In dissecting the never-ending news stream that is Antonio Brown, I can’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite all-time teammates. A teammate that will re-name nameless for reasons you will appreciate as you finish reading the following story. For the sake of clarity, this teammate shall be referred to as “Not Alvin Harper.” Keep in mind, this is a story best told live, but I will do my best to provide as much detail as possible in an effort to truly capture how entertaining this entire saga was.
The year was 2003, and I was playing Arena Football for the Orlando Predators. Our coach was Jay Gruden, who also happened to be our quarterback; now that’s some Arena Football shit. Jay was the best! Super funny. Always laughing. Never taking himself or the job too seriously. Loved to party. He was just a good, normal dude. So, if being the quarterback and head coach of a professional football team wasn’t enough, Jay was also the Player Personal Director who was in charge of signing and cutting all players.
During training camp, Jay decided all his receivers sucked; so he cut all of them and signed Travis McGriff and went out and traded for a guy who was arguably the greatest WR in Arena League history; not to mention a former Super Bowl winner with the Dallas Cowboys. Unlike most of us, this guy wasn’t in the AFL because he wasn’t good enough for the NFL, he was in the AFL because he couldn’t stop drinking and blowing rails. The Arena League was the perfect landing spot because there was no drug testing of any kind. Coke, Weed, Meth, Oxy, PEDs – anything and everything was acceptable. The reason being is that the AFL did not want to pay for rehab for offenders so they just decided not to drug test anyone for anything.
Once the season started, every Monday (our off day), “Not Alvin Harper” would throw a party for the team at our housing complex pool. Except this wasn’t just some guys with pizza and cans of Bud Light listening to a radio; this was a full on jam in which he would pay for all the booze, food, and a DJ. Everyone was invited. Whether it was some professionals from Dockside Dolls or some Hooters waitresses or even some homeless dudes one time. This weekly free-for-all made Tuesday morning practices especially entertaining to watch.
Virtually every football team starts their practices in the same manner: a pre-practice period, followed by stretch, followed by an individual period. The individual period for quarterback and receivers starts by going thru the route tree on air. On this one very special Tuesday practice in which I will never forget, “Not Alvin Harper” decided to not go to bed after partying through the night. He strolls out to practice late and immediately jumps into the receiver drills. The first route he runs is a simple hitch, the easiest route in football history and one that 2nd grade football players learn on day one. But on this day, “Not Alvin Harper” comes off the line, hits his five hard mark, stops, and promptly forgets to put up his hands to catch the ball. As the ball rockets off his chest, he doesn’t recognize what just happened and simply runs back to the line of scrimmage and to the back of the receiver’s line. The next route is a slant. Again, “Not Alvin Harper” comes sprinting off the line, hits his 3-yard mark, turned on a 45 degree angle. This time he remembers to use his hand to catch the ball, but he places them about two feet too far apart and the ball hits him on the facemask which knocks the ball and his helmet into the air. What happened next is the single funniest thing I’ve ever seen on a football field: “Not Alvin Harper,” after taking the ball off the face-mask, doesn’t break stride and keeps running his route completely off the field and into the locker room. As he’s running away, something catches my eye – “Not Alvin Harper” wasn’t wearing any socks or shoes. He had forgotten to wears socks and cleats and was running around barefoot thinking no one would notice.
As if this entire seen wasn’t enough, when we returned to practice, “Not Alvin Harper” was sleeping on the floor in the middle of the locker room and his car was parked on the infield dirt inside a local minor league baseball stadium that was adjacent to our practice facility.
***My favorite part of this story was that he went out three days later and caught 11 balls for 102 yards and three TDs.