about the criminals that made themselves famous in front of ESPN cameras before CNN cameras?
Being a Boulder-based magazine, we are saddened by the fact that we have to start our list with a former Buff, but the Boulder pot scene just wasn’t enough to keep Rae Carruth content. Shortly after graduating and being selected in the first round of the NFL draft, Carruth’s depression made him lose his mind. Yes, we know a lot of students get depressed and crazy shortly after leaving the safe confines of college but Carruth took it to a whole new level. He conspired to murder his girlfriend, Cherica Adams, who was eight months pregnant with twin daughters. On the night of Nov. 16, 1999, Carruth stopped his car in front of his girlfriend while another car pulled alongside of Adams’ vehicle and the passenger shot her four times. The doctors saved one child, but Adams and the other twin died.
Carruth soon paid his bail and fled the state. Alas, being a speedy NFL receiver means he should rock at hide and seek, but Carruth was found hiding in the trunk of a car parked outside of a motel in Tennessee. In the trunk with him was about $4,000 in cash, samples of his urine, bags of extra clothes, food and a cell phone.
Carruth was not convicted of murder. However, he was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and using an instrument to destroy an unborn child. He is serving an extended prison sentence with a 2018 release date.
There was a time when Mike Tyson was thought of as the most dangerous man in the world. It turns out Tyson was as dangerous outside of the ring as he was in it. After being on top of the world, holding all three major heavyweight belts and being the one of the first athletes to lend his name to a video game, Tyson’s life came crashing down around him.
In 1989, Tyson’s marriage to actress Robin Givens ended after one year due to allegations of abuse and mental instability. Soon after, Tyson was set to square off with Evander Holyfield, but in July of 1991, Tyson was arrested for the rape of Miss Rhode Island, Desiree Washington. He was convicted of the charge and served three years of a six-year sentence. After prison, Tyson was on the comeback trail when he finally got his rematch fight with Holyfield in 1996. Well, he lost and in their fight, Tyson famously bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear. Tyson’s career was never the same. After retiring, Tyson was arrested again in late 2006 for DUI and cocaine possession.
Tyson is doing better these days with his Broadway show “Undisputed Truth” and has appeared in blockbuster movies such as “The Hangover” but we’ll never know what Tysons career could have been if he wasn’t derailed by the problems he had outside of the ring.
At one point, Maurice Clarett was a highly documented success story. Poised for NFL stardom, the freshman phenomena running back at Ohio State led his team to a surprising national championship victory over the “unbeatable” Miami Hurricanes in 2002. Shortly thereafter, Clarett’s football career and life spiraled downward.
After being suspended by Ohio State his sophomore year for on-and-off the field incidents, Clarett sued the NFL for not allowing him to enter the draft at such an early age … because, you know, suing the hands that feed you makes a lot of sense. After losing the lawsuit, he was forced to sit out a year. Eventually, he was drafted by the Denver Broncos. After being granted his lifelong wish, he wasted his NFL opportunity by allegedly showing up to practice drunk and failing to make the roster. Clarett was released on waivers Aug. 28, 2005, only a month after signing his contract and before playing even a single down in the NFL. We could end the story here and it would be a good one, but you know us and that whole “say when” concept never really vibed.
In January 2006, while outside of a Columbus, Ohio, nightclub, Clarett robbed two people at gunpoint and, a few months later, was involved in a police chase after he made an illegal U-turn. Once caught, police discovered Clarett's car contained a katana, an AK-47, two other loaded handguns and an open bottle of Grey Goose vodka. During the arrest, Clarett had to be subdued with mace because the Kevlar body armor he was wearing made the police stun guns useless.
As his NFL career and personal life tanked, the Miami Herald reported Clarett was $1 million in debt from legal fees for his fight with the NFL and other legal costs. To put salt on the wound, it also reported Clarett turned down the traditional signing bonus with the Broncos because his agent believed be would make more money with an incentives-based pay. Ouch.
Ugueth Urtaín Urbina once had it all going for him. He was a two-time All Star relief pitcher who led the National League in saves while helping the Florida Marlins win the 2003 World Series. He was also the only player in league history to have the initials “UUU.” All pretty awesome accomplishments. But there’s always a but.
During the 2005 season, while Urbina was pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies, he was arrested by Venezuelan authorities on a charge of attempted murder. Urbina and a group of men had attacked five farm workers on his family property in Venezuela and what makes the case so interesting, and infamous, is the manner in which the men were attacked. Like something out of a slasher movie, Urbina and his crew came at the victims with machetes, poured gasoline on them and then attempted to light them on fire.
He was convicted of attempted murder, among other charges, and sentenced to 14 years in prison. If 14 years behind bars isn’t bad enough, remember he’s in a Venezuelan prison, and we’ve all seen how those “Locked Up Abroad” shows portray those South American prisons. No thanks.
The most recent degenerate of the list, Aaron Hernandez, or Fresh Blood as the inmates like to refer to him, enjoyed a shining start in the NFL, inking a five-year, $40 million contract in 2012. Soon after, the Pro Bowl tight end threw his career and life away for murder.
Hernandez was arrested June 26, 2013 and charged with murder in the shooting death of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. Ninety minutes after his arrest, Hernandez the Patriots released him and his $40 million contract was terminated. Then he disappeared. If found and convicted, Hernandez could get life in prison without parole.
To make matters worse, Hernandez picked the wrong era in which to commit such a crime, as Internet hate took his fame to new, comedic levels. Our personal favorite meme features a picture of him in an orange jumpsuit with the tagline “Goes to prison as a tight end. Leaves prison as a wide receiver.”
You can’t run away from our list in your white Bronco this time, O.J. By the way, did you know Ford Bronco sales went up 25 percent the year following O.J.’s infamous car chase? Only in America.
O.J. started off as legend with an extremely successful professional sports and entertainment career. He was a Heisman Trophy winner, NFL Hall of Famer, the only running back to run for 2,000 yards in a 14-game season, a commentator for Monday Night Football, and he rocked a role in “The Naked Gun” series. Then on June 12, 1994, O.J.’s fame changed forever.
The alleged double murder of his estranged wife, Nicole Brown, and acquaintance Rod Goldman became the trial of the century and captivated the nation for nearly a year. He was eventually acquitted — despite seemingly overwhelming evidence against him in the early days of DNA evidence — but was later found guilty in civil court for the wrongful death of Ron Goldman.
Since that time, O.J. would surface from time to time in a police report until 2007 when O.J. was finally sentenced to 33 years for charges from an incident in which he stole sports memorabilia at gunpoint in Las Vegas.