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Former NFL star falls into addiction after knee injury–until college student stranger lends a hand

Brittany Jordan

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Once considered the next big thing in NFL, Keith McCants was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1990. Tragically, a knee injury put an end to McCants’s dreams of having an enduring career in football.

His worsening injury led to a painkiller prescription, which became an addiction. This eventually landed the linebacker in prison and without a place to call home.

The future looked bleak for McCants. That is, until a hand of friendship was extended from an unlikely 21-year-old college student named Robert Blackmon.

Keith McCants of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during a game against the 49ers in San Francisco. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

“In 2010, I was home from college and was reading the newspaper and saw [McCants] was arrested for the 14th or 15th time for crack cocaine possession,” Blackmon told ABC last month. “[I]n his mug shot he looked so incredibly sad.”

Compelled to help, Blackmon, now a Saint Petersburg, Florida, city councilman, reached out by phone.

“He immediately called back and said, ‘I think this is a God-send,’” Blackmon recalled. The then-college student pledged to help his new friend in whatever way he could.

Over the years, Blackmon aided the fallen NFL star to reach sobriety and regain his independence.

Epoch Times Photo
Keith McCants and Robert Blackmon. (Courtesy of Robert Blackmon)
Epoch Times Photo
(Courtesy of Robert Blackmon)

Now at age 52, McCants has needed a cane for 20 years and requires hip surgery. Blackmon claims the NFL declined to subsidize the procedure.

The former linebacker dreams of walking along the Florida coastline without a cane, and hopes his recovery from addiction will inspire others to achieve their dreams.

On March 17, Blackmon highlighted their journey of friendship on Facebook:

“These last 11 years have been a wild ride,” he wrote. “I’m proud not only of what [McCants] has overcome, but the recognition he’s receiving for it. I’m grateful everyday to call him a friend.”

Blackmon is now helping to fund McCants’s hip surgery. His message is that “Anybody can change a life.”

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Brittany Jordan is an award-winning journalist who reports on breaking news in the U.S. and globally for the Federal Inquirer. Prior to her position at the Federal Inquirer, she was a general assignment features reporter for Newsweek, where she wrote about technology, politics, government news and important global events around the world. Her work has also appeared in the Washington Post, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Toronto Star, Frederick News-Post, West Hawaii Today, the Miami Herald, and more. Brittany enjoys food, travel, photography, and hoarding notebooks and journals. Her goal is to do more longform features journalism, narrative writing and documentary work, and to one day write a successful novel and screenplay.

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