Justin Blackmon needs help. The Jaguars’ 2012 first-round pick, the fifth overall selection who enjoyed a successful rookie season on the field, was suspended last week for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, testing positive for an undetermined recreational drug. A DUI in college, a second DUI prior to his rookie season, and now this. His NFL career is at a crossroads. His life seems to be in a crisis, too.
I don’t know Justin Blackmon. I’ve never met him or spoken to him. I also don’t know what recreational drug Blackmon tested positive for; the NFL conceals these facts from the public, and there surely is a difference between whether Blackmon was smoking pot or shooting up heroine.
But I do know the ins and outs of addiction. May 10th will mark two years sober for me. Addictive behaviors have played a prominent role throughout my life, and I’m fully aware of what can happen when you don’t seek help. Now I’m not saying Justin Blackmon is an addict, as there’s a fine line between constantly making poor decisions and having addiction issues. But based on his history, it certainly seems possible.
“I’m embarrassed to be in this position,” Blackmon said, after his first DUI as a 20-year-old at Oklahoma State. “I’m truly sorry to my family, to my friends and to Oklahoma State all together. I look forward to redeeming myself and proving to everybody that this isn’t who I am. I’m not this guy. I’m humbled by this experience and I will grow from it.”
‘Fool me once, shame on you…’
After his second DUI arrest, although Blackmon denied having a drinking problem, he vowed to abstain from alcohol for the time being. “I’m done,” he said. “Right now, I’m done with all that. … I can’t promise you 10 years down the road that I’m going to be done. I just know that as of right now and what I can speak of…”
‘Fool me twice, shame on me…’
Blackmon’s second DUI put him in the NFL’s drug testing program. That means that unlike most players who aren’t in this program and are given only one random offseason drug screen (given between May 1st and August 1st), Blackmon is tested repeatedly in the offseason. So if someone with a substance history like Blackmon’s chooses to use drugs, they have a much higher probability of getting caught.
Blackmon, fully cognizant of these circumstances,still chose to use drugs—and he got caught. Financially, he risked losing $10 million of the remaining $18.5 million on his contract if the Jaguars decided to release him (and they still can), but it seems like they’ve decided to hang on to him. However, he’s surely lost money in future marketing earnings and further hindered his already battered reputation. Blackmon is still young, and athletes have repaired worse images than his before, but it’ll be an uphill battle.
Addiction and temptation enslave the body and mind, taking on lives of their own. No matter how badly you believe you can control or own an addiction, the concept is bigger than any one human being. It only takes one second of being peer pressured or convincing your brain to make a faulty decision to ruin thousands of hours of hard work.
In June 2012, Blackmon stated he was “done” drinking, and I’ll assume he meant he was done with illegal drugs as well. I’m not debating his genuineness in these stated claims, but temptation can be a powerful weapon; it can pull you back in, even when there’s so much at stake.
“I’ve made a mistake and I have no excuse. I am truly sorry and disappointed in myself for putting the Jaguars in this situation, and I look forward to putting this behind me and maturing and growing as a person. I will have a productive training camp and preseason with my team, and during the suspension, I will work hard to stay in top football shape and be ready to help the Jaguars when I return. I have chosen to be accountable for my poor decision, and I sincerely apologize to my teammates, coaches, the front office and Jaguars fans for the impact of my mistake on the team.”
This isn’t about football. This isn’t about the Jacksonville Jaguars organization, or their fan base, or Blackmon’s teammates. It’s not about having a productive training camp or staying in top football shape, which Blackmon can undoubtedly do. It’s about a 23-year-old kid, who just so happens to be a supremely talented football player, who keeps making the same mistake.
Nobody knows what’s going on inside the mind of Justin Blackmon except for Justin Blackmon. We’ve all seen this same horror story too many times before, young kids throwing their futures away at the behest of substances. So if this ever finds you, Justin, find help before it’s too late. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.