Heisman winner Eric Crouch was drafted by the Rams, then quit
because he couldn't play quarterback. Here, in his own words, is
how he feels about walking away
This is an article from the Dec. 16, 2002 issue
If you had told me what my year was going to be like after
winning the Heisman, I would have said you were nuts.
Last December I figured that right now I'd be living the life of
an NFL player. How am I actually living these days? Quietly, in
Omaha, in the home of my future in-laws. Mornings I work out--I
run and recently I found some guys to throw with. Some afternoons
I meet with a group of local businessmen who are helping me plan
my future. I have plenty of free time to pick up my
three-year-old daughter, Lexi, at preschool.
How do I feel about my life now? Good. I made the move because I
wasn't being true to myself. Three months down the road, even
though I've had to give back my $395,000 signing bonus and I only
got paid two weeks on my $1.3 million contract, I'm O.K. with my
I think the problems started because I wanted to play pro ball a
little too much. After graduating from Nebraska, I talked to NFL
teams, and they would ask, "Eric, do you have a strong commitment
to play quarterback?" "Of course," I would tell them. But the
next question would be, "Are you willing to play wide receiver?
Or defensive back? Or running back?" "Yes," I said. I told them
I'd do anything they asked. Anything. I told 25 coaches the same
thing, and that was my mistake. I should have said, "I'm a
quarterback, and that's it." I got so caught up in the
excitement. All I wanted was to get the highest draft position
I went to the NFL combine in April and worked out as a receiver
and a running back. I also threw with the quarterbacks. The Rams
drafted me in the third round as a wide receiver. I believe I
would have gotten drafted as a quarterback, but maybe not until
after the third round.
I spent two weeks with the Rams. At first it felt like a great
experience, but I quickly realized I had no passion for catching
footballs. For the first time, football wasn't fun. It wasn't any
one thing or one day. I tried to give it a chance, but nothing
changed. Finally I went to coach Mike Martz and told him I had to
quit. It was a tough conversation. He was disappointed. He told
me to make sure that I wasn't doing something I'd regret for the
rest of my life. But he understood what I was saying, and I
respect him for that. I never asked to play quarterback. I knew
that card wasn't on the table.
When I told my fiancee, Nicole Kousgaard, about my decision, she
was a little surprised. No, she was a lot surprised. But she's
been super. She wants me to be happy. The money wasn't an issue.
I have to feel right about myself, and I didn't. I had gone
against everything I believed in. I had not followed my heart.
I don't know what will happen now. We had bought a house in St.
Louis, but we're selling it. I have endorsement opportunities
that I might pursue, and I have a degree in exercise science that
might lead to a job in athletic training.
Do I want to play again? I do a lot of thinking about it. I love
the game, and I miss it--last Sunday I went to the 49ers-Cowboys
game in Dallas with some friends. I've also heard that the Rams
are down to their third quarterback. Still, I'd say it's 50-50
whether I play again. The Rams own my rights, so even if I want
to consider an opportunity, it's up to them to decide whether to
let me take it. One thing I do know for sure is that if I play
again, it'll be at quarterback.
Lamar Smith's DWI bust is bad news for the teammate he injured in
It is one of the more horrific entries in the NFL's burgeoning
police blotter. On Dec. 1, 1994, Lamar Smith, a rookie running
back with the Seahawks, ended a night of drinking by crashing his
SUV into a utility pole. Smith and running back Chris Warren, who
was riding shotgun, escaped with minor injuries, but defensive
end Mike Frier, sitting in the backseat, suffered a broken neck
that left him paralyzed from the waist down and limited the use
of his hands and arms.
Less than two weeks ago, Smith, now with the Panthers, showed how
little he has learned from that night. On Nov. 28, North Carolina
state troopers stopped Smith for speeding and driving recklessly
on a highway in Charlotte and charged him with DWI. Upon hearing
of Smith's arrest, Frier was outraged, according to a friend.
