Tony Mandarich Tells All
With the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine reaching its conclusion, coaches and executives will leave Indianapolis armed with more information about players they may select in this spring’s NFL Draft. However, testing well at the combine does not guarantee success at the professional level.
One such cautionary tale is that of former NFL lineman Tony Mandarich, who has been called one of the biggest busts in the history of the league. Mandarich joined the BFT on Tuesday to talk about his NFL career, steroids and the addictions that caused his downfall.
Mandarich was so heavily hyped as a senior out of Michigan State that in 1989 Sports Illustrated dubbed him, “The Incredible Bulk,” due to his rare combination of size and speed. The publication went on to call him the best offensive lineman prospect ever, a title that Mandarich says he eventually embraced even though he didn’t come up with it.
“When they said it, it snowballed,” explained Mandarich. “Basically Sports Illustrated made me a household name at that time, and you can say that they made me a lot of money.”
One major reason why Mandarich’s physical prowess was so unmatched at the time he was drafted was that he wasn’t doing it clean – he used steroids throughout his college career, and was first introduced to them by his older brother during his last month of high school.
“I had reached a plateau of bench press – I couldn’t bench over 315 pounds my senior year,” said Mandarich. “Finally, I had that moment of realization that, ‘If I am going to pass this goal, I have to take steroids.’”
And while the NCAA tests student-athletes for steroids, Mandarich said that it was “super easy” to be the screens and that the testing program when he played was “a joke.”
“My steroid use was the worst-kept secret in college football,” he said. “And yet I never tested positive.”
Mandarich says he quit using steroids once he got into the NFL, but that his lack of success in Green Bay wasn’t due to pressure or lack of steroids, but rather a newfound addiction to painkillers. Mandarich described shooting up in the locker room before a game, at halftime and after a game; calling the whole cycle “a living hell.”
Many thought after Mandarich was cut by the Packers that his NFL career was over. However, eleven months after getting sober in March of 1995, the former second-overall pick would sign with the Indianapolis Colts and be named the team’s Comeback Player of the Year for the 1996 season. Mandarich explained that the opportunity provided him the chance to prove to himself that he could play in the league sober, especially after how far he had come.
“Eleven months prior to [signing with the Colts], if you would have seen me, you would have said, “This guy’s going to die any day now’,” said Mandarich. “[I] was consumed with, “Where am I going to get my next fix? Who’s the next doctor I’m going to con? Who’s the next pharmacist I’m going to con?’”
Now clean and sober almost eighteen years, Mandarich has moved on with his life. And while he acknowledges the mistakes he made throughout his career, he still wouldn’t change any of what happened.
“[All of] it helped shape me and the kind of person I am today.”
After football Mandarich spent time as an NFL analyst and turned his hobby of photography and video production into a business enterprise. Check out his website at www.tonymandarich.com
To listen to the entire interview, click below: