LOS ANGELES: The turmoil around Laremy Tunsil’s arrival in the NFL continued to reverberate on Friday (Saturday in Manila) as his former college Ole Miss vowed to “aggressively investigate” his admission he took money from a coach there.
A video of Tunsil smoking from a marijuana pipe made in part from a gas mask, which mysteriously appeared on the player’s own Twitter account as the draft began, was just the beginning.
The video was enough to see the 21-year-old offensive tackle drop from a likely top-five pick to 13th overall, where he was taken by the Miami Dolphins.
Tunsil said his account was hacked, and while he was the man in the video he didn’t post it.
He was in the midst of his first press conference since being drafted when he was peppered with questions prompted by images posted on his Instagram account of texts in which he appears to ask a University of Mississippi athletics official for money to pay his mother’s electric bill.
“I’d have to say yeah,” Tunsil said when asked if he’d taken money from a coach.
It was a stunning admission in the world of US collegiate sports, where the benefits allowed to student athletes are strictly spelled out by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) even as the teams they play for make millions for their universities.
“The university is aware of the reports from the NFL Draft regarding Laremy Tunsil and potential NCAA violations during his time at Ole Miss,” the university said in a statement.
“Like we do whenever an allegation is brought to our attention or a potential violation is self-discovered, we will aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.”
Tunsil had already been suspended by the NCAA for the first seven games of last season for accepting improper benefits. His admission on Thursday night of taking money from a coach will again have Ole Miss in the governing body’s sights.
His fall in the draft will cost him as much as $10 million as he starts his professional career.
NFL Players Association president Eric Winston was dismayed to hear NFL commissioner Roger Goodell tell a radio interviewer on Friday that Tunsil’s plunge was “part of what makes the draft so exciting”.
“Last night everyone saw a young man’s dream turn into a nightmare,” Winston said. “The mistakes he made in the past were released out there to millions with an intent to harm him. What did the NFL do? Nothing.
“In fact, if Roger is to be believed, they loved it because it made the draft ‘so exciting.’”
The Dolphins will be hoping that the drama doesn’t dog Tunsil, and they will prove to have grabbed a draft-day bargain.
Their introduction of their new recruit in Florida on Friday didn’t go exactly smoothly. Tunsil was an hour late for a press conference because of what the team called an allergic reaction.
When he did appear, Tunsil declined to elaborate on the strange sequence of draft day events — or on possible NCAA infractions while at Ole Miss.
“I’m just excited to be part of this organization,” Tunsil said, sidestepping several questions with the answer “I’m just here to talk about the Miami Dolphins”.
Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said the team have no concerns about Tunsil’s character.
“Obviously there are some mistakes he made in his past, but we were comfortable with that,” Tannenbaum said. “All the research we had done, we were very comfortable with his character.”
Meanwhile the mystery remained as to who made the damaging social media posts.
Tunsil said Thursday night he didn’t know who had hacked his accounts.
Tunsil’s attorney, Steven Farese, said the posts were clearly aimed at hurting Tunsil’s draft status — which the lawyer said was also the aim of a lawsuit filed on Tuesday by Tunsil’s stepfather Lindsey Miller over an altercation between the two last year.