NFL DRAFT: Second chances aren't always free

BATON ROUGE, La. - Second chances aren't easy to come by.

Nor are they free.

 

That is the lesson former LSU and Bastrop High defensive tackle Claude Wroten is learning the hard way.

 

An all-SEC pick on a heralded Tiger defensive line, experts everywhere said the 6-3, 293-pound Wroten was a sure first round draft pick. Rated as high in some projections as the No. 13 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, Wroten was well on his way to becoming the third first round draft pick in as many years for LSU following Michael Clayton in 2004 and Marcus Spears in 2005.

 

After a stellar senior season, in which Wroten logged 49 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks, the Bastrop native was riding high after a victory over Miami in the Peach Bowl. Heading to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, a showcase for seniors heading into the NFL Draft, Wroten's draft stock was sky high.

 

That was until the night of Jan. 4, 2006.

 

Pulled over in a routine traffic stop just south of Bastrop in Sterlington, La., Wroten was clocked for going 77 in a 65-mile-per-hour zone. A further search of Wroten's vehicle discovered two bags of marijuana and some $4,000 in cash.

 

Wroten admitted to having the marijuana and said the cash was on loan from a financial adviser as he prepared to enter the NFL Draft. But still, he was booked into the Ouachita Correctional Center for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

 

Although the charges were later dropped, Wroten was shunned by the Senior Bowl and his stock was rumored to be falling rapidly. Once thought to be a first round lock, draft analysts speculated Wroten could fall all the way to the fourth round, costing him millions of dollars.

 

"Top 20," Wroten said when asked about how high he might have been drafted before the January incident. "I am sure of it. It was a shame it happened, that I made a decision and did what I did. But I am trying to put it behind me now and move on."

 

That has changed dramatically since the incident.

 

"I have heard everything from late first, all the way down to late third," Wroten said. "Everybody has heard about the incident that happened and it may have, in the end, affected my stock a little bit. But what I am hearing is the first (round) all the way to the third."

 

After all charges were eventually erased, Wroten figured all he could do is focus on football and let the rest fall where it may. Under the advisement of agent Joel Siegel, Wroten entered the NFL Combine with an attitude of being completely open about all possible character inquiries.

 

"Myself and my agent," Wroten said, when asked about who decided to open things up. "We decided to put it all out there, put it up front. There is no reason to hide anything, just he honest and open about anything that has happened throughout my career. We have done that and I think it has helped me out a little bit."

 

Since the incident, Wroten said there isn't a day goes he isn't addressed with issues about his character.

 

"Every day since it happened," Wroten said. "I knew as soon as it happened I was going to be asked about it. I knew I would have to answer lots of questions about it."

 

While he knew the repercussions of his incarceration in terms of playing football in the NFL, the toughest questions came from his family, friends and teammates.

 

"My hometown is Bastrop, La.," Wroten said. "I let everybody in Bastrop down. My family is disappointed. But they have been very supportive and have said everything is going to work out. They said everything is going to be okay so don't worry about it too much now. Now all I can do is play football, something I have been doing the whole time. I can worry about that incident know. All I can do is play football."

 

Wroten's senior season was finished by only a few days when he was arrested. Although members of the LSU's senior class had already begun preparations for the leap to the next level, Wroten's teammates defended their troubled comrade.

 

 

Kyle Williams

 

"He had a hard time around the beginning of the year getting arrested and getting kicked out of the Senior Bowl," said former LSU and Ruston High defensive tackle Kyle Williams. "He has worked out hard and prepared to play. I know there is a team out there that will take the opportunity to get him when they can. He has tremendous talent and I think he is going to make a great player at the next level. I wish him the best of luck."

 

Fellow former Tiger Skyler Green said he thinks Wroten is making the right move by admitting his mistakes as he tries and move on with his life and football career.

 

"I think it was just a big mistake," said Green, who is projected as high as a late first round draft pick. "Everybody has made mistakes before. He is learning from it. He is doing everything he has to do to get cleared up with everything he needs to between now and then.

 

"He is ready to play football just like the rest of us. He has let everyone know he made a mistake, has been open with everything and he is ready to move on."

 

While Wroten's off the field indiscretions have been at the forefront of his move to the professional level, the ex-Tiger is hearing positive feedback on his skills being used in the NFL ranks.

 

"They know I am a great pass rusher and a run stopper, but they just want to do a little better job of shedding blockers and stuff like that," Wroten said. "They think I am a great athlete, but need to learn to get off blocks and get to running backs a little better."

 

A knee injury had slowed Wroten down in terms of trying our for NFL teams, but he feels as if he is in pretty good shape otherwise.

 

"I have put up great numbers at the workouts," Wroten said. "Because of my hamstrings, I wasn't able to run a quarter. I pulled my hamstring and wasn't able to do that."

 

As for the above-mentioned character issues, Wroten says teams are being thorough when examining his past exercising caution throughout the screening process.

 

"They started talking to me more," Wroten said. "A couple of teams brought me in visits. I haven't tried to hide anything and prove to them that I am a good guy, that I am honest and I will be up front with them about everything."

 

The one thing Wroten has heard, plenty of times, is every team thinks he will be an outstanding defensive lineman in the NFL.

 

"After watching the film, every NFL team (that I have talked to) has said I am the best d-tackle (in the draft)," Wroten said. "But they said they want to background check me and all of that. They all know I am a good guy and a great player and that I am a good prospect."

 

Good prospect or not, the past will continue to play a huge role in where he will be drafted. Wroten understands his mistakes and sends a message to those players following in his footsteps on doing the right thing and avoiding trouble at all times.

 

"You have to have your head on straight," Wroten said. "Don't do what I did. Don't get caught up in off the field, off the court type situations. Be smart about the friends you choose and keep around. Always make wise decisions because the decisions you make will always follow you."


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