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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Not exactly Hudson County's finest

When one county in New Jersey, like Hudson County, is fortunate enough to have three talented athletes make it all the way to the National Football League, it should be a reason for pride. Stick out your chest a little, give a profound punch to the heart, stroke your own tailfeathers.

It's not everyday that three athletes who played high school football in the same county get a chance to play in the NFL.

So when athletes like Kenny Britt, Evan Rodriguez and Will Hill somehow manage to make NFL rosters, we should all be beaming with pride.

Yeah, right.

Could there be three worse examples of what to do with the possibility of an NFL career than these three? Do we even want to say that there's a sense of pride when it involves these three. Frankly, all three have been more of an embarrassment than anything.

It has nothing to do with their athletic ability. All three have been impeccable athletes.

But it's what they've done off the field that is frankly appalling _ and for some reason, not taken to task.

Britt, the former Bayonne High great who went from Rutgers to the Tennessee Titans, has been arrested a total of seven times during his brief NFL career. That's right, seven _ ranging from driving without a valid driver's license to creating a public nuisance.

In July of 2012, he was arrested and charged with DUI for trying to break through a security gate at the Fort Campbell Army base in Kentucky. In June of 2011, Britt was arrested for making false statements on his driver's license. That same month, he was arrested in Hoboken on two counts of resisting arrest, allegedly trying to conceal a marijuana blunt from Hoboken police. In March of 2011, Britt was arrested in Bayonne for his involvement in a car chase with police. He pleaded guilty to careless driving in the case and was fined.

In February of 2011, Britt was arrested for theft by deception, for failing to live up to a pledge to pay bail on a friend who was arrested for attempted murder. He also had an arrest in Tennessee in 2010 for driving with a revoked driver's license and that same year, he had three outstanding warrants for his arrest for failing to pay three motor vehicle violations in Glen Ridge.

And earlier this year, Britt was believed to be at a Jersey City party where a patron was shot. Britt was asked to appear in front of the Hudson County Prosecutor's office to give a sworn statement as to what transpired at that party, but Britt refused to cooperate.

Rodriguez, the former Chicago Bears tight end, had two incidents this year involving police in Miami and Chicago. In March, Rodriguez, the former North Bergen standout, was charged with public intoxication and resisting an officer, but those charges were dropped. In May, Rodriguez was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and making an improper lane change. That arrest sealed his fate with the Bears and he was released, but has since been signed by the Miami Dolphins.

Rodriguez had a checkered past with North Bergen police while still in high school. He was involved in a brawl in West New York where a teenager was stabbed and believed to be involved with a ring of teenagers that went around town stealing cars. While a student at West Virginia, Rodriguez had an incident with a resident advisor outside of a dormitory, forcing Rodriguez's transfer to Temple.

Hill, who was perhaps the greatest high school football player in Hudson County history, began his controversial career by failing to sign his national letter of intent to Florida at his alma mater St. Peter's Prep, signing it instead at a local sports training facility for a fee. He then had a series of suspensions at Florida and was part of a heralded website, where Hill bragged about smoking marijuana and having sex with a host of different women.

Hill, who has fathered three children with two different women, then went undrafted in the NFL Draft, eventually signing a free agent contract with the New York Giants. He made the Giants roster last year, but was suspended four games for violating the NFL's drug policy. At the time, Hill said that he used the banned substance Adderall, an amphetamine used mostly to control children with epilepsy and attention defecit problems.

Now Hill has been suspended again, set to miss the first four games of the 2013, for using a banned substance once again. It has not been revealed the type of banned drug Hill used this time.

He remains on the Giants' roster, but who knows what will happen once training camp begins.

It makes you wonder. What in the world are these guys thinking, willing to throw away a precious pro football career that so few get a chance to achieve? What are they thinking?

It's one thing to make one mistake. That's considered a mishap, a slip-up. Everyone is bound to make a mistake.

But in these three guys' cases, these are repeated instances. These are not mistakes. This is a habit. It's become a ritual.

What will it take for Britt to stay out of trouble? He's already been suspended by the NFL once last year, yet he ends up at a party with people with guns? If I were Britt, I'd stay so far away from guns and trouble so I can continue to collect my $1.3 million salary.

Rodriguez had a four-year deal with the Chicago Bears. He had a promising future there, but obviously, the Bears had no tolerance, because they set him free. Most NFL teams don't cut fourth-round draft picks unless there's a good reason. It's an embarrasment to the Bears for taking the risk to draft Rodriguez in the fourth round and a year later, having to cut him for his off-the-field behavior.

He's now getting another second chance in a lifetime of second chances with the Dolphins, but I can imagine how tight the ropes must be around Rodriguez in Miami. Because if he makes another mistake, his career is totally history.

What happens to Hill is anyone's guess. Can the Giants, with six safeties in camp as training camp begins this weekend, afford to wait for Hill to play out his second four-game drug suspension in less than a year? It was hard for Hill to make the Giants' roster last year. Chances are there's a hungry rookie safety just waiting to jump into Hill's locker.

Three Hudson County football stars, all given the chance of a lifetime by playing in the NFL. All three of them have now managed to diminish their star value with their infantile behavior off the field. It's mind boggling to think how they've all jeopardized such a good thing.

At the very least, they have had to have embarrassed themselves for their behavior. Or perhaps they don't realize how embarrassing it is _ until the NFL stops sending them paychecks, which could happen sooner than later.

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