The rookie who experienced the most nightmarish offseason in memory is about to begin life with the wildest franchise in NFL history.
Only days before the NFL Draft, LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins was publicly linked to his pregnant ex-girlfriend’s murder. He was cleared of any involvement (and the child was found not to be his)… but not soon enough to prevent him plummeting from the first round to undrafted. Collins then signed with Dallas Cowboys, a team that has won five Super Bowls and boasts a rich history of… colorful players.
With the NFL Rookie Symposium underway in Aurora, Ohio this week, here are 10 lessons Jerry Jones hopes Collins doesn’t have to learn from experience.
“We’ve got a little place where we’re running some whores in and out, trying to be responsible, and we’re criticized for that, too.” —All-Pro guard Nate Newton on the infamous 1990s Cowboys’ “White House”
10. Don’t Touch Yourself During Team Meetings
Instructor: Charles Haley
On the field, Charles Haley was a five-time Super Bowl champ. Post-retirement, he movingly addressed his struggles with bipolar disorder. Off the field during his career, however, he could be (in his words) “abrasive.” For instance: Former teammate Tony Casillas claimed Haley showed up for a film session wearing only a towel and engaged in “entertaining” himself. (In fairness, Haley was just living the American Dream: literally getting paid to watch football and masturbate.)
9. Watch for Warning Signs of an Addiction
Instructor: Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson
Sign you’re an addict: A Super Bowl doesn’t stop you from using. Specifically, it doesn’t stop you from using during the Super Bowl itself. Henderson brought an inhaler filled with coke and water to Super Bowl XIII and inhaled during the second half. (He had a sound medical reason for doing so: “I had to anesthetize my face.”) While the Cowboys lost, Henderson went on to win $28 million in the lottery in 2000, proving good things happen to people with memorable nicknames.
8. Some Folks Take Seniority Seriously
Instructor: Michael Irvin
The Hall of Fame wide receiver has been involved in a number of illegal activities (usually related to drugs and/or prostitutes), but the most disturbing never reached a courtroom. Stopping to get a haircut at the training camp dorm, he discovered offensive guard Everett McIver already getting a trim. Understandably, this enraged him. For while teammate Kevin Smith described McIver as “a dude in need of a haircut who waited his turn properly”, he ignored something else: McIver had been with the Cowboys less time than Irvin. Demanding the chair, Irvin began an argument that ended with Irvin plunging scissors into McIver’s throat. That said…
7. Money Makes Things Okay
Instructor: Jerry Jones
Ignoring the near death experience, McIver never filed charges, allegedly receiving a six-figure payment for his pain and suffering. Impressively, both he and Irvin remained on the Cowboys and played together through Irvin’s retirement in 1999 without any more stabbings (that we know of).
6. Drink Responsibly
Instructors: Too Many to List
Despite offensive lineman Erik Williams almost dying in a 1994 drunk-driving accident, Jeff Pearlman’s Boys Will Be Boys reports that Coach Barry Switzer spent over $100,000 on booze for family, friends, and pretty much every else he encountered during Super Bowl week in 1996. (The Cowboys still beat the Steelers.) The binging took on a much darker tone in 2012, when Josh Brent killed his passenger/Cowboys teammate Jerry Brown while intoxicated, with prosecutors insisting he had as many as 17 drinks before taking the wheel.
Role model: Coach Switzer in his natural habitat.
5. Sometimes It’s Best to Remain Silent
Instructor: Nate Newton
In the 1990s Cowboys players rented the “White House”, a two-story residence near their training complex where they could unwind by watching TV or, if nothing was on, engaging in drug-fueled sex parties. (They deemed this sensible because if you’re going to get up to mischief anyway, you might as well have a short work commute.) Sadly, some people—presumably, wives—were less understanding, leading All-Pro guard Newton to muse, “We’ve got a little place over here where we’re running some whores in and out, trying to be responsible, and we’re criticized for that, too.” Happily, Newton still had more to teach…
4. Don’t Smuggle Your Own Body Weight in Marijuana
Instructor: Newton again
Arrested in 2001 for possession of a reported 213 pounds of marijuana, Newton learned his lesson. Well, he sort of learned it, as he was arrested for possessing marijuana again just weeks later, but this time a more reasonable 175 pounds. (Hey, baby steps.
3. Keep Track of Your Gun
Instructor: Barry Switzer
With the Cowboys, the lessons aren’t limited to the players. Coach Switzer—yes, he of the 6-figure bar tab—kept his gun away from visiting children (responsible!) by carrying it on a plane (less so!). He then reaffirmed a lesson…
2. Seriously, Shut Up
Instructor: Switzer again
Switzer tried to explain the incident away as a troubling-but-innocent mistake, leading him to give reporters confidence-inspiring sound bites including:
“I’m 60, I’m absent-minded.”
“Do you think I was trying to hijack the plane to Cuba?”
“I keep it loaded. What’s an unloaded gun good for? You people live in New York, you all ought to understand that.”
That said, the arrest did give Switzer a certain gravitas when he answered a question about running back Sherman Williams fumbling by declaring: “What do you want me to do, take him out and shoot him?”
1. Don’t Worry Too Much, La’el
The bar’s been set pretty low.