One of the NFL draft’s finest talents sat and waited, the picks coming and going on the Chicago stage, and Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil waited with nowhere to go.
Shortly before the selection show began, Tunsil’s own Twitter page posted a video of the all-American wearing a gas mask with what appeared to be a marijuana pipe attached to it. Another person held a lighter to the pipe before smoke filled the frame, and after a few seconds Tunsil removed the mask, showing his face.
The video and Tunsil’s entire account were deleted, but the 30-second video was nevertheless shared around the Internet. Cameras frequently found Tunsil, waiting in the Auditorium Theatre green room looking dazed and apprehensive. Projected as high as the draft’s No. 3 overall pick — behind only quarterbacks Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz — Tunsil fell to No. 13, where the Miami Dolphins selected him.
“Man, it was a mistake,” Tunsil said in a brief NFL Network interview aired shortly after he walked onto the stage to hold up a Dolphins jersey.
After Tunsil’s selection, the player’s verified Instagram page posted screenshots of text messages in which Tunsil appeared to be asking Ole Miss football operations chief John Miller for assistance in paying utility bills for his mother and rent for Tunsil himself. The NCAA suspended Tunsil seven games last season for receiving impermissible benefits.
The lineman, reiterating comments made by his representatives in the immediate time following the video surfacing, said his Twitter account was hacked and that the incident occurred years ago. “That’s how it got on there, man. It’s a crazy world, and things happen for a reason,” Tunsil, whose pre-draft drug tests came back negative, said during the NFL Network interview.
He said he did not know about the existence of the video before the draft began and would not speculate on who posted it.
Tunsil’s stepfather, Lindsey Miller, filed a lawsuit against the player in Mississippi on Tuesday, alleging Tunsil attacked Miller and defamed him. Tunsil’s attorney issued a statement calling the suit an “unsavory attempt to obtain money” from the lineman.
Still, it was a steep, costly, agonizing fall for one of the draft’s most impressive players. Tunsil, a 6-foot-5 and 315-pound blocker, was an almost certain top-five pick and was seen as perhaps the draft’s most NFL-ready prospect. But in addition to his suspension for receiving impermissible benefits, Tunsil suffered from nagging injuries during his three seasons at Ole Miss.
On the draft stage Thursday night, far later than he planned to be there, Tunsil told NFL Network that he plans to prove to Miami that he will make himself known for protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and nothing else.
“I’m going to show everybody what type of person I am. I’m a great person, despite all the mistakes, man,” he said during the interview. “They don’t have to worry about nothing else.”