Stevens’ demise a tragedy

  • By John Sleeper / Herald columnist
  • Wednesday, March 21, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

Jerramy Stevens said he’d quit drinking alcohol. He said he’d learned from his mistakes. He was ready to make a new start and save his damaged reputation. He was excited about his future.

“Obviously, I’ve made some decisions that I wish I wouldn’t have made,” Stevens said. “I’ve been in some trouble that, obviously, I’d not like to be in my life. It’s made me realize a lot about myself.”

He was asked whether he thought he had a problem with alcohol.

“I never felt like I was a heavy drinker or I had a problem,” he said. “… I have to make the decision not to drink so I can stay out of trouble.”

Stevens made those statements on Aug. 17, 2001. He was just entering his junior season at the University of Washington.

On Tuesday, Seattle Seahawks team president Tim Ruskell announced that Stevens, who is under investigation for driving under the influence and marijuana possession, is no longer in the Seahawks’ plans.

It’s a tragedy. Self-destruction always is.

Stevens is an unsigned free agent. Before he was arrested last week in Scottsdale, Ariz., he could have signed with any NFL team for upwards of $20 million. This is an off-season of few available quality tight ends. When Stevens is right, he’s an elite player at his position. Together, the two factors usually mean bucks deluxe.

That’s the catch. Very little has been right for Jerramy Stevens. Ever.

His story is one of promise. His story is one of immense talent. His story is one of high expectations. He fulfilled none.

Stevens was made for the tight end position. At 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, he has the speed to get open and the hands to make catches few can. This past season, though, his hands came into question as he dropped passes he usually caught, as though he still was thinking about a disastrous Super Bowl in which footballs bounced off his enormous paws.

Under normal circumstances, many teams would overlook Stevens’ past struggles on and off the field and take the same gamble Mike Holmgren did in making Stevens the Seahawks’ first-round draft choice in 2002.

Now, after Scottsdale, all that is in question: Stevens’ future, both in football and his life in general.

It’s simple to laugh at Stevens and think of him as just another would-be star who tossed away his career. It’s easy to consider him weak and wonder why he couldn’t get out of his own way.

But addiction is a complex matter. Ask Koren Robinson, another Holmgren first-round gamble.

Stevens was arrested even before he enrolled at Washington. His time as a Husky was littered with arrests that continued in his time as a Seahawk. But because of his talent and promise, someone was always there to pick him up, dust him off and send him on his way to block, catch passes and block some more.

In June 2003, he was sentenced to five days in jail and 40 hours of community service for violating probation for a string of seven moving-vehicle violations.

At the time, Stevens told King County Judge Teresa Doyle: “I am very sorry for violating my probation. I am taking steps to make sure nothing like this happens again.”

Sound familiar?

Stevens always said the right things. An intelligent, articulate young man, he always made people believe the bad stuff was done, that he’d finally turned it around.

No coach, no judge, no police officer, no relative and no friend can provide the beginning Jerramy Stevens needs to help himself. Only Jerramy Stevens can. In 2001, he denied having a substance-abuse problem. He likely still carries that mistaken belief.

Stevens’ only hope is to break that thinking, to admit he is powerless against mind-altering substances and commit everything he has to the help available to him.

Stevens is 27 years old. He has time to right himself and continue his football career.

But until he puts righting himself ahead of the game, we’ll see the same empty promises and self-destruction.

Sports columnist John Sleeper:

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