The NFL can be harshly unforgiving to many of its players; nobody is irreplaceable. So when Johnny
Jolly was forced to step away from football for three years, it was even a bit of a stretch to expect him to make a 53-man roster, let alone start week one at defensive end for the Green Bay Packers. Jolly is an anomaly; he has faced more adversity than most players could ever handle and yet there he was week one, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he shouldn’t be there after all he’s been through.
Jolly attended college at Texas A & M University and won the starting defensive tackle job after his breakout sophomore year in 2003 where he recorded 95 tackles along with two sacks and eight pass deflections. Big 12 defenses took notice, and soon Jolly was facing double teams every week; despite this, Jolly still won All Big 12 Honors his junior and senior year.
Jolly was a sixth round draft pick in 2006 and was selected with the 183rd pick by the Green Bay Packers. In his rookie season Jolly didn’t see much of the field until the final four games of the regular season when starters sustained injuries. Jolly seized his opportunity and was named a starter his second season in the league. Jolly was a promising young player, and things looked especially encouraging for him after he set the club record for pass deflections (11) in 2009.
Despite this breakout season, Jolly’s life wasn’t finding the same success off of the football field. On July 8th, 2008, Houston police arrested Jolly after he was found with at least 200 grams of codeine; he was charged with intent to sell prescription cough syrup, which is a second-degree felony. Jolly’s trial was pushed to late October in 2010, and on October 16th, 2010 the NFL suspended Jolly “indefinitely.”
As a result of this suspension, Jolly missed the Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl winning season. March 25th, 2011 Jolly was again arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance with an intent to sell after police found 600 grams of codeine in Jolly’s car. He was detained and arrested again on October 1st for being in possession of codeine and tampering with evidence by trying to hide his supply of the drug. On November 17th, 2011 Jolly was sentenced to six years in prison for violation of probation in conjunction with his arrests for possession of narcotics. For Jolly, this was rock bottom, but continued support through fan letters he received during his incarceration helped him through his sentencing. On May 15th, 2012 Jolly received early release with a 10 year “shock probation.”
Now what? Jolly had a choice before him: relapse into addiction, or give the NFL another shot. In February of 2013 Jolly was reinstated by Roger Goodell and the NFL offices, and was soon signed by the Green Bay Packers. While this was a nice opportunity, nobody expected much from Jolly. Reporters said he had little stamina, and needed to lose weight and seemed to be a long shot to make the team. As training camp progressed however, Jolly shed some weight and began to make noticeable strides in his play. In the Packers’ preseason game against the St. Louis Rams, Jolly deflected a pass that led to an interception, and also intercepted a pass himself in a 17-9 victory.
Jolly still wasn’t completely convinced he had done enough to make the squad however, he told reporters he was “scared up until the last minute.” When Packers’ defensive coordinator Dom Capers called to tell him he had made the 53-man roster Jolly described it as “the best feeling I’ve had… That was a blessing.” Read More…