A Promising Career Derailed: The Story Of Josh Gordon

Gordon makes a huge catch during his breakout sophomore season in the NFL.

Joseph Frescott , Sports Editor

On December 20th, a week before the start of the NFL playoffs, Patriots star receiver Josh Gordon left the team to focus on his “mental health.”  Later that week, he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for “for violating the terms of his reinstatement under the league’s substance abuse policy.” This is nothing new for Josh Gordon, as he has dealt with these issues throughout his troubled career. This type of story, consisting of substance abuse and mental health issues which has ruined potential great careers, has been a recurring theme in football, and sports in general.

In Josh Gordon’s case, illegal substance abuse has been a part of his life since his days in middle school. He self medicated with Xanax and codeine in 7th grade as a way to deal with his anxiety and social awkwardness. As a result, he was kicked out of middle school for stealing electronics from his fellow students. Despite his troubled beginnings, the star athlete received a basketball scholarship at Westbury Christian for high school. Having a chance to redeem himself, Gordon lost out on the opportunity and was thrown out after his first year for using marijuana. After blowing this great opportunity, Josh went to a public high school in his hometown of Houston. His troubles only continued as he soon joined a local gang in his hometown, where he sold drugs, stole cars, and other typical things you would expect from a gang member. It did not stop there, as Gordon continued down his reckless path by drinking and smoking everyday, sometimes even in class.

During his high school football career, he would play several games under the influence, and it soon became the norm. This did not affect his play however, as his physical abilities and overall talent made him a top recruit out of college for many Division 1 programs. He eventually chose Baylor as his college of choice, as he was on probation and couldn’t leave the state of Texas. With another chance to put his past behind him, he continued with his dreadful ways, selling drugs and smoking his first two years at Baylor. These ways eventually turned on him as it had in his past, as he was arrested for marijuana possession midway through his sophomore year. He later transferred to Utah, but after failing his drug tests, he opted to go into the NFL supplemental draft in 2012.

In the supplemental draft, Josh Gordon was taken in the second round by the Cleveland Browns. His rookie year started off promising for the young receiver, as he played all 16 games and was a top receiver in the class. His troubles in the NFL started after this season, as prior to the 2013 year, he was suspended two games for substance abuse. The rest of these games proved to be the peak of his career to this point, as Gordon earned First Team All-Pro while making his first Pro Bowl on a horrible Cleveland Browns team after leading the league in receiving yards. This year demonstrated what a talent Josh was and how great he could be if he remained away from drugs.

After a stellar first two seasons, the talented WR hit his first major pitfall. Before the next season, he was arrested for DWI. Only two months after this arrest, he failed a drug test due to marijuana use and was suspended for the first 10 games of the year.  Although he finished the rest of the year out strong, it didn’t bold well for the future for the star. Instead of learning from his actions, history repeated itself once again, as he failed his drug tests for the next two consecutive seasons and was inevitably suspended for the 2015 and 2016 years.

There was question whether Gordon would ever make a return to the league, as multiple appeals for reinstatement were denied. Finally, in 2017, he was granted his appeal, and returned for the last few games of the year. The 2018 season lined up to the one that could revitalize his troubled career. After taking the whole offseason to work on his recovery from his abuse issues, he returned in week 1 with a uncharacteristically bad performance. It only got worse as he showed up late to practice and hurt his hamstring during a photo shoot event a day before the game, not in practice. At this point, the Browns gave up on Josh and traded him to the Patriots for a draft pick.

A common occurrence in Josh’s life, he was given a second chance to redeem himself. Josh even acknowledged this in an interview with Uninterrupted in 2017, where he stated, “I’ve been enabled most of my life honestly,” Gordon said. “I’ve been enabled by coaches, teachers, professors — everybody pretty much gave me a second chance just because of my ability.” You would think that someone who knew how lucky he really was would change his ways. However, it seems like this problem is out of his control, as after a great start with the Pats and the unexpected suspension, it was clear that Gordon’s past has done too much damage and is something that he needs to focus on away from the field.

Whether Josh Gordon will ever play football again is a question that no one can answer, but most can agree it is sad to see such a promising young athlete and good person struggle with something as serious as substance abuse and virtually have little control over it to this point. Hopefully, this time away will be a step towards his recovery will help his mental health and keep him away from drugs, the thing that has hurt him the most.