The University of Tennessee athletic department, you might have heard, is having a little bit of a year. What could possibly be worse for the Vols' image than the outfit former starting quarterback Erik Ainge wears in this devastating ESPN profile of his drug addiction? The revelation that, when team doctors tried cutting him off painkillers, Ainge made use of his status as a star athlete to get what he needed:
I was hooked on them and I was playing football, and there was no way I was going to cancel my senior year by going to rehab. I started getting them from people, buying them, getting them off the street. I wasn't the only player on the team that was doing it, so we knew people. It wasn't, like, super sketchy or anything. We knew people who had them, and we were Tennessee football players, so they pretty much just gave them to us.
It's hardly shocking to learn die-hard fans would break drug laws for the teams they love, but Tennessee beat writer Wes Rucker has this one pegged: Although the addiction story is the crux here, you can't help but wonder how differently the 2007 Vols might have fared with a healthy, clean Ainge under center.