Tony Mandarich cites steroids, painkillers for his draft bust status

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Tony Mandarich is included on any list of the biggest draft busts in NFL history, and he says his story is a cautionary tale not for NFL scouts who struggle to identify the top prospects coming out of college, but for NFL players who struggle with substance abuse.

Mandarich said in a long interview with Jeremy Schaap on ESPN that the major challenges for him in the NFL were getting off steroids (which he says he used in college but never as a pro) and getting on painkillers (which he says he struggled with for years).

“I was taking 40, 50, 60 painkillers a day, and drinking,” Mandarich said of his career in the NFL, where he arrived in Green Bay as the second overall pick in the 1989 draft but played only three seasons.

Mandarich also says that much of his success at Michigan State was a result of steroid use, and he says he decided when he got to the NFL to stop using steroids because the NFL’s testing program was more stringent than the testing in college football.

“The testing, I felt, was too hard,” Mandarich said. “I didn’t want it even talked about, so I just didn’t do them.”

Mandarich said he thought he’d only lose 10 percent of his strength when he got off steroids but lost much more than that and couldn’t be the same player. However, after quitting painkillers and getting healthy, Mandarich returned to the NFL, signing with the Colts in 1996 and spending three years in Indianapolis as a solid if not great player. Mandarich said that when he played with the Colts, off steroids and off painkillers, “It was the first time I played a game without a drug in my body since high school.”

Today Mandarich says he’s happy and healthy and working as a photographer. He gets invited back to Green Bay when the Packers have events for former players, but he declines, saying that part of his life is behind him, and he thinks he’d get booed.

31 responses to “Tony Mandarich cites steroids, painkillers for his draft bust status

  1. “I was taking 40, 50, 60 painkillers a day, and drinking,” is Green Bay for all of us.

  2. I remember him coming back and playing for the Colts. I think it showed great character and inner strength. He took so much crap about being a bust during his time with Packers…came back and played very well.

    Dude has my respect and I hope he is happy and doing well now.

  3. Actually pretty hard to get off steroids when you’re drafted between Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

  4. Burn. It hurt what he did to my Packers, but I’m glad he’s got himself back together. Somebody knew before draft day, but didn’t go against the mainstream and disclose the truth. A good boss would have had guys on his staff who would have known about him and opened up, but no.

  5. I remember him on the cover of Sports Illustrated, he was being advertised as the leagues first 300 pound man. Sad about the steroid usage for the sake of a compatible edge.

  6. He took so much crap because he was doped up the whole time he was in GB and cheated to get picked. It’s all right in the piece.

  7. Whenever someone here in Wisconsin mentions Mandarich and how big of a bust he was, I remind them he was Peyton Manning’s starting right guard in 1998, and it blows their mind.

    There’s a large difference between a “bust” like Mandarich that bust his behind to come back and make it, versus a JaMarcus Russell or Ryan Leaf that couldn’t make it, wouldn’t try, and had multiple off-field incidents.

    Tony Mandarich, you have my respect as well.

  8. Mandrich’s story was a sad one.
    He was a Goliath at Michigan St. frequently overpowering pass rushers at will, often knocking them on their backs, but he was a 6’6”, 315 lb. lie.
    He sold the organization on a house of cards and pretty much reaped what he sowed.

    Some of his status as one of the drafts biggest busts was self inflicted, some of it was not.
    It didn’t help matters that so many great players, as well as a few Hall of Famers, were drafted right behind him, including Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders.

    But, then he came to Green Bay with such a poor attitude for the organization, as well as the veterans already in the Locker room, and right down to the people and the fans, it seemed it was destined for failure before it even got started.

    In retrospect, I’m glad he didn’t fight Mike Tyson (Yes, that was actually a thing for a short time.) and I’m very happy that he found some measure of redemption with the Colts and in retirement.