(Frier declined SI's request for comment.) Once again, he stands
to lose the most from Smith's mistake.
As part of a 1997 settlement of a civil suit, Frier, who lives in
Atlanta, has received 35% of Smith's net salary and 50% of his
net bonuses since '97--an agreement that has paid Frier more than
$1 million and that is to continue until July 2004. Following the
recent charges, Carolina put Smith on leave for its final five
games, and while he will receive the remainder of his $700,000
salary, Smith will miss a $200,000 incentive he would have
achieved for rushing for 1,000 yards (he has 737), and he won't
earn a $350,000 playing time bonus. Also, the Panthers are
noncommittal about Smith's future, jeopardizing $1.8 million in
salary and bonuses for 2003. In all, Frier could be out as much
Panthers officials said Smith, who declined comment, was
"embarrassed and very apologetic" after his arrest. He was also
penitent after the 1994 accident. "God knows I wish I could go
back and change things, but I can't," he told SI in '98. "Now I
have to do whatever it takes to help Mike." One of Frier's
lawyers, Michael Withey, noted how hollow that pledge seems now.
"Anything that takes money from Mike is a concern," he said. "And
for it to happen this way, it's very painful." --George Dohrmann
20 1/2 Length, in inches, of Shawn Chance Bradley, who was born
on Dec. 1 to 7'6" Mavericks center Shawn Bradley and his 5'4"
24 Consecutive road games the Mavericks have lost to the Lakers
after Friday's 105-103 defeat at Staples Center.
2 Division 1 women's soccer title games, in 21 years, that North
Carolina has not played in, including Portland's 2-1 win over
Santa Clara on Sunday.
$16.75 Hourly wage paid by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition
Authority to 600 people who cleared snow from the aisles and
seats of Giants Stadium before the Army-Navy game.
13 years, 73 days Time that John Smoltz has been with the Braves,
the longest tenure with one club for an active pitcher now that
former Atlanta lefty Tom Glavine (14 years, 52 days) has signed
with the Mets.
2 Successful overtime penalty shots in NHL history, both against
the Rangers, including last Thursday's goal by the Flyers' Michal
3 U.S. skiers (Daron Rahlves, Marco Sullivan and Bode Miller) who
finished in the top 10 of last Saturday's World Cup downhill in
Colorado, the U.S.'s best showing since 1972.
THEY LEFT THEIR JOBS IN SAN FRANCISCO
Well, not exactly San Francisco, but the Bay Area and its
environs have seen a stunning exodus of coaches in the past
year--the latest when the Sharks fired Darryl Sutter last week.
Cal football's Tom Holmoe, who resigned last season, and Golden
State Warriors coach Dave Cowens, who was fired last December,
haven't taken new coaching jobs, but in 2002 four Northern
California coaches voluntarily went East: Stanford's Ty
Willingham, the Raiders' Jon Gruden, the Giants' Dusty Baker and
the A's Art Howe. Will their replacements follow the trend? "No,"
says Warriors coach Eric Musselman, "We bought. We didn't rent."
FOR THE RECORD
RETIRED After 14 seasons with four teams, Cardinals righthander
Andy Benes. Drafted first overall by the Padres in 1988, Benes,
35, had a 155-139 record with a 3.97 ERA. Benes weighed
retirement in April after he struggled to a 10.80 ERA in his
first three starts and was suffering from an arthritic right
knee. After rehabbing for three months, the 6'6" power pitcher
went 5-2 with a 1.86 ERA after the All-Star break. His final win
was over the Cubs and his younger brother, Alan, also a
righthanded starter. Andy, who got his 2,000th career strikeout
by fanning the last batter he faced, the Brewers' Ryan
Christenson, said he retired to be with his wife and four
children: "I've got a pretty good offer from my crew at home."
