Carl Eller, former all-pro defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings, says he had a $2,000-a-week cocaine habit before retiring from the National Football League.
Eller, who recently underwent chemical dependency treatment, also said he was a heavy user of alcohol during most of his 15-year NFL career. "It's certainly no fun thinking you spent a couple of thousand dollars a week like that," Eller told an audience of about 200 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire as part of a Chemical Awareness Week on campus.
Eller said he underwent 30 days of chemical dependency treatment at St. Mary's Hospital in Minneapolis six months ago. He said he has been sober since.
In an interview, Eller said he did not use drugs during games. He said the Vikings never knew about his problem because he overcompensated, trying to be a team leader, to hide it.
Eller said he did not admit he had a drug and alcohol problem until his last year in football, when the Vikings traded him to Seattle in 1979.
"I had moved away from my friends and I had lost a lot of friends," he said. "I was doing lots of things against my character. I was lying, cheating. I didn't feel good about that. My life was going to pieces."
Eller said he began drinking in high school in Winston-Salem, N.C. He said his drinking increased after he joined the Vikings in 1964.
"I continued that way until about halfway through my career," he said. "I stopped in Detroit to see an old friend . . . They introduced me to this little white powder. It turned out to be just what I was looking for."
Cocaine use drained Eller's finances. In 1980, about a year after he retired from professional football, he filed for bankruptcy. Court records showed he owed more than $116,000 and was forced to sell his north Minneapolis liquor store.
Eller said he sought drug and alcoholism treatment when "the woman who I was in a relationship with said, 'I can't take it.' The only person who cared said, 'Get treatment or I'm leaving.' "