By Tori Gurley
I know how it feels when a sports gambler or fantasy owner loses $200,000 on an NFL game.
2011 – my rookie year with the Green Bay Packers, I was fortunate enough to make the team as an undrafted free agent. I started out on the practice squad but was elevated to the active roster when several NFL teams wanted me to sign with them during the season. I was in football heaven. My QB was Aaron Rodgers and my position room of wide receivers was loaded with the best skill players in the NFL. Every day I was able to learn from Pro Bowlers like Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley, and James Jones, with myself and Randall Cobb as fellow rookies in the room. I can’t make this up, my locker was next to the GOAT Charles Woodson. As a rookie I wanted to be more involved and play, but I definitely understood that the roster I was on was special from top to bottom. Winning came so easy. Our team was 15-1 in the regular season, we won the Division, clinched a 1st round bye and were projected to be in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. I will never forget being in the team meetings and hearing head coach Mike McCarthy tell our team that we were “going for the perfect season” when our record was around 10 and 0.
Our coaches had supreme confidence in our abilities to complete the perfect season and our veteran players believed it too. I vividly remember the conversations when veterans would reminisce on how it felt to be a Super Bowl champion the previous year when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010. When you have veterans coming up to you elaborating on how much money you’re going to make and how it feels to be a champion, your mind starts to wander. I became distracted by my own imagination. Even though we practiced extremely hard during the week, it felt good at night to dream about being a potential Super Bowl champion. I personally began to put the cart in front of the horse, and unfortunately, I think I wasn’t the only one with that mindset.
I was so confident in Aaron Rodgers and my Packer teammates that during our playoff bye week I went to an exotic car dealership in Charlotte NC after my workout and picked out a white Bentley Continental as a Super Bowl gift to myself.
The car dealer was extremely nice to me. He told me, “Young man you have expensive taste,” and I told him “You got to treat yourself!” He also asked what the special occasion was? and I told him I’d be back with a bookbag full of cash on February 7th to give him the reason why. Feb 5th was the Super Bowl, the parade was going to be held on Feb 6th and Feb 7th I was flying back to Charlotte NC to pick up my Bentley. How was I going to pay for it? In the great words of HOF Randy Moss, “Straight Cash Homie.”
The following Monday after the bye week we reported back to practice and found out we would be playing the New York Giants that weekend. As a team we felt extremely confident in our matchup against the Giants due to the fact we beat them in New York earlier that season. Players were buzzing about the playoffs while I noticed how paranoid I was feeling. I wrote a huge $200,000 check that my A** had to cash. That’s when I realized I had no control on the outcome of the game.
I had a few panic attacks watching people get close to Aaron Rodgers at practice. My eyes began to play tricks on me, and I couldn’t focus on anything except the promise I made to the car dealer about buying the car. Aaron and I had a connection with each other, so he could tell something was bothering me because I was constantly in his way more than usual. Asking him if he was okay or if he needed water, a towel or Gatorade – like the Packers didn’t have a fully equipped staff for that job.
The week slowly crawled to Sunday and when I woke up that morning my roommates/teammates Johnny Jones, BrandianRoss and I got into Brandian’s truck. I remember Johnny looking at me and saying something didn’t feel right about that day. Usually Lambeau field has a magical aura to it especially on gamedays. One of the first people I saw when I pulled up to the players parking lot was ARod. I never talked to Aaron on gameday, but no matter how busy or distracted he was, #12 would always give me wink to let me know it’s showtime and I would wink back to confirm “Let’s Roll!!”
The game started and offensively we looked out of sync. Meanwhile me and the other players who didn’t dress out sat in the press box watching the game from the stance. Being off for two weeks I could see why as a team we came out flat in the first quarter. The Packers offense began to click somewhat in the second quarter until I witnessed one of the craziest moments in football. Charlotte NC native and Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks hauled in a Hail Mary before halftime. I knew then my Super Bowl dreams had become a reality nightmare.
The Giants never looked back after that moment as they went onto represent the NFC, and they beat the Patriots for a second time in the Super Bowl. So, what happened to me and the car? When the game concluded all the players and coaches mourned the loss. I cried like I was the reason why the team lost. I remember crying on Aaron’s shoulder wishing our outcome as a team was different. As a man of my word I went back to the car dealership on Feb 7th. When the salesman saw me, he lit up like a Christmas tree and greeted me with the name Mr. Bentley. I knew I couldn’t afford the luxurious car. I replied back to him with a half-hearted smile and asked if I could test drive the car one more time. He instantly realized that I was not kidding so he got in the car with me and we set up an alternative plan for me to purchase a nice car that was in my price range. I ended up a buying a Mercedes Benz instead. So, to those thrill seekers, when it comes to fantasy sports or wagering on sporting events, do it in moderation and for fun. Not getting that Super Bowl bonus money made me realize that we have no control over how the ball will bounce on Gameday.