(With Cowboys: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(With Cowboys: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Breaking Real Bad: Inside the Sam Hurd Drug Case

On Nov. 13, former Cowboys and Bears receiver Sam Hurd faced possible life in prison for drug trafficking. Was he the cocaine kingpin the government made him out to be, or the victim of an overzealous prosecution and excessively harsh narcotics laws? An exclusive 22-month investigation reveals how it all went wrong for one of the NFL’s most promising and well-liked young talents—and why there was more to Hurd’s downfall than we were led to believe

By Michael McKnight

Update—Nov. 13, 8:00 p.m. ET: Taking into account Hurd’s status as a first-time offender, U.S. District Court judge Jorge A. Solis sentenced Sam Hurd to 15 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release. Under federal guidelines Hurd will have to serve 85 percent of that sentence before being eligible for parole. Hurd’s mother said he would appeal the sentence.

Update—Nov. 13, noon ET: With Sam Hurd’s sentencing set for Wednesday, Michael McKnight has a few updates on where the case stands, including details of the loss of a witness and reactions to Tuesday’s story.

PART I

At 7:35 p.m. on Dec. 14, 2011, Sam Hurd’s black Escalade arrived in a light rain outside a Morton’s restaurant in Chicago and backed into a street space near the entrance. The Bears’ receiver, then 26, had driven to the steak house following practice to meet with two Mexicans who moved cocaine for one of their country’s most violent cartels, the Zetas—a murderous army known for beheading its enemies and dumping their bodies on public streets.

It had been a tense workday for the Bears, who had just lost three games in a row after starting the season 7-3, and after practice Hurd had called one of the Mexicans, Manuel, and asked if he and his cousin would come to Hurd’s suburban Lake Forest home instead of dining out. But Manuel (not his real name) had gently insisted on the restaurant, suggesting the Morton’s near O’Hare because the traffickers were headed that way to pick up cash from an incoming courier.

With his gangly strut, Hurd followed a hostess through the bustling Morton’s dining room and was seated at table 54. When the two Mexicans arrived a few minutes later, it became clear that Manuel’s cousin—a stone-faced man wearing a black leather jacket and holding an expensive cowboy hat in one hand and a white gift bag emblazoned with HAPPY BIRTHDAY in the other—was in charge. The diminutive Manuel, who had only spoken with Hurd on the phone, shook the player’s mammoth right hand as the cousin introduced himself in a soft voice: “Juan.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Juan,” Hurd said.

Sam Hurd signed with the Bears in 2011 after five seasons with the Cowboys. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/ Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
Sam Hurd signed with the Bears in 2011 after five seasons with the Cowboys. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)

They sat. Within two minutes Juan (also a pseudonym) got to the point: “My cousin was telling me that you’re interested in getting some stuff up here. … Now, where did you wanna pick it up?”

“Where?” Hurd asked in his deep baritone.

“Did you want it all the way here, or in Dallas?” Juan said. “If we get it in Dallas it’s cheaper.” Then Juan named his price: “Veintidós.” Twenty-two thousand dollars per kilo. “How many we looking at?” How many kilos do you want?

“Right now?” Hurd asked. “I can do five, but I can do as many as—by next week, 10 in a week, all the time. Or more. … Thing is, I’ve never had nobody to provide it.”

“O.K.,” Juan said. “And see, what I’m getting right now is really good stuff. I mean this is like, uncut, 98 percent pure cocaine coming in from Colombia, and it’s just some good s–t. … So, um, if you say you want it here, I can do it for 26.” Twenty-six thousand per kilo.

Hurd haggled a little, knowing the price went down the more kilos he ordered. “I’ll be at 50 [kilos] a week soon, because they go like that,” he said. “I just don’t have—I just never had nobody that could give me more than four a week.”

“Quantity is not a problem,” Juan said over the din of the room. “I mean, I can get you—”

Hurd cut him off. “Quantity was always a problem for me,” he said, sounding every bit the drug lord U.S. news consumers would soon imagine him to be. Translation: Sam Hurd could import, mark up and sell as many kilos of cocaine as he got his hands on—he just couldn’t get enough of it. 

