Donte Stallworth spent a decade as an NFL wide receiver, playing for six different teams, but what he’ll always be most known for is the morning of March 14, 2009, when Stallworth struck and killed a man named Mario Reyes, a crash that led to a conviction for DUI manslaughter.
The NFL, hoping other rookies can learn from Stallworth, has asked him to speak at this weekend’s rookie symposium. Stallworth said in a FOX Sports interview with his former teammate Brendon Ayanbadejo that he’ll tell this year’s draft class that they need to make the decision not to drink and drive, and that making the wrong decision once can have dire consequences.
“These things are totally preventable. I’ve heard some people call them accidents. They are not an accident. It is not an accident when you decide to drive after you have been drinking,” Stallworth said. “We’re all grown enough to make decisions. So that means you are grown enough to formulate a plan before going out and you know you are going to have drinks, or you know there is an opportunity or chance for you to have drinks, then you should plan ahead. And that is one of the biggest messages I want to get across to these guys. DUIs are not accidents. They don’t happen by accident. You don’t drink alcohol and get in your car by accident. If you plan ahead, I think that it is one of the issues I am going to try and hit home with the rookies when I speak to them.”
Nothing Stallworth goes through will ever equal what Reyes’s family has to endure, but Stallworth does want rookies to know that one bad decision can affect them for life. In addition to spending a month in jail and a year under suspension from the NFL, Stallworth can never drive a car again.
“My driver’s license is banned for life,” he said. “I have been taking taxis, catching car services. This is part of my story, part of my life. I can’t complain at all. It is something that is another part of my story that I want to relay to these guys and let them know how fast things can change in an instant from a terrible decision.”
Stallworth wants players to think about him, and think about Mario Reyes, when they’re out drinking.
“It is something I will live with for the rest of my life,” he said. “It is something when I eventually have children one day that I will have to explain to them why their father made this decision and what they can learn from my mistake and my decision. I want it to resonate with these young guys. DUIs are totally preventable.”
That’s a message that should go without saying, but needs to be repeated often.