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Policy gave Chester life after brutal knee injury ended football career

As Florida defensive tackle Ed Chester lay in a hospital bed hours after suffering the knee injury that ended his career, Gators offensive lineman Deac Story offered his friend the only consolation he could muster. "At least you got that policy," Story said. At first, Chester wasn't sure what Story meant.

"I had forgotten about it," Chester said recently.

Chester had been so busy with his senior season he'd forgotten about the $1 million insurance policy he'd bought from Gainesville-based agent Keith Lerner after he chose not to enter the 1998 NFL draft. The quickness and mind-bending flexibility that allowed Chester to crash the backfield with regularity made Chester a potential first-rounder. Florida defensive line coach Rod Broadway had insisted Chester buy the policy and didn't stop pestering his star until the ink dried. Broadway wanted Chester protected just in case the unthinkable happened.

Like current Gators quarterback Tim Tebow, who said last month he won't give his insurance policy a second thought during his senior season, Chester never imagined he would suffer an injury so severe he'd never play again. "He's saying the same things I said," Chester said.

The unthinkable happened on the first play from scrimmage against LSU on Oct. 10, 1998. Later, doctors would tell Chester the injury to his right knee -- a dislocated kneecap, three torn ligaments and severe damage to a nerve that runs from the knee to the foot -- was one of the most violent they had treated. Chester underwent multiple surgeries and tried to rehab the injury, but after several months it became obvious Chester wouldn't play again.

"The wondering is finally over, and I'm happy for that," Chester said on Nov. 23, 1999, the day he walked out of Lerner's office with a $1 million check, tax free. He's paid an $8,000 premium to buy the policy. "It's been realized for a while now, about six months it's hit home, but I've come to terms with it. Football's not my life."

Chester spent wisely. His only major purchase after receiving the money was a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe. More than anything, the payout allowed him to pursue his dream job after he graduated from college. With salary no longer an issue, Chester went to work for the Boys and Girls Club in Gainesville. "My life would be a lot different now [without the insurance payout]," Chester said. "I was able to do a lot of things I wanted to do without having to worry about the things I needed to do."

Chester has since moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., and become a personal trainer. He and his wife, Lisa, are expecting their first child later this month. Though Chester never made NFL millions, the injury hasn't kept him from living a rich life. The insurance policy only made that life easier. Every time Chester slides behind the wheel of that 1999 Tahoe, he's served a faithful reminder. "I plan on keeping it," Chester said, "until it falls apart."

MORE COVERAGE:STAPLES: Protective policies now norm for top playersSTAPLES: From A to B: The policy process

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