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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    From sinner to Saint: Hargrove gets last chance

    Saints Insider
    From sinner to Saint: Hargrove gets last chance
    Saturday, August 01, 2009
    Jeff Duncan

    Anthony Hargrove lost count of his second chances a while ago.

    "Fourth? Fifth? I don't what chance this is for me," said the Saints' talented but troubled defensive end after the first day of training camp Friday. "I just know I have to make it work this time."

    Of the 80 players who opened camp, none was happier than Hargrove.

    Even the withering heat and grueling workout couldn't keep him down. Sweat streaming down his face into his eyes and lips, he was all smiles as he signed autographs for fans, then floated off the practice field toward the locker room.

    "Football is the air I breathe," Hargrove said. "I love coming out here every day. I love the camaraderie, the guys, the fans that come out. I love this game so much. I'm just speechless. I'm just thankful and blessed for the opportunity (with the Saints). I've got to make it work."

    If it doesn't, Hargrove knows, this almost certainly will be his last chance. Opportunity knocks only so often. And the burly 6-foot-3, 295-pound lineman has met his quota.

    Born and raised in one of the meanest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, N.Y., Hargrove lost his father to a fire when he was 5 and his mother to AIDS when he was 9.

    He, his older brother and his younger sister spent two years in foster care before being adopted by his aunt and her husband.

    He earned a scholarship to Georgia Tech, but flunked out of school after his sophomore year.

    His travails, though, didn't end once he made it in the NFL. The Rams abruptly traded him after an unexplained two-day absence.

    In Buffalo, there was a run-in with the law that led to a disorderly conduct conviction. There were two failed drug tests, the last one leading to a year-long suspension from January 2008 to February of this year.

    "He's been down a lot of wrong roads," defensive line coach Bill Johnson said.

    To his credit, Hargrove does not shy from discussing his struggles. He looks his inquisitors directly in the eye and openly talks about his sordid past.

    He's under full compliance with the league's substance-abuse program. He has passed drug testing for the past year and routinely sees a therapist. He does not drive and uses a cab for transportation.

    "That was one of my biggest problems, living in today's society and managing life outside of football," Hargrove said. "Those things started overwhelming me."

    Hargrove said he thought he'd squandered his NFL career after his latest incident. His phone didn't ring for several weeks after he was reinstated by the NFL on Feb. 12. Only one team other than the Saints expressed interest in him.

    "It was terrifying," Hargrove said. "All I know how to do is play football. So now I had to imagine life without football. A life without football for me is almost like dying."

    The Saints, though, did their homework on Hargrove. Linebackers coach Joe Vitt had coached on the Rams defensive staff when Hargrove was in St. Louis. And new defensive line coach Bill Johnson went back with Hargrove to his days in Atlanta, when Johnson coached on the Falcons staff and Hargrove played at Georgia Tech.

    "He's had issues," Johnson said. "But the thing that impressed me about him when I talked to him was he told me how he was going to correct his life. This guy had a plan to get his life right and become a football player, and bless his heart, he has a passion for it."

    Hargrove is not your typical free agent; he has credentials. Hargrove was a third-round draft pick of the Rams in 2004 and started 15 games in 2005, when he ranked second on the team with 6 1/2 sacks.

    He also showed flashes with the Bills, where he was one of the club's best special teams players.

    Talk to Hargrove for a few minutes and it's easy to see why many folks in Buffalo liked him. He has a warm engaging smile. He laughs easily, often at himself. And he doesn't duck difficult questions.

    Teammates raved about his endearing personality, and he quickly became a fan favorite for his passionate play on special teams.

    "He's got personal issues, but he's a great guy," Johnson said.

    And judging from the early buzz around camp, Hargrove potentially is a big-time player.

    Saints coaches are trying mightily to curb their enthusiasm for Hargrove. On one hand, they marvel at his rare athleticism and gush about how he could be a regular in their line rotation, especially as an interior pass-rush specialist at tackle. On the other, they are fully aware of his boom-or-bust potential.

    Still, early indications are Hargrove could be a hidden jewel, the sleeper of the offseason and the biggest surprise in training camp.

    "He is an UN-bee-lievable athlete," defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. "He's going to play, and he's going to make an impact."

    Johnson vividly remembers Hargrove's pre-draft workout for the Falcons, when the powerful defensive lineman broke the blocking sled.

    "He's an explosive player," Johnson said. "He's got some ability. The whole thing with him, we've got to get all that ability, all that energy organized."

    Hargrove made an equally strong impression on Saints teammates and coaches earlier this summer when he completed the 300-yard conditioning run in less than a minute -- twice.

    Hargrove won more than the respect of his teammates that afternoon. Word is he pocketed a fair amount of cash in wagers from incredulous teammates and coaches.

    "No one thought I could do it," Hargrove said.

    Hargrove talks like a man who understands his career is on its last legs. He knows the Saints are likely his final chance at redemption, and the irony is not lost on him.

    "It's kind of funny that I'm with the Saints," said Hargrove, flashing a warm smile. "There's this one (biblical) scripture that says saints are sinners who fall down and get back up. For me to come here and become a Saint, after all of the sins I've done, it's like a fairy tale."


  2. #2
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Re: From sinner to Saint: Hargrove gets last chance

    And judging from the early buzz around camp, Hargrove potentially is a big-time player.

    Saints coaches are trying mightily to curb their enthusiasm for Hargrove. On one hand, they marvel at his rare athleticism and gush about how he could be a regular in their line rotation, especially as an interior pass-rush specialist at tackle. On the other, they are fully aware of his boom-or-bust potential.

    Still, early indications are Hargrove could be a hidden jewel, the sleeper of the offseason and the biggest surprise in training camp.
    I guess you never know, but I'd say the "boom-or-bust potential" question was answered long ago.

  3. #3
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    Re: From sinner to Saint: Hargrove gets last chance

    The talent is still there. The self discipline is another story of course

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


  4. #4
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    Re: From sinner to Saint: Hargrove gets last chance

    So far, he's been one of those guys with a load of talent, but never able to turn that talent in to good football playing. If he can truly focus and work hard, he can still be a solid player.

  5. #5
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    Re: From sinner to Saint: Hargrove gets last chance

    I had very high hopes for Hargrove when he was on our RAMS. The kid has alot of talent on the field. It's his off the field antics that need to be reeled in.

    Even though he now has a chance to play for a team other than our RAMS I still hope he gets his act together.

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