The drama started with a video, and it got worse from there for Laremy Tunsil. It was one of the strangest and craziest first rounds of the NFL Draft thanks to the SEC star, but it all could be just getting started for Ole Miss. Here’s the timeline of one bizarre night and controversial career.
It’s been a wild ride for Laremy Tunsil, with the gas mask, Twitter-hacking posts just a piece of a big, crazy puzzle that’s been his entire college career. And now that the dust is starting to settle, he’s on to his new life as an NFL player.
But on a night that should’ve been a celebration for an Ole Miss program that had three players go in the first round, the tough times might just be getting started.
Robert Nkemdiche – taken by Arizona with the 30th pick – was the crown jewel of the epic 2013 Rebel recruiting class, but along with now-Minnesota Viking Laquon Treadwell, Tunsil was right there on the list of top players head coach Hugh Freeze brought in. Tunsil came into the SEC as a ready-made left tackle with special athleticism and the rare tools NFL scouts drool over.
He worked his way into a star before suffering a broken leg in the blowout loss to TCU in the 2014 Peach Bowl. It healed, but even though he was ready to roll for the 2015 season, he was suspended for seven games by the NCAA for a slew of improper benefits.
Back and better than ever in the middle part of last year, he was considered a near-lock to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Tennessee Titans, and then when they traded out of the spot and it became obvious that Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were going 1-2, he was at least going to be third, or at worst, go somewhere in the top five.
A few days before the draft, rumors started swirling about an off-the-field issue, and then it came out he was being sued for allegedly attacking his stepdad in a domestic violence incident. While Tunsil alleged that he was protecting his mother, it was still just enough of a black mark to start pushing him down draft boards.
And sure enough, Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa went No. 3 to San Diego just as this was starting to blow up the Internet.
All of a sudden, following the video of him appearing to smoke marijuana through a gas mask bong, Tunsil started sliding, Baltimore supposedly took him off its draft board, and TV types were starting to crush him for his supposedly poor judgement to be recorded doing this in the first place. The story being put out there was that his Twitter account got hacked, but it didn’t matter – the damage to Tunsil’s draft stock was being done.
Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley went sixth to Baltimore – which isn’t crazy, but Tunsil is the better prospect – and then San Francisco passed. And then Tennessee, who supposedly wanted Tunsil early on, had a chance to make the pick at the eight, and instead took Michigan State’s Jack Conklin – a good tackle prospect, but not Tunsil.
Chicago moved up to the nine and took linebacker Leonard Floyd, and then three more picks went before Miami pounced at the 13 to end the draft part of the drama.
Tunsil did a fantastic interview with Deion Sanders, claiming his Twitter account was hacked, but he didn’t blame anyone, answered every question almost perfectly, and then all appeared to calm down.
But the night was just kicking into high gear.
A bizarre, rambling press release supposedly came out from Tunsil’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, complaining “unmitigated open source hacking” was the real issue, and not the gas mask incident, but then it became unclear whether or not the release actually came from Sexton or if that was a fake – it was later being reported that it wasn’t real.
Piling on, Tunsil’s Instagram account became hacked with apparent conversations about allegedly getting helped by an Ole Miss assistant to pay the rent, among other things, turning into the real problem …
And then came the one thing out of all of this that really is a big deal.
When asked if this was all true and if he took money from a coach, Tunsil said, “I’d have to say, yeah,” before being hurried off.
The gas mask video doesn’t matter. The hacked accounts don’t really matter all that much, either.
There won’t be any legal repercussions from the videos, and nothing else revealed on draft night appears to be illegal, but this is all potentially a really, really, really big problem now for Ole Miss.
The program had to dodge allegations of recruiting improprieties from the moment Freeze brought in Tunsil along with that epic class, and he has always vehemently and defiantly denied any wrongdoing. Even so, the program is just coming out from under the NCAA microscope for the Tunsil issues from last year, among other things, but now, with the bomb dropped at the draft, everything could be starting back from scratch.
It’s not like it’s out of the norm for college athletes – and college students – to smoke marijuana. It’s not like superstar college athletes don’t get extra benefits from coaches all the time. It’s not like top NFL prospects don’t fall for a variety of reasons. But for Tunsil to get his accounts hacked into and for all this to come out in a storm that’ll have repercussions for months, possibly years, that’s an Ole Miss problem now.
Tunsil will live in Miami making millions of dollars getting to play professional football. In the end, as bad and as stressful as his draft night was, all should be fine if he’s able to simply line up and play.
For Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze, this could be just the beginning.