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Being a Professional Athlete (or Celebrity of Any Kind) Means that Your Character Flaws Will Always Be Worse Than Mine

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Feb 25, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Mike Adams runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Feb 25, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Mike Adams runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

When the Pittsburgh Steelers followed up on their 1st round selection of Stanford guard David DeCastro by selecting Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams in the 2nd round last Friday, a lot of fans and media members around Steeler Nation were quite concerned. The concern had nothing to do with the team using a 2nd straight draft pick to select an offensive lineman. No, the concern came from the fact that the Steelers selected a player with such a checkered past.

As most Steelers fans probably know by now, Adams made some questionable decisions while in college by accepting illegal benefits and was suspended for five games last season. He further cemented his reputation as a flawed figure by testing positive for marijuana at the NFL combine just two months before the 2012 NFL Draft.

Adams would surely have been a first round prospect if not for the character issues, so the talent was obviously there. But was it worth the risk for the Steelers, a team that has seen its image as a first-class organization get tarnished a bit in recent years by some of its players not necessarily representing themselves in the "Steeler Way," to take such a player?

It's hard to say. But there's one thing I know for sure: I wouldn't want to be a person in the public eye with any sort of mistake on his or her resume. People never forget when you're a celebrity of any kind. And the mistake, even one from the distant past, can follow a person around forever.

Fortunately, when you're an average Joe like me, your past mistakes are usually quickly forgotten.

When I was a kid, I was a slacker. I mean, I hated school, and I almost flunked out of middle school (or junior high for you people with a different name for it) because I missed almost 50 days in the 8th grade. I was really good at pretending to be sick.

I was a little kid, though, right? Why would anyone hold that against me?

Ok, fair enough. How about this? When I was in my late teens, my friends and I would hide in the bushes and throw snowballs at cars that were traveling pretty fast on a busy road. At the time, it sure seemed like a funny thing to do, but looking back on it, we could have caused a major accident.

When I was in my early 20's, I smashed into someone's wooden fence because, instead of paying attention to the road in front of me, I was acting like an idiot and singing along to one of my favorite songs. I wasn't drinking, I wasn't driving very fast, and I didn't cause much damage, but the proper thing to do would have been to knock on the person's door and tell them what I had done. Instead of that, I stepped on the gas and got the heck out of there.

Now, none of these things that I just described about my youth were really that awful (unless you were the person with the wooden fence), and if you would ever hang out with me, you'd know that I'm a pretty decent and responsible citizen. You certainly wouldn't remind me of any of these transgressions every time you spoke with me. And I doubt I'll ever have to answer any questions about these events in the future.

But that's because I'm not in the public eye.

When a person in the spotlight really screws up, for whatever reason, it seems to get blown out of proportion and take on a life of its own.

"How could Mike Adams fail a drug test during the NFL combine with his entire future at stake?" I don't know. Why did I run into that fence and then flee the scene many years ago?

Sometimes, people, even really talented football players, act like idiots.

The Steelers weren't even considering drafting Adams initially, but to his credit, he reached out to the front office, admitted his shortcomings and asked them for a second chance.

"We didn't call him, he called us," Colbert said. "Had he not called us, this may not have occurred."

That quote from Steelers gm Kevin Colbert, taken from the Huffington Post article linked above, illustrates that maybe the Steelers front office knows that there are character flaws and then there are CHARACTER FLAWS.

Fortunately, smoking a joint every now and then (even before the biggest job interview of your life) is probably a lower-case character flaw, at least for a kid in college.

Will Adam's recent transgressions follow him around for the rest of his time as a professional football player? Probably, but maybe they'll just be a foot-note to an otherwise productive and accomplished NFL career.

I've turned out OK despite the poor character that I often demonstrated as a youth. This is just a guess, but I probably still have some character flaws as a man going on 40 (just ask my ex girlfriend, she'll tell you).

I don't know how Mike Adam's career will turn out, and he may very well find himself traveling down the wrong road again in the future. But the fact that he was able to own up to his mistakes, and has taken steps to make his life better, shows me that, maybe, his character isn't as flawed as it appears.

Mike Adams probably just has some lower-case flaws, just like any average Joe.