Just a couple minutes ago, I was reading an article by Les Carpenter of Yahoo! Sports about Donte Stallworth. Although it’s only 11:30 AM here on the East Coast, I’m pretty sure it’ll be the best story I read all day. While it’s not a journalistic masterpiece that would land itself in this year’s “Best of American Sportswriting”, it’s definitely something worth reading. I’m not usually a reader that falls for these feel-good stories about a athlete making up for something they did wrong or giving something back to the community, but this one’s a bit different. It could be because he’s a Ravens player now, but I think it’s mainly because Donte Stalworth is just a good person that I took so much out of reading this.
Basically, Carpenter gives us a perspective on the whole DUI manslaughter story that we haven’t had before; Donte Stallworth’s. Apparently Stallworth didn’t want to go to court, even though there was a good chance he would be proven innocent. He didn’t want to put the family through the grief and he didn’t want to be let off of something that he knew he did. After that, we get a great look at Stallworth’s personality and some of the quirky things about him.
Read on for quotes and the link. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did.
I’ll just give you some highlights of the article, or you can read the whole thing yourself by clicking here.
He ordered his lawyers to accept a plea deal that convicted him of a felony even when evidence showed he had an excellent chance of being found innocent. He said Reyes’ death was enough of his fault that there shouldn’t be a trial and Reyes’ family shouldn’t have to sit in a courthouse and relive his death all over again.
“The irony,” said one of Stallworth’s attorneys, David Cornwell, “is that a lot of the media and public was angry with the deal that he took. And the thing they wanted, for him to go to trial, was the thing he was trying to avoid for the family.”
Even though he managed to find his footing in the NFL again, it seems Stallworth has been extremely humbled by the accident:
He did not want to talk about the accident, having discussed it so many times before. This is a time for football, for a new team, for a rebirth. For a moment, he seemed to gaze at the Maryland hills which roll into the distance.
“Any little decision you make will have a subsequent reaction,” he said softly. “Be cognizant of your decisions.”
He said he says this to everyone he meets now: teammates, friends, children.
“To anybody who will listen,” he said.
Along with the plea bargain, he continues to help try to rebuild New Orleans even when he has almost no ties to the Saints anymore:
When he was with the Saints, his first NFL team, and Katrina roared through New Orleans, he was one of the most active players in the rebuilding. Even after the Saints traded him to Philadelphia before their first season back in the Superdome, he kept returning, offering support.
Now, I’ll end it with this, the part that really won me over. About Ozzie Newsome considering signing Stallworth:
He knew the team could handle any aftermath of Stallworth’s accident. Then he began interviewing receivers coming out of college. Several said they had worked out in the previous months with Stallworth in Miami, and raved about the advice and help he gave them. Newsome was sold.
Donte Stallworth wasn’t even sure that he could ever play a down in the NFL again, and with a felony on his resume, it would be darn tough to get another job. He knew that, and still accepted the felony. He knew that and helped out guys going into the NFL, the place he wanted to be so badly but might never have had a chance to be again. It just says a whole lot about his character and the kind of character this team has. Things like this make me extremely proud to be a fan.