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'I'M NOT WORTH A DAMN'
Don Reese
June 14, 1982
Cocaine ruined Don Reese's NFL career and put his life in jeopardy. The same insidious drug, he says, is messing up NFL players and games
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June 14, 1982

'i'm Not Worth A Damn'

Cocaine ruined Don Reese's NFL career and put his life in jeopardy. The same insidious drug, he says, is messing up NFL players and games

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When I walked through the door again and they checked it out, the room exploded with cops. One hit me on the head and another put a gun down my throat. Randy panicked and tried to back off the bed where he was sitting, and they jumped on him and beat hell out of him. It was a nightmare. In the wink of an eye we had turned from prominent big league athletes to common criminals.

I said, "Oh, my God, what have we done?"

One of the detectives took me into the other room and said, "O.K., Don, we'll make you a deal. You tell us which players are messing with this stuff and where you're getting it, and we'll let you go. Shula won't know, Robbie won't know." I said, "I don't know where it came from. I'd tell you, but I don't know." They tried the same thing on Randy, and then they took us to jail, to a holding cell, where the magnitude of our predicament really hit Randy. He went wild, yelling and beating on the wall. He was sick that his parents would find out. I knew it would break my mother's heart, and I thought it would probably end my marriage.

We got busted at about 7:30 p.m. We were in jail until almost 1 a.m., and then we got out on bail. When I got home, Paulette met me at the door, sobbing. It had been on the late news. We were both numb. I prayed all night that night. I saw the sun come up. The next three months were pure hell. Our trial had been announced, and nobody would touch us. My parents were mad. Our friends were scared to come around. Joe Robbie said the only way we'd ever play for the Dolphins again was if it proved to be a case of mistaken identity. Some players asked Shula if we could still come to mini-camp, but Shula said no.

Randy stayed at our house most of the time, and we just sat there, soaking in our own sweat. Our money was running out. Two days after we got arrested, the credit company sent a couple of guys around to repossess my Continental; at the time I was a month behind on the payments. They weren't taking any chances. I don't seek sympathy when I tell, all this, because I deserved what I got. But I won't pretend it was easy. Paulette had a job teaching school, and four or five days a week Randy and I got up at dawn, rented a rowboat at six dollars a day, and fished the Everglades for bass and bream. Sometimes we paddled over a mile to get to a pond. I mean we went fishing, Jack, and everything we caught, we took home and cooked and ate.

Despite having every reason to believe we'd been set up, we pled guilty to the charge, hoping to get a light sentence. We took lie detector tests before the court of Judge Joseph Durant Jr. to make sure we'd never been involved in any other drug deals, and when we passed he got all the lawyers together and agreed to the punishment: a year in the Dade County Stockade. Light if you don't have to serve it, heavy if you do.

I had a seed with me when I went in. I put it in a flowerpot and watered it every day, and when I came out 12 months later, it was a full-grown plant and so pretty that Paulette hung it on a wall. But I came out more stunted and fouled up than ever. There were as many drugs inside the jail as out. We used marijuana freely. Coke I snorted there once; I could have had as much as I wanted, but I was wary.

The question at that point wasn't so much who Randy and I would play for, but if we would ever play again. Shula had been encouraging. He said we "should not be condemned for all time." The Miami papers didn't like that a bit. One writer jumped all over him for being such a flaming liberal. Then Robbie said we would "never play for the Dolphins again," ending the debate. Robbie tried to get the league to ban us, too, but Pete Rozelle decreed that we could play...if anybody still wanted us.

The Toronto Argonauts sent their general manager down while we were in prison to offer us contracts. Good ones, too—$60,000 a year. But they were contingent on our getting out early to play, and Judge Durant said no. He had taken a lot of heat for going "soft" with our sentence, and when our attorneys tried to get him to cut it to nine months, he wouldn't hear of it. I didn't really blame him.

As it turned out, it probably wouldn't have mattered. Canadian immigration authorities let it be known that we wouldn't be allowed into Canada to play football.

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