Johnny Jolly says his body feels differently now that he’s been sober for eight months.
Now, he’s hopeful he can prove to the NFL that he’s a changed man and worthy of a second chance. Jolly told the NFP he has applied for reinstatement from an indefinite suspension after sending a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell last week.
“I know that the NFL doesn’t need me,” said the Green Bay Packers defensive lineman. “I need it way more than it needs me. I really want to be a part of it and I am hoping to go back and show that I am a good reliable citizen that the league and others can depend on and trust.”
Jolly, 29, last played for the Packers in 2009 before a series of arrests for illegal possession of codeine — a drug Jolly was addicted to – led him down a path that eventually ended in a six-month stint in jail.
When so many of his friends were on the field in Super Bowl XLV, Jolly admits he was wasted watching the game.
“That was most heavy feeling to watch those guys, that was bad,” he said. “I sat there, it was like, ‘Man, I don’t understand. There is no way I shouldn’t be out there helping those guys go to war.’ They came out with the victory and I was so happy for them.”
Jolly, a sixth-round draft pick from Texas A&M in 2006, was a regular user of what’s known as “purple drank” on the street, a concoction that originated in his hometown of Houston. Last month, Jolly was released early in his six-year sentence after applying for “shock probation,” a policy that allows first-time inmates to be released early after experiencing the shock of living behind bars. Jolly is on probation for 10 years.
Jolly said he is taking “regular drug tests” has been attending “extensive meetings” as he works to stay clean and keep his life in order.
“It was very hard and painful being in jail,” Jolly said. “Being away from your family, it hurt me bad. Everyone looks up to you is like … it hurts them too. It’s so hard to adjust. But when I was in there I learned that I had to find out who my real friends was, to sit down and go over myself and examine myself and see who I really was.”
Jolly said inmates were allowed to work out twice a day and three times after daylight savings began. He took advantage of those opportunities and has been working out twice a day since being released.
“I’m in pretty good shape,” Jolly said. “I would like to lose about 10 pounds. I’m probably at 332 right now, about seven pounds over my playing weight. I feel good. I am strong. My wind is up. I’m healthy and my body feels great.”
Ultimately, he’s going to have to prove to the NFL and then to a team that might be willing to give him a shot that his mind and body are right. Jolly longs to return to Green Bay. Does he believe the Packers would like him back?
“I think they would,” he said. “I am dedicated to really make a change in my life and come back and be a positive role model. I think I have a great shot at going back to those guys. They’re a great organization. The coaches are very good, the players are good. I know they have supported me 100 percent.
“I want to say that would be a dream come true, but I made it in the NFL before. So, I would say it would be like another dream. It would be a journey and going back to do the things I love and showing everybody you can make mistakes but it’s the way you correct the things you’ve done wrong. I want to make the Packers look good if they want to take me back or not.
“I’m at eight months (sober) right now. I feel real good. I haven’t had any substances in my body and I can feel the difference. My body feels straight. I’m focused on staying this way and getting my life back on track.”
Jolly believes if given an opportunity he can be a role model for youth while also helping peers who may be tempted by poor choices.
“I just want to show everyone that I am a reliable person and I am trustworthy and responsible,” he said. “I am willing to talk to kids and tell them about the things that I’ve went through, not only the kids but there might be other guys that might have a problem and I’d be able to talk to those guys as well.
“I am pretty sure a lot of guys have been through a lot of things, but I feel like I’ve got some experience with it, what I’ve been through. I can let these guys know ahead of time before they go down a road of destruction, to keep them on the right path.
“I just hope I can get a chance.”
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune