John Corker gets recognized often in Fort Worth, Texas, which isn’t hard when you’re 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds.
Folks remember him as a former NFL linebacker, as well as the driver of the No. 2 bus.
The story he likes telling, however, is about his comeback from drug addiction and homelessness.
Corker now serves on the board of the local Salvation Army, where he began his route back after a drug binge saw him forget where he parked the truck he was driving.
“People ask me how it felt to be an NFL player who competed at the highest level, and then come live in a homeless shelter,” Corker told the Associated Press. “I tell them it was probably the greatest day of my life.”
Corker was a star linebacker at Oklahoma State, the Big 8 defensive player of the year, and played for the Oilers and the Packers on either side of a stint with the USFL’s Michigan Panthers. But all the money he made playing football is gone, thanks to a cocaine habit.
“I was probably smoking $1,200 a day and playing pro football at the same time,” he said. “How my heart didn’t burst, I can’t tell you that.”
He cleaned himself up enough to get a truck driving job, but stopped in Fort Worth to buy drugs, parked his truck and never saw it again, and then walked into the Salvation Army because he had no place else to go.
“I figured I’d blow off a couple days here,” he said. “But to be inside from the elements consistently for the first time in years, it gave me the belief that I could do this. I could get my life back.”
Now, he’s helping others on his old path, working as a bus driver, raising a 4-year-old daughter and helping at the shelter that was once his home.
“I look back over my life now and say I’ve really been blessed,” he said. “I’m not perfect, but I thank God I’m not where I used to be.”
It’s the kind of story that resonates at any time, but in the month of arrests leading up to NFL training camps, it’s worth repeating now.