    Trust me when I say, he had worn out his welcome in Green Bay with his rude and ridiculous behavior.
    But, I honestly think enough time has passed for everyone to have moved on.
    I believe he should come back for one of the alumni events.
    I think he’d be pleasantly surprised at the fans reaction.

  9. He certainly wasn’t the first 300 pound man in Wisconsin.

  10. Yeah… because… a 22 year old kid has all the answers.

    Tony Mandarich was 22 YEARS OLD when he was drafted by G.B..

    So… he was between 18-20 while at MSU.

    Was exploited by the nfl and his agent/s.
    Signed for less than guys picked BEHIND him!!!

  11. I’m sure no one in the NFL knew he juiced in college. I read a story of him eating a 10,000 calorie a day diet to maintain weight. He spent$167 a week on groceries when that was worth about 15% of what out is today. Opposing players in college said he had bad acne all up and down his arms. That’s from steroids. Glad he got it together, but he was abetted by NFL greed

  12. Sad how some have to live their lives with so much potential in front of them. However, glad to see things turned out well despite the issues.

  13. There were a few guys in that era that were much better in college than in the pro’s. The most popular were Bozworth and Mandarich. Others from that era figured out a way to continue with the steroids, but managed to avoid getting caught.

  14. 81TinaKane says:
    April 21, 2019 at 2:49 pm
    Just another great draft pick in the lores of green bay packer football

    You can say what you want, but at least GB gets their draft picks in on time.

  15. Mandarich has been quite straightforward about his drug use. Once he quit lying about it.

    If he wasn’t one of the biggest draft busts ever, he was one of the most overhyped college prospects ever.

  16. The only time Packers fans won’t cheer for a Packer is when he is wearing another teams uniform and is our opponent in battle.

    Once a Packer always a Packer! We would welcome Tony with love and open arms if he decides to come back someday.




  17. Painkillers would in my opinion be part of the Grand Utopian Solution if not for one thing: they make you happy. For that reason they interfere with two things: sex and sports. Both require a spark of hostility for success — a DRIVE that opioids eliminate at their peak in your bloodstream.

  18. He was a carnival freak coming out of Michigan State. I remember when he said he’d fight Tyson—after entering the ring with Axl Rose singing on his shoulders.

    Even back then (and perhaps especially back then) it was easy to see when guys were on gear. Everyone in GB’s front office absolutely knew and put their heads in the sand.

    In a weird way, it’s sort of admirable he wanted to play natty in the NFL, although he was incredibly naive to think he’d lose only 10% of his gains. He probably lost more like 1/2 and then went through some crazy withdrawal.

  19. He didn’t let his inner demons kill him I respect him for that and wish him well.

  20. Hey too all the trolls talking on here what have you ever done in your life ? Must be nice to knock others to hide your own insecurity 😉

  21. Much respect to Mandarin and his 24 years of sobriety! What an inspirational 1 hour video on E60. You can tell from his honesty he’s spent lots of time in AA meetings on a path of self discovery. What a demon battling success story!

  22. Angel Valle says:
    April 21, 2019 at 7:56 pm
    Hey too all the trolls talking on here what have you ever done in your life ? Must be nice to knock others to hide your own insecurity 😉
    Just because someone isn’t an athlete doesn’t mean their lives haven’t been without accomplishment. They’re trolling the guy because he admitted to cheating to attain a position and then failed at it. Then he used his addiction as a crutch. Yeah yeah, hat tip for straightening out his life but it was all self inflicted.

  23. Angel Valle says:
    April 21, 2019 at 7:56 pm
    Hey too all the trolls talking on here what have you ever done in your life ? Must be nice to knock others to hide your own insecurity 😉


    Mandarich was one of the biggest frauds ever. All his celebrity, status, and money came about because he was cheating. All of it. Sorry, I don’t see a reason to celebrate that.

    I’m sure a lot of people commenting on this site have held good jobs, many have raised families, never abused drugs or alcohol, and probably didn’t cheat their way to attain it either. Thats more of an achievement than anything this clown has done.

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