By Paul Hewson
Back in June, three members of the Miami Dolphins – defensive tackle AJ Francis, offensive tackle Jason Fox and tight end Jordan Cameron – were booked to play in a poker tournament at the Seminole Casino in Coconut Creek, but the NFL stepped in and told the players they weren't allowed to participate, citing rules against promoting casino events. It shouldn't have been a surprise; back in 2011, 30 players were barred from entering a charity event in Vegas hosted by Phil Hellmuth.
It's a shame that the NFL has held onto these rules, even while promoting daily fantasy sports. Poker is a big hit among athletes across all sports, and football is a big hit with poker players. Sometimes, the two mix in very interesting ways. Here are three football/poker stories that should encourage the NFL to allow its players more access to the tables.
Richard Seymour's WSOP Run
The seven-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle retired after the 2012 campaign, so there was no stopping Seymour from entering the 2014 World Series of Poker. Unfortunately, Seymour busted out on Day Two after getting in good with top set on the flop, only to have his opponent suck out a full house on the river. At one point, Seymour had the reigning WSOP Main Event champion Ryan Riess at his table, as well as noted poker pro Jason Koon. Seymour credits poker for having built team camaraderie when we was with the Oakland Raiders at the tail end of his career.
Pat McAfee's One Time
Poker wasn't just a team-building exercise for McAfee – it was his ticket into the NFL. The Pro Bowl punter for the Indianapolis Colts had a big decision coming out of high school; he originally committed to Kent State, but wanted to play for a bigger program. According to the Indianapolis Star, McAfee borrowed $100 from a friend, went to a local underground poker club, and won the $1400 he needed to fly from Pittsburgh to Miami and attend a kicking competition. McAfee impressed the scouts and earned a scholarship offer from West Virginia.
Joey Harrington's Bloodlines
Things didn't quite work out in the NFL the way Harrington would have liked, but he did put in six seasons as a starting quarterback after getting drafted third overall by the Detroit Lions in 2002. This was after a stellar three-year run in college with the Oregon Ducks, which happened to be the same team his father John played for in the late '60s.
The pedigree goes even deeper: Joey's grandfather, Bernie Harrington, was an All-American quarterback at the University of Portland, and Joey's brother Michael played quarterback at Idaho. You may also have heard of two of Joey's distant cousins: Padraig Harrington, the two-time British Open winner in golf, and Dan Harrington, the two-time winner at the World Series of Poker. Imagine how tough their home games must have been.