As with most things in Hurd’s life, however, things were not what they seemed to be behind Morton’s rain-beaded windows that night. The three men seated at the table next to him—the guys who looked like lawyers on an expense-account splurge—were undercover federal agents. And the 77-minute conversation that Hurd had just begun with Juan and Manuel was being recorded.

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257 comments
SukieSu
SukieSu

This is Tragic. Trouble shows up at everybody's door....and has no preference in choosing its victims. No one should talk big...or judge this situation.... Many similar occurrences have happened...drug related or nah....and its ultimately a matter of ur how u make your choices in the moment of temptation (money, drugs, sex, fame) that often may include destroying your entire life /career family love ones etc. Its critical; now more than ever in time to make decisions wise; always think of the outcome no matter how slick, smart, wise you think you are...negative actions that people get away with daily....make you feel untouchable and bcus u havent got caught up....all i can say is definitley be aware of the company you keep....and who's really your friends and loved ones. America is Insane. Our judicial system is so corrupted and backwards....anything is possible.... Even if its a mistake or u didn't mean to do it...Life is priceless. Be cautios and Think ahead.

foremanmills
foremanmills

He had a promising football career, why mess around? If he had not been involved in dealing drugs , we would not be having this conversation. Hurd was not stupid, he rolled the dice and hit snake-eyes. Too late to play victim. I don't care if it's a just or unjust system, don't play the game.Sometimes misguided ambition can backfire, as in this case. As the cliché goes, if you can't do the time , DON'T DO THE CRIME. You can't cry now. It's unfortunate , but a lot of guys would love to play in the NFL, with all the perks. He blew his shot.What a tragedy, and hopefully someone will use this knowledge and not participate.Sure you can say weed should be legalized, it's unfair, which is true, I agree , but it's not (federally) and it is unfair , but those are the cards that were dealt, and he knew what cards he held.

JeffPerdiue
JeffPerdiue

I didn't hear the word "cocaine" or drugs at all.....they could have been talking about Mangos or Panchos or something....

dougmc1
dougmc1

This is awful. Weed isn't bad. End the Drug War.

Ken1
Ken1

Sam Hurd is neither the first nor the last person to be snookered by the government in their effort to keep their drug-war machine well-oiled and well-financed. I am not saying Sam Hurd is innocent of all charges. Even he doesn't say that. I AM saying the government has made it clear by their efforts that they had no interest in the truth or justice or even of stopping the flow of drugs into this country. Their interest was in trying to get the guy with the biggest "name" sentenced to the longest term, facts be damned.

tb100786
tb100786

The fact of the matter is that the only real evidence they had was the kilo of coke and the 90k. To be convicted off a bunch of hearsay evidence is absurd, and makes me sick. 90 thousand is not enough to become a drug lord. One kilo of coke and an unexplained 90k to a first time offender would not be a 15 year sentence. But the prosecution doesnt care about the truth, all they care about is convictions.The war on drugs gives huge incentives to  people like Tyrone to lie and make up complete crap in order avoid a huge sentence. , tyrone is also a convicted felon who is facing 30 years to life in jail. By making up the stories about having Sam hurd's financial baking, the prosecution was able to paint the picture that Sam was a drug lord and tyrone was able to avoid life in jail.. and the legal system is downright pathetic. Think about it, Tyrone got got caught with 200lbs of weed and 5 kilos of coke and hurd gets caught with one kilo and 90k. Tyrone got 8 years even after multiple felonies and Hurd a first time offender gets 15 . When people say what the prosecution wants it make it a whole lot easier  to put more people in jail, and Hurd is a victim of this.  I am not saying hurd is innocent but he should of only got 1-2 years for the kilo of coke, instead the injustices of the legal system gave him 15.

Stephen45
Stephen45

That Toby guy was real dopey. By inference, Sam is also for trusting him.

