Tim Worley knows firsthand the pitfalls that have ensnared some Georgia football players by decisions made off the field.
A DUI? Been there.
Failed drug test? Done that.
Worley drew a six-game suspension and went to rehab for 30 days after testing positive for cocaine in 1991 when the former Georgia All-American running back played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was banned for the entire 1992 season after twice skipping mandatory drug tests.
So when Worley spoke to the current players on the Bulldogs before Thursday‚Äôs practice, he spoke to a team that faced the distraction this offseason of seven player arrests.
‚ÄúOne of the things that we‚Äôre seeing all across the nation when it comes to athletes is they‚Äôre slowly sabotaging their careers,‚Äù Worley said afterwards. ‚ÄúWhen you look at my history, that‚Äôs what I did. I had the world in the palm of my hands and I sabotaged it. I have a hatred for that now when I see that because I had to learn the hard way and I just came to let these young men know they don‚Äôt have to go through that.‚Äù
He told the Georgia players to work not only their bodies, but their character to be a better person off the field.
‚ÄúIntegrity is doing the right things when nobody is looking,‚Äù Worley said.
Georgia defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor was dismissed this summer after being charged with felony aggravated assault/family violence. He was one of four players‚Äîincluding dismissed safety Tray Matthews–charged with theft by deception for twice cashing UGA-issued stipend checks. Linebacker Davin Bellamy was also charged with DUI and will serve a two-game suspension.
That brought a sense of urgency to his message Thursday.
‚ÄúI love this school, I love this university,‚Äù said Worley, who rushed for 1,216 yards and 17 touchdowns in 1988 before being drafted No. 7 overall by Pittsburgh in 1989. ‚ÄúIt gave me an amazing opportunity to showcase my talents and move on to a professional life. It‚Äôs an urgency all over the nation when it comes to athletes today.‚Äù
Worley mentioned the news this week of Steelers running backs Le‚ÄôVeon Bell and LeGarrette Blount being charged with marijuana possession following a traffic stop.
‚ÄúYou prepare these young men for battle, but who prepares them for life?‚Äù Worley said.
Worley, who turns 48 next month, hopes he is doing just that.
‚ÄúWhen I look back, I was prepared to play the game, but I was not prepared for the game off the field and it almost destroyed me,‚Äù Worley said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs why I‚Äôm here by the grace of God and I have a message and I want to help these young men overcome and develop character and stand in integrity and take responsibility and take advantage of the opportunity that they have.‚Äù
Worley, who spent six years in the NFL, also spoke to Georgia athletes in 2011 on campus on the invitation of athletic director Greg McGarity.
This time he spoke to about 15 team leaders and then the entire team on Thursday.
He talked to them about his personal story ‚Äúhis victories and failures,‚Äù and what he‚Äôs learned from it and what he‚Äôs doing today.
‚ÄúHe told us you can learn from his mistakes and always to be cautious of where you‚Äôre at and who you‚Äôre dealing with,‚Äù safety Corey Moore said.
Worley is co-founder and CEO of Worley Global Enterprises, a communications consulting firm.
He serves as a motivational speaker and life skills consultant to pro and amateur athletes, corporate executives, recovery centers, young adults and camps. He talked to rookies on the NFL‚Äôs Tennessee Titans earlier this summer. He also blogs regularly
‚ÄúThey have targets on their backs,‚Äù Worley said. ‚ÄúYou have to be aware of your surroundings. With the social media today, the things that we were doing back then, there‚Äôs no way. We couldn‚Äôt handle it, we‚Äôd be in trouble every week.‚Äù
He said he‚Äôs been clean and sober since April 13, 2008 when a police officer used a Taser on a combative Worley, who was arrested on a drunk driving charge in Smyrna.
‚ÄúRecovery talk: when you get sick and tired of being sick and tired,‚Äù Worley said. ‚ÄúI got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I got tired of me. I just cried out to the Lord and I turned my life around.‚Äù
Worley called that a defining moment in his life.
He‚Äôs now been married to former Alabama gymnast Dee Foster for four years. They first met when she competed at a meet in Athens when he was in college and connected again years later.
They live in Huntsville, Ala., where he‚Äôs a chaplain at a homeless shelter, the Downtown Rescue Mission.
‚ÄúWho would think Tim Worley would be a chaplain?‚Äù he said.
‚ÄúThe team comedian,‚Äù longtime Georgia sports information director Claude Felton responded.
Now he‚Äôs trying to dispense wisdom from life lessons learned.
‚ÄúEverybody knows how good of a back he was,‚Äù cornerback Damian Swann. ‚ÄúEverybody knows he played here. When you have guys like that coming through here, you like to listen, you like to take in what they‚Äôre saying.‚Äù