Laremy Tunsil's NFL Draft Plunge a Cautionary Tale for Youth Athletes
University of Mississippi offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil arrived at the first round of the NFL draft in Chicago late last week as a presumptive top-eight pick. ESPN.com's Mel Kiper had Tunsil as his top-ranked prospect, while Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had the Ole Miss product fourth on his big board. Barring a catastrophe, it appeared as though Tunsil would be selected somewhere among the top 10, guaranteeing himself roughly $15 million over the next four years.
Instead, thanks to an ill-timed Twitter and Instagram hack, Tunsil plunged to 13th overall before the Miami Dolphins stopped his free fall.
Just minutes before the beginning of the draft, a video appeared on Tunsil's Twitter account of him smoking a bong while wearing a gas mask. Though the video was allegedly from two years ago, according to Dolphins general manager Chris Grier, it may have done irreparable harm to Tunsil's draft stock nevertheless. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter (via ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley), the Baltimore Ravens were planning on selecting Tunsil with the sixth overall pick until the video surfaced on his Twitter account. (They selected Notre Dame offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley at No. 6 instead.) Another team, which didn't know about the video until the afternoon of the draft, removed Tunsil from first-round consideration, according to NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala. By falling seven spots, Tunsil lost $7 million, according to Schefter.
As if the Twitter incident wasn't damaging enough, someone also hacked into Tunsil's Instagram account after the Dolphins selected him, posting alleged correspondence between Tunsil and Ole Miss assistant athletic director John Miller in which the two appear to be organizing rent payments for Tunsil's family. After being drafted, a reporter asked Tunsil whether he had taken money from a coach, to which he replied, "I'd have to say yeah." As Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples noted Friday, the admission could prove troublesome for Ole Miss, as such an arrangement would run afoul of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules.
Though the Tunsil saga is something straight out of a movie script, it should serve as a stark reminder to youth athletes nationwide. No matter how private a conversation may seem when conducted over a cellphone or computer, technology has a way of springing leaks at the worst possible times. Nothing is truly confidential if there's a digital trail. And if there is video of untoward or illegal activity, all bets are off.
Tunsil's draft-day plunge wasn't the only social media-related cautionary tale to come out of the draft in recent days. Bucky Brooks of NFL Media relayed this anecdote:
Newsome's comments, unlike the Tunsil saga, have a far broader application to youth athletes, especially if they're planning on continuing to pursue their athletic careers in college. Some college coaches take recruits' social media profiles into consideration during the recruitment process. In 2014, Pennsylvania State University offensive line coach Herb Hand revealed that he had stopped pursuing one unnamed recruit because of his activity on social media. One month later, University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt told reporters he rescinded a scholarship offer from a recruit because of what he was posting on Twitter. During last July's SEC media days, University of Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema said he, too, monitors recruits' social-media use during the recruiting process.
"We have a social media background screening that you've got to go through, and if you have a social media nickname or something on your Twitter account that makes me sick, I'm not going to recruit you," Bielema said. "I've turned down players based on their Twitter handles. I've turned down players based on Twitter pictures. It's just that's how I choose to run our program."
The lesson, as always: Youth athletes should remain vigilant about what content they post online. Coaches and/or future employers are likely watching.
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