Anyway, artificial restrictions on the supply of any good leads to higher prices, black markets and cartels. The war on drugs should be fought with free market economics.

Onemoretime
Onemoretime

It seems intuitive that the initial stop initiated by ICE was probably preceded by questionable wire taps as Snowden's  revelations have shown was done an unknown number of times.  Time frame fits and so on.  Just another interesting dimension to the story.  Probably won't help Hurd a whole lot.

EricFuhrer
EricFuhrer

Who the hell withdraws 90K cash to buy a house?  Nobody does, nobody except a drug dealer who isn't intending that cash to go towards a house.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

This case is ridiculous.  Sounds to me like these federal agents went well out of there way to entrap Hurd.  The first contact he had with the cocaine dealer (informant) was a call he RECEIVED from the informant.  The war on drugs is a gross waste of time, money, and human life.  The federal employees involved in this case ought to be ashamed of themselves and need to reevaluate what they're doing with their lives.  What a pathetic existence.  Hopefully Hurd appeals his sentence and is given even more "leniency" than has already been granted. 

As someone who already viewed the "justice" system as a joke, this only provides affirmation. 

helenhelena206
helenhelena206

Sam Hurd britone is not complicated so we thinking about the main point of the focused in feature. sign.............

JVee
JVee

Roger Goddell has to be livid about this. His "protect the shield" baloney is being exposed for what his league truly has become - gladiators who are trading longevity for instant gratification. Money, drugs, and women - in any order - is what the current NFL is about. Anyone who believes differently has drank the kool-aid. The most recent CTE revelations, and NFL denials of CTE for decades, was bad enough. The PBS Frontline documentary on CTE was terrifying. I will never again watch a football game at any level without considering what the players are doing to themselves. The fact is that none of us care about football players on any level. We will cheer them on the field, buy their jerseys, and lust after their autographs, but no one gives a damn about them in the end, including the NFL.


Hurd is just one more tragic NFL tale. Numerous mistakes, countless poor decisions, and typical disregard for the law has landed him where so many NFL players have landed and will land. Nobody cares though. As long as there are games on Sunday and a Super Bowl in February, we will just eat it up and raise our sons to take the field. Not mine.

Yomi
Yomi

This man is looked upon by some in the African American community, a community that experiences negative impact of drugs more than any other community in the country. He is making decent money playing football, greed and lack of concern for others led him to his action.He should be put away for nothing less than 50 years

ErikT
ErikT

Amazing article. Written very well.

LouveJonzing
LouveJonzing

Sam Hurd didnt get life. He received 15 years plus an additional 5yrs of supervision once he is released. Under Federal Law, you have to do 85% of your time so for same that is  12yrs & 9mos. So he'll be out somewhere 2026

MikeE2
MikeE2

It seems his whole reasoning for distributing was to get back the 88k ICE took, so my question is why didn't the authorities give him his money back.

andrewdavid
andrewdavid

Enjoyed reading this article.. Well done 

Schultz
Schultz

This is why i'm glad I DON'T live in TEXAS but Northern California, it's like a Mini Country an ya'll don't want to be a Black Man & Mess with Texas or your screwed. I mean if they put to DEATH a Afro American who was convicted of Murder but had the IQ of a "Special Needs" person they'll do anything. BUT

Sam Hurd does belong in Jail but not for LIFE, a Decade Plus would be adequate cause he did break the law an let the BS FED's Rope him into something but is he a DANGER TO SOCIETY If let out after 10 Year's??? I really don't think so, just another Black Man who made poor choices but is NOT A GD "KINGPIN" that's the stupidest Moniker you could use.

UncleJemima
UncleJemima

The VIA/Oliver North gave tacit approval of tons of cocaine shipped into the U.S.  Ricky Ross was the only one to do time (15 years).  Griswold Blanco received 20 years and she had nearly 250 people murdered at her behest.  Sam Hurd, no murders, dealing some weed to break even, and possession of one kilo of cocaine that was given to him by an informant, yet he may be looking at life in prison.  Great country the U.S. is becoming.  If someone with Hurd' s resources is getting steamrolled by the justice system, then most of us do not have a chance.   I fully understand that he engaged in illegal activities, but none of his crimes nor his past warrant anything close to a life sentence.

