Nate Davis reveals three of the 100 biggest draft busts in NFL history according to USA TODAY Sports.
USA TODAY Sports
Thirty years ago, four future Hall of Famers were selected in the first five picks of the 1989 NFL draft: Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders. The fifth has been regarded as perhaps the biggest bust in NFL draft history.
ESPN this week aired “Mandarich,” a 44-minute documentary looking back at that ’89 draft and the story of No. 2 overall choice Tony Mandarich, whom the Green Bay Packers selected out of Michigan State.
His story was immortalized by two Sports Illustrated covers, one hailing Mandarich as “The Incredible Bulk” heading into the draft, and one calling him “The Incredible Bust” as his four-year career in Green Bay came to an end.
Alabama football coach Nick Saban, who was an assistant at Michigan State and discovered Mandarich, said he was “probably the most dominant offensive lineman that I’ve ever been around.” Mandarich, the son of Yugoslavian immigrants living in Canada, relocated to the United States to live with his college-aged brother, attending Kent State as a means of garnering greater recruiting exposure.
Mandarich famously used steroids, and a vigorous workout routine helped him fashion a bodybuilder’s physique. In the documentary, he recounted an anecdote prior to the 1988 Rose Bowl, when he ran a catheter down his back and used cherry-flavored Bubblicious gum as a cap to bring untainted urine to a drug test. He also said he earned the nickname “The Doctor” because he knew how to properly administer steroids.
Mandarich, 52, today is a successful photographer in Scottsdale, Arizona. He related how he quit steroids in the pros, viewing the testing procedures as too difficult to circumvent, but in their place developed an addiction to painkillers.
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He openly stated in 1989 that he didn’t want to play in Green Bay and held out for a contract that paid him $4.4 million over four years. He immediately struggled in camp, starting with one-on-one drills against Packers lineman Tim Harris.
Harris, quarterback Don Majkowski and former Packers president Bob Harlan were among those interviewed in the documentary. Mandarich said his habits included hiding painkillers in his jock strap and bathroom breaks during practice to re-administer the drugs. He also said he had doctors in different places to maintain prescriptions.
“I did not have a clear head, crystal-clear eyes the whole time I was there (in Green Bay),” Mandarich said.
Mandarich eventually entered rehab and returned to the league after a four-year absence at age 29 with the Indianapolis Colts, who were coached by Mandarich’s former coach in Green Bay, Lindy Infante. Mandarich walked away from football in 1998 when a shoulder injury would have necessitated the use of painkillers.