DIED Of a heart attack, Bobby Joe Hill, 59, the top scorer on the
1966 NCAA champion Texas Western basketball team. Hill, a 5'10"
guard, was one of five black starters for the Miners, who beat an
all-white Kentucky team for the title. The win is credited with
opening the doors for African-Americans in collegiate basketball.
"It was just business," Hill told SI in '91. "We weren't on a
ARRESTED On drug trafficking charges, Arizona junior tight end
Justin Levasseur, after an Illinois state trooper stopped him for
speeding and allegedly found 87 pounds of marijuana in the truck
Levasseur was driving. Levasseur, who was expected to enter a
plea on Tuesday, could face 30 years in prison and $25,000 in
fines. He was at the center of last month's Arizona controversy
in which 41 football players met with university president Peter
Likins to protest coach John Mackovic's harsh style. The players
specifically complained that Mackovic, upset at Levasseur's play
during a 37-7 loss to UCLA on Nov. 9, had berated him as "a
disgrace to your family."
DEMANDED By the London-based human rights group Indict, the
expulsion of Iraq from the Olympics. Indict, which is partially
funded by the U.S. State Department, filed a complaint with the
IOC charging that Uday Saddam Hussein, the eldest son of Iraqi
president Saddam Hussein and the chief of Iraq's Olympic
committee, tortured and jailed athletes. The complaint alleges
that Hussein ran a 30-cell prison in Baghdad for athletes who had
displeased him and accuses him of beating a group of track
athletes with a cable.
DOMINATED The Kentucky Class 4A football championship game, by
two Louisville quarterbacks featured in the Nov. 18 SI (The
Vanishing Three-Sport Star), Trinity High junior Brian Brohm and
Male High senior Michael Bush. Brohm passed for 552 yards and
seven touchdowns and ran for another score as Trinity won 59-56
before 20,511 fans at Old Cardinal Stadium. Bush, who also played
linebacker and returned kicks, threw for 468 yards and six
touchdowns and rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown. "I'm dead
tired," Bush said after Saturday's game. "I'm going to go home
and sleep. I start basketball on Monday."
Who's winning the battle, Hootie Johnson or Martha Burk? SI's
Hootometer tells all.
The New York Times killed columns by Dave Anderson (defending
Tiger's right to play at Augusta) and Harvey Araton (suggesting
Hootie's stance is echoed in other areas of sports) for editorial
reasons. Advantage: Burk. Then the Times allowed the columns to
run. Advantage: Hootie. Also, former CBS chief executive Thomas
Wyman and treasury secretary nominee John Snow quit the club in
protest over its no-woman policy. Advantage: Burk.
Received By West Point and Annapolis, offers from 14
cities--including Chicago, Miami and Warwick, R.I.--to host the
Army-Navy game beginning in 2004. The academies' agreement with
Philadelphia, which has hosted 76 of the 103 Army-Navy games,
expires next December, and the schools view Philly as an
uninterested host. This year's game was supposed to be played at
Veterans Stadium, but the city scheduled a medical conference for
last weekend, tying up hotel space and the ballroom used for the
pregame gala. That prompted a move to New Jersey's Giants
Stadium, and last Saturday representatives from more than a dozen
prospective host cities turned out to schmooze officials and see
Navy quarterback Craig Candeto set a school record with six
touchdown runs in a 58-12 rout.
Army-Navy used to be a clash between two football powers, but the
programs have been surpassed by other schools, and both teams
were 1-10 coming into this year's matchup. Yet the game remains
a highlight of the season, full of military pomp, and it
generates about $10 million in revenue. While Saturday's
attendance of 78,672 was just short of a sellout, it was 15,000
more than went to Houston's Reliant Stadium for the Big 12 title
game that day. "It's an event," says Bob Walsh, a Seattle
promoter making a bid. "The score doesn't matter. It's something
you have to go to if you're a sports fan."
