Later, Schlichter found himself trying to con Kirk, whom he had met once, a year before during a pickup basketball game. Schlichter paced Kirk's living room, talking nonstop for 45 minutes about his "cash flow" problem. He finally got around to asking Kirk to lend him $65,000. "I about fell down," recalled Kirk. "I realized that he had just pegged me as someone to use. I told him fiat no. I told him he had a gambling problem, not a 'cash flow' problem."
Schlichter left. He got money from another source, but he returned the next day, in tears. This time he begged for help instead of money. "Gil Kirk was the turning point," Schlichter said. "He told me I had a problem and that took some of the strain off me."
Of course, as far as the public was concerned, the worst of Schlichter's problems were only beginning. On April 8, 1983, the news broke that the FBI had arrested four bookies in Baltimore who had threatened to break Schlichter's passing arm and harm his family if he didn't pay the $159,000 he owed them. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle entered the case and ultimately suspended Schlichter for 13 months. At first Schlichter hid out at Kirk's home. Later he underwent an intensive 30-day therapy program at South Oaks Hospital on Long Island. In the last 15 days there, he says, "I finally found some inner peace."
The suspension ended in the summer of 1984. The Baltimore Colts were then the Indianapolis Colts and Schlichter was their starting quarterback. But last season he hurt his knee in the opener against the Steelers, and Colts coach Rod Dowhower let him stay on the bench behind Pagel. On Oct. 7 it was suddenly announced that Schlichter had been waived. Rumors flew that he had been gambling again. He denied this vociferously. Dowhower insisted that Schlichter was dropped because "he didn't progress in practice." But Schlichter says he wasn't even allowed to take a snap in practice.
Schlichter is bitter about what happened in Indianapolis. He is broke and still deep in debt, but he claims his gambling problems are behind him, and he is burning with optimism. His weight is down to 204, and he is said to be close to signing with an NFL team. "I will prove myself again," he says. "I made a mistake, yes, and I paid for it. I am now 10 times a better player than I was before this all happened. I really believe that my best days are ahead."