Friday, 29 April 2016

Laremy Tunsil Falls in N.F.L. Draft After Apparent Drug Video Surfaces

It was the bong hit that sent N.F.L. teams running.

Minutes before the N.F.L. draft was scheduled to begin Thursday night, a video was posted on the Twitter account of a highly touted offensive lineman from the University of Mississippi who was projected to be one of the top picks. The video appeared to show the player, Laremy Tunsil, inhaling what might have been marijuana through a bong that was attached to a gas mask.

It was unclear when the video was recorded. No matter, the damage was swift and highly visible for Tunsil: He was in a draft free fall, passed over by each of the first 12 teams. Finally, with the 13th pick in the first round, Tunsil was selected by the Miami Dolphins. Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier said the team had been aware of the video’s existence well before the draft and said it was two years old.

The video probably cost Tunsil millions of dollars. The No. 1 pick in this draft is projected to receive a contract worth more than $25 million. The deal for a No. 13 pick will be about $12 million.

The video, and Tunsil’s Twitter account, @kingtunsil78, were quickly deleted. Later, the account was restored and Tunsil posted an apology. Several other Twitter users managed to grab the video before it was deleted.

Mississippi Coach Hugh Freeze, at the draft with Tunsil, said Tunsil was at the center of some “unfortunate events” but “I assure you that’s not who he is.”

Yet around the time Tunsil was selected by the Dolphins, two sets of text messages were posted to his Instagram account. They showed what appeared to be exchanges between Tunsil and an athletics official at Mississippi, in which Tunsil asked for help paying bills.

Asked about it by reporters after being selected, Tunsil seemed to confirm taking money from a coach. “I’d have to say yeah,” he said.

Tunsil, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive lineman who left college after his junior season, was widely considered the best offensive tackle in the draft. But two players at his position went ahead of him — Ronnie Stanley at No. 6 and Jack Conklin at No. 8.

After being selected, Tunsil told ESPN: “It’s a blessing just to be a part of the N.F.L. You go through adversity in life. It’s what you overcome.”

Asked about the video, he said: “I just know I got hacked. We’re going to try to find out who did it.”

Almost every year a high-profile player or two is drafted lower than expected, often because of perceived character issues. Wide receiver Randy Moss fell to No. 21 in the 1998 draft, then went on to become a star in the league. Quarterback Johnny Manziel dropped to No. 22 in 2014; he flopped with the Browns.

Tunsil was sued this week by his stepfather, who alleged domestic violence and defamation. The two have had other legal battles. Tunsil also missed seven games last year after being suspended by the N.C.A.A. over receiving impermissible benefits.

Off-field issues do not always hurt players’ stock. Last year, Jameis Winston, who had faced accusations of rape and theft while in college at Florida State, was taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Winston emphatically denied the rape accusations.

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