Staging the game, though, is uniquely difficult. Cities must
arrange for the transportation of about 8,000 cadets and
midshipmen, ensure about 5,000 hotel rooms and organize massive
functions before and after the game. Still, cities will bid
spiritedly (the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority paid
each school about $1.5 million), and the schools will likely
follow the money. Says Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk,
"This game can go anywhere." --Mark Beech
THE WEEK IN TELEVISION
SATURDAY 12/14 > HBO 10 PM > EVANDER HOLYFIELD VS. CHRIS BYRD
Call him Old Man Winner: The 40-year-old Holyfield (38-5-2, 25
KOs) seeks his fifth heavyweight title (the vacant IBF), against
SATURDAY 12/14 > CBS 2 PM, BASKETBALL > NO. 14 FLORIDA VS. NO. 18
The Terps have won 21 straight at home, but they're up against a
loaded Gators team led by All-America forward Matt Bonner and
freshman guard Matt Walsh.
SATURDAY 12/14 > NBC 8 PM > HALLMARK SKATERS' CHAMPIONSHIP
Mr. T would be impressed by the gold neckwear in this pro-am
field: Olympic winners Sarah Hughes, Alexei Yagudin and Jamie
Sale and David Pelletier will compete.
SUNDAY 12/15 > NBC 2 PM > OFFICE DEPOT FATHER-SON CHALLENGE,
Defending champs Ray and Robert Floyd battle other PGA pros and
their progeny for the $200,000 first prize.
SUNDAY 12/15 > ESPN 4 PM > NATIONAL FINALS RODEO, CHAMPIONSHIP
Toughest butt usually wins. The Super Bowl of rodeo has seven
events--including saddle bronc riding, bullriding and bareback
riding--and a $4.8 million purse.
THURSDAY 12/19 > TNT 7:30 PM > LAKERS AT NETS
Tony Soprano ain't the only Jersey tough guy. Shaquille O'Neal, a
Newark native, comes home (for the only time this season) in a
rematch of the 2002 NBA Finals.
>> DON'T MISS
SUNDAY 12/15 > FOX 4 PM
Packers at 49ers
NFC heavyweights battle for home field advantage in a potential
playoff preview. Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre is 9-1
lifetime versus the 49ers, including a 25-15 win in last
January's NFC wild-card game. Ahman Green (right) ran for a TD in
Fox Goes Extreme
ESPN's coverage of the death of longtime ABC News and ABC Sports
president Roone Arledge (page 121) was fast off the mark and
first-rate. During the 6 p.m. SportsCenter last Thursday, not
long after Arledge's death was announced, ESPN aired an
impressive package of reports, highlighted by interviews with
Arledge. Reporters also did live interviews with sportscaster Jim
McKay, who worked for Arledge at ABC Sports, and Arledge protege
Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Sports. At about the same time,
on ESPN News, anchor Michael Kim spoke with sportscaster Curt
Gowdy, a close friend of Arledge's, and former CBS Sports
president Neal Pilson, who battled Arledge for the rights to the
Olympics. Excellent legwork.
The byplay between TNT basketball analysts Mike Fratello and Jeff
Van Gundy has made the network's broadcasts the most entertaining
NBA games on television. During the Dec. 5 Hawks-Bucks game,
Fratello asked Van Gundy, the former Knicks coach, "Could you get
along with [Anthony] Mason?" Van Gundy, who coached the
notoriously hardheaded Mason in the 1990s, replied, "Anthony is
never totally happy with a coach, because he wants the ball
basically every time down. But that's all right because ... he
competed hard in every game and never backed down from a
challenge." Said Fratello, "That was a long answer to say, Yes,
you had problems with him."
Fox is busily laying the groundwork for an action-sports channel
that will launch next summer. The channel will cover outdoor and
X Games sports such as surfing, skateboarding and BMX biking and
will be offered on digital cable and satellite. Fox expects to
reach two million to three million subscribers. --R.D.
superstar is suing for extortion?" --THE BEAT, PAGE 48