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Ten Years After
Rick Reilly
October 14, 2002
Yo, Mr. Cop, Mr. Bagel Baker, Mr. High School Shop Teacher. Were your football dreams hijacked before takeoff? Do you watch the pros on Sundays and know you could still do that? Do you throw 30-yard down-and-outs at neighborhood squirrels?
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October 14, 2002

Ten Years After

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Yo, Mr. Cop, Mr. Bagel Baker, Mr. High School Shop Teacher. Were your football dreams hijacked before takeoff? Do you watch the pros on Sundays and know you could still do that? Do you throw 30-yard down-and-outs at neighborhood squirrels?

Well, grab your cup. The NFL wants you.

First, grocery stocker Kurt Warner becomes the league MVP. And now Tommy Maddox, who was selling insurance three years ago, is starting for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Is this a great league or what?

"I never stopped believing," says Maddox, who went 10 years between NFL starts. "I knew sooner or later I'd get my shot."

Yeah, right, Tommy Gun. Welcome to your life's movie: How to Blow Up a Can't-Miss NFL Career Without Really Trying.

Remember 1992? You're a leading Heisman Trophy candidate following your All-America sophomore season at UCLA, and what do you do? You turn pro! Everybody tries to talk you out of it, but you hear a rookie salary cap is coming, and you want to get into the NFL before it hits. You idiot!

And where do you go when you're picked 25th in the draft? Right into the ugliest brawl in the league: John Elway versus Dan Reeves. Congratulations, you just won a time-share in Beirut.

"I can't tell you how nasty that situation was," Maddox says of joining the Denver Broncos. "John thought he was one good young receiver away from the Super Bowl, but Coach Reeves was like, 'You ain't gonna tell me what to do!' I think I was sort of Coach Reeves's f—- you! to John."

Next thing you know, Elway gets hurt, and you become, at 21, the youngest QB to take an NFL snap in 46 years. First up, the Los Angeles Raiders. "He looked like my paperboy," Howie Long says after the game, picking parts of you out of his teeth. You start four games for the Broncos and lose them all.

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