DALLAS (AP) — Sam Hurd, once a multi-million dollar NFL wide receiver, stood in shackles and a prison uniform on Wednesday in a federal courtroom in Dallas, waiting to be sentenced for his role in a drug-distribution scheme.
He had already pleaded guilty to one count of trying to buy and distribute large quantities of cocaine and marijuana. Hurd begged U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis to give him a second chance.
"I regret my actions that caused me to lose my football career that I worked at to succeed since I was seven years old," said the 28-year-old athlete. "My biggest regret was ever smoking marijuana. It led from one bad decision to another bad decision."
Defense attorney Michael McKnight emphasized that point. "I know when I have met with him privately he has been extremely remorseful, and hates what he has done in using marijuana."
Hurd's lawyers tried to paint the former Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears player as a drug addict who purchased large quantities of marijuana for him, his teammates, and friends to use — but never for large profit. They said Hurd never dealt in cocaine.
But prosecutors said when Hurd showed up at a Morton's steakhouse in Chicago in December, 2011, he thought he was meeting with members of Mexico's dangerous Zeta drug cartel, and wanted to buy up to 50 kilos of cocaine a week to distribute.
And he had a team of up to 12 men to help him.
"He's not being prosecuted because he's an NFL player," prosecutor John Kull told the judge. "He's being prosecuted because he's a drug dealer."
Hurd turned the spotlight at other NFL players Wednesday. While not naming names, he said many still owed him money for marijuana he had sold them.
"If you look at Sam — who says at least half the players are using marijuana — yeah, I think it's a heck of a problem," McKnight said.
Under sentencing guidelines, Hurd could have received 27 to 34 years in prison, but the judge lowered the punishment to 15 years.
"You had everything going for you, but you chose this," Judge Solis told Hurd.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.