There has been a lot of talk this week about Donte Stallworth and his efforts to return to football after serving 24 days in jail for vehicular manslaughter. While the light sentence and playing status of the former All-Pro are being hotly discussed, one story line is slipping through the cracks.
Stallworth is the third former Tennessee football player to kill someone behind the wheel of a car in the last 10 years.
The first was Leonard Little, the All-Pro defensive end with the St. Louis Rams. In 1998, Little served 90 days in prison for involuntary manslaughter after striking and killing Susan Gutweiler in Missouri. He was suspended for the first eight games of the 1999 season.
Several years later, cornerback Dwayne Goodrich, then with the Dallas Cowboys, also found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Goodrich, driving after a night of partying on Jan. 14, 2003, struck three “good Samaritans” providing assistance at the scene of another accident, killing two of them.
Unlike the other UT alums, Goodrich (the only one of the three not to go to the Pro Bowl, you decide on the coincidence) received a significant penalty. He was initially sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, but the sentence was extended by five years in 2006 due to petitions by the victim’s family to add charges of failure to stop and render aid, on top of the two counts of manslaughter. He is up for parole in 2011.
Stallworth is the latest name on this dubious list. He dodged serious penalties by pleading guilty to manslaughter after running down Mario Reyes in Miami while under the influence of alcohol and marijuana on March 14. The charges filed against him carried a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail. He is now in the process of trying to get back on the gridiron, a campaign that includes a contrite interview with Michael Smith on ESPN’s E:60.
It may just be a coincidence. But, it’s fairly certain this connection won’t make its ways into Lane Kiffin’s recruiting pitch any time soon.
Just remember recruits: if you don’t go to Tennessee, you’ll end up pumping gas for a living. But if you do become a Vol, you may up hitting the gas with someone under your car.
–Matthew De George ’10