Saints must D.A.R.E. to keep lineman off drugs

first_imgWe can all remember our first drug presentation. Whether it was D.A.R.E., CounterAct, “Hugs not Drugs” or any other local program, we’ve all been taught from the youngest of ages that drugs are bad or to “just say no.”Former Badger tackle Anttaj Hawthorne probably should have paid a little more attention when he was younger.Hawthorne’s alleged positive drug test fueled one of the longest free falls in this past weekend’s draft, as the Badger standout fell all the way into the sixth round.“You couldn’t have told me that,” former defensive line mate Jonathan Welsh when asked if he would’ve thought he would get drafted before Hawthorne prior to the draft. “It’s something that you can’t predict, but I wouldn’t have believed that. You couldn’t pay me any amount in the world to believe that.”Entering this season, Hawthorne was considered by many to be the top-rated defensive tackle in the nation. The guru of the NFL Draft, the slick-haired Mel Kiper Jr., had Anttaj rated as one of the 10 best players in the nation. But that was all before this season. Blame it on whatever you will, but Hawthorne’s senior season was clearly not as fruitful as his junior campaign.Could it be the presence of Erasmus James on the line this season? Possibly. Was he receiving increased attention following his successful junior campaign? Probably. Was he taking plays off? Maybe. Or was it possibly, as general managers across the NFL feared, due to drug use?Drug use is a serious offense in the NFL. A GM’s job is to find players he believes can contribute and help his team. Yet a player can’t contribute if he isn’t on the field, and in the NFL a player can’t stay on the field if he can’t quit smoking the reefer. Just ask Ricky Williams.Making the events even worse was the fact that players knew beforehand that they were going to be tested. Any athlete with plans to attend the combine knew that a drug test was mandatory, yet Hawthorne failed anyway. Something that’s not comforting for GMs across the league.The free fall Hawthorne experienced clearly was influenced by his drug test. Sure his play was making him slide down the draft chart, but not at the rate he descended following his positive test. In a nutshell, this was the final nail in the coffin for the former Badger.“I think he’s a great player and he can bring a lot to the team and his play,” former teammate and new Tampa Bay Buccaneer Dan Buenning said.“I think we all know why he did drop,” he added.Now the question remains, can ‘Taj rebound from this stumbling block in the road?That depends who you ask.“That was a difficult situation, he fell into a little bit of trouble, but he’s going to bounce back,” Jacksonville Jaguar cornerback Scott Starks said. “Everybody in the whole nation knows that Anttaj is a great player and he’s going to have a great pro career. He just didn’t get drafted as high as he was supposed to, but he’s going to make up for it in the next five, six, seven years when he’s in the Pro Bowl.”Other teammates weren’t as willing to speculate on their former teammate’s desire. When asked if he thought Hawthorne would use his plummet in the draft as a motivational tool, former UW defensive lineman Jason Jefferson didn’t want to speculate.“I think he should,” was the only answer the new New Orleans Saint could muster.It’s hard to believe that one positive test for marijuana would cost a man this much value in the draft, but it did.Yet for as stupid of a decision as Hawthorne made, he was far from the biggest drug-using culprit at the combine. Hawthorne’s recent failed test pales in comparison to fellow defensive tackle Luis Castillo’s admission to the use of steroids to help him recover from a nagging elbow injury.Yet Castillo still managed to get drafted in the first round. Compared to the steroid use, Anttaj’s transgression becomes almost laughable.Hawthorne’s decision was dumb, there’s no doubt about it, especially considering he knew the test was coming. He’s been unfairly ostracized for his act, while a fellow draftee has been rewarded for his transgressions.The draft is over, the time for regretting decisions is well past and it’s time for Hawthorne to step up to the plate. Hawthorne has plenty of support from fans and teammates, and he has plenty of motivation to draw on from his detractors.Hawthorne entered college as a highly touted recruit and enjoyed several years of success as a Badger. That talent is still there. Hawthorne can be a solid, possibly even dominant, player in the NFL, as he is willing and puts forth the effort.And as long as he remembers the anti-drug education of his youth.Adam Parks (aparks@wisc.edu) is a junior majoring in journalism.last_img

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