An NFL Legend and Me, his 17-year-old “Girlfriend”

What I remember is fuzzy in outline, gossamer thin, yet vibrant in detail.

Sleek emerald green, the car glides silently. My skinny legs stuck to the leather seats; the top is down. Eyes wide. We raced away from LaGuardia Airport to his training camp. It was summer hot, dazzling light, garish green grass clipped close to the crisp white industrial blah of the gymnasium.

He escorted me around the field like a show pony; the men kept their eyes on me way too long. They were giants in uniforms. Aggressive moves, grunts and blows. It was during offseason summer training, the bulging Goliath with a mullet hair cut, olive skin and black eyes, held their attention tighter than my hand. He was a legend. The others practically bowed before him.

Hands like bear paws, fingers steady, steely eyes. He moved like a lion. He was back from the hunt, his seventeen-year-old catch, a deer in headlights.

White sheets, standard hotel scratchy towels, toilet paper and soap. Plastic cups for the vodka, later dinner at his favorite Italian joint nearby, on the island.

How long did I remain the catch of the day on Long Island that summer? I can’t recall. My gut says that it was a weekend fling.

Sleek jag raced back to the airport, sloppy kiss, his predator jaws sucking in my whole face. Bear paws are searching for one last grope before I depart. Strong fingers have one more feel under my skirt. Harsh. Brutal. The animal grunts.

Flying high above the clouds, I felt ashamed and dirty. He told me it was all right. He showed me it was all right. He smirked and puffed his chest, proud of his latest conquest.

Disconnect. Disassociate. Not the first time, not the last. Turning my internal switch to “off” protected me. It was my defense against the unthinkable.

Chicago, only a few days or weeks or months later the lion returns for more. This time, he came to me. Greetings from the restaurant’s managers, cheers from his fans. More vodka. Another hot car. Fingers searching, snatching, taking. He demanded and it was his.

Yachts lined up for the big race on Lake Michigan. A first for me, the jet set lifestyle. Glass windows, covered the sleek buildings. Higher up we went, the wealthier I pretended to be.

Crystal glasses served cold Cristal champagne. Other men were there with their wives, mistresses, and one-night stands. Their eyes watch with pity and contempt.

Arms thick, scratchy chest hairs, the stubbly aftermath, burns my belly. Strong fingers forcing open my secret spot. Tongue slick, drooling like the big bad wolf. He tried, but he could not get it up. Small in comparison to the rest of his Adonis body, the performance drugs had taken their toll. Drunk and dumb for trying he fell asleep on top of me.

“Who the FUCK are YOU?!” she screamed.

We both leapt from our alcohol-fueled slumber. He grabbed the sheet to cover his naked nothingness. I stood, exposed.

They argued.

I found my clothes, scattered bit by bit here and there and raced out the door.

Hallway labyrinth finally revealed the elevator. A single tear dropped from my eye. I held tight the vomit inside.

Silently the doors open, safe inside I closed my eyes. Just as they had begun to close, the bear’s claws stopped the action.

“Hey, are you ok? ”

My voice, small, whispered “Who is she?”

“That crazy bitch? My wife. Listen, baby. I love you. Ok? I will call you later. I love you.”

The descent from the forty-fourth floor to the lobby was swift and to the point.

Sick, hungover, confused and still only half-dressed, I was lucky a cab was right in front of the building. Maybe it was her’s?  Garish yellow with perkiness, sitting next to the curb in front of the tower of glass.

We wound through the city streets. It was almost 7:00 am. The world’s eyes could not see me; they were still asleep.

No, I never believed him when he said he loved me.

Yes, I was foolish to think our relationship was above reproach.

No, he was not the first person to take advantage of me or my youth.

He does hold the distinction of being the first celebrity, though.

I was seventeen. He was in his late thirties. I was a recent transplant from Florida; I had just left home. He was an NFL legend from New York.

I sometimes wonder how many other young girls he caught like wild game.

How many times his wife caught him in the act?

How many times he told a young lady he loved her?

How many rides to and from the airport he took, feeling like a winner?

Did he ever feel remorse? Did he ever question his actions?

He was celebrated and worshiped. Just like a god. I was a kid, fresh “off the farm.”  He was my induction to the world of celebrity and the fast lane. He was a legend, the most feared pass rusher of his generation. Ironic, no?

Violence in action, grunting through the game.

Did he rape me? No, he did not, I gave my consent. Was it an appropriate relationship? That’s us to you to decide.

I have shared this story, not to vilify, but to give voice to all of the other young men and women out there, who because of their youth and vulnerability have found themselves in similar circumstances.

I do wish that those graced with the privilege of power and celebrity, use their allure responsibly.

Just thinking about that time in my life makes me nauseous. Thirty years later, this summer and guess what?
I still feel shame.

Photo Credit: Johnny Silvercloud via Compfight cc

  1. Thank you for sharing; There are many that will take advantage of us but I know we can make better decisions, too. I’m raising my girls to have higher standards than I did so as not to make the same similar mistake I did.

  2. Wow.~❥speechless as usual! Once again your searing honesty makes me rethink what writing is…am I willing to truly be this honest with the page? Not yet perhaps, but you move me~ that much closer with each read. So much power in your game you’ve got me standing here sobbing in the shower in a soaking wet jersey feeling like a floozy crying scrubbing at these stupid bubbles trying to take away the shame, but it just won’t go away. Never thought I’d say this, but I think I know just how you feel! So much power in your writing~cause You’Re just so damn real! #TrulyGiftedJulie ✭
    ☂=^;;^=☂ Love ya~You Rock! ~SSS69~

  3. Thank you for sharing. Now, I really know what you meant when you grabbed my arm and whispered in my ear to get ready to be thrown to the wolves. I flew back to nyc on your ticket that week for my 19th birthday. Now, almost 30 years later here I am living a “normal” life as a wife and mother to 7 year old girl. Thinking she will be reading this in due time to warn her of all the wolves.

  4. Rachel,
    Thank you for your kind thoughts. Yes, I was young. Back then, I felt “mature.” Isn’t that funny?
    As far as shame is concerned, I will always have it. That will be a story for another day.

  5. John Michael Antonio

    I have said this to you before Julie and I will say it again…you are one of my favorite writers…your ability to capture the moment and convey the emotions associated with those moments is absolutely fantastic…your stories always stick with me for days and weeks afterwards, which is a sign of how great they are…

  6. Gosh, Julie. You were so young. He should have known better, but obviously, he didn’t. You weren’t a person, you were a prize to him. A thing to own, to show off. I’m sorry that happened.

    I can tell you not to feel shame, that the young, naive you didn’t know any better, but only you can work through that. Just know that you’re still beautiful you, the inside beautiful giving strong wonderful you that makes this world a better place.

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