Robert35
Robert35

We can put this guy away for life yet our own government killed JFK and got away with it.

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

Can someone please explain how we (American society) benefit from cocaine being illegal?  

How does this war against it serve us, the people?

What evidence is there that anyone that wants some can not go out and get some right now, today?  

The legalization of alcohol (proven to be far more dangerous to society) has taken the making, distributing and selling of it out of the hands of gun toting criminals and into the hands of regulated businesses.  The legalization has allowed society to learn of the dangers of it's use and to regulate the dangers out of it's use more effectively. How can this not be done with other drugs people disapprove of?

When you support the government in over stepping it's authority in taking away other's freedoms and liberties, you are actively creating a government that one day will take away your freedoms and liberties.

 Be careful what you ask the government to stop others from doing because of your own personal disapproval.  

It is a frightening notion to consider that so many people have failed to come around on the notion that it is a basic principle of freedom and liberty to be able to grow a plant on your property and ingest it if you wish and it is no one else's dam business. 

Paul Revere
Paul Revere

I hope people read this tragedy and realize that weed is not harmless.

Weed affects decision making and that is something that all pro-weed advocates and users fail to recognize.  If Hurd hadn't been abusing weed his mind would not have been hijacked and he would still be a star.  Hurd's problem is the meeting at Morton's.  If he hadn't started talking like Tony Montana he would not be so jammed up. 

Still I have a lot of sympathy for the guy and how can conspiracy to commit drug dealing translate into life without parole?  That is wrong. I hope they sentence him reasonably, deduct time served and give him a life-time probation and one last chance.


Ken1
Ken1

I agree with you regarding the talkative dopiness of both Hurd and Toby. That alone should tell all involved including prosecutors that these were two very small fish, not innocent fish but small ones. If the government had any interest in stopping the flow of drugs into this country and onto our streets, they would not be wasting so many resources on the Sam Hurds of the world, rather they would be tracking down the kingpins. The problem, from the perspective of those "fighting the war on drugs" is that putting the real kingpins in jail might actually work and then they'd be out of a job. By focusing on Sam Hurd and people like him, they can maintain the perception that they are making progress while actually accomplishing nothing. That keeps both the flow of drugs AND the flow of government funding coming. That, in turn, keeps the government agents and prosecutors employed in cushy jobs where they only need catch the occasional bungling, wannabe

MikeJones1
MikeJones1

@EricFuhrer Floyd Mayweather keeps a million dollars cash in his drawer is he a drug kingpin too? If you are spending thousands of dollars cash a day why wouldn't you keep $100 k sitting around so you aren't constantly running to the bank. Him having $100 grand lying around is like the average person having $400 bucks in his wallet.

Ken1
Ken1

Yes, in your nice comfortable suburb, that is probably correct. When you are raised poor in a poor area, cash is the only way you can buy anything, whether a car or a home or, yes, drugs.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@EricFuhrer That's not really the point though is it?  He was sentenced to 15 years despite the fact that the only drugs he was caught in possession of were given to him by a federal employee after a federal informant initiated contact with Hurd, not visa versa.  Call me crazy but there's something seriously wrong with that.

MikeJones1
MikeJones1

@Ilovemesomeme We have allowed these cops to have absolute power and absolute power as we all know corrupts absolutely. They frame a big name like this and they get a raise and their department gets an even bigger budget next year. It's happening in every form of law enforcement in our country and the cases just get more and more ridiculous every year. Until we put a stop to this it's just going to get worse and worse. 

Josh222
Josh222

@JVee Nobody makes them make these decisions.  We are fans of the game.  Not fans of the lifestyle.  You don't see Brady, Manning, Brees, etc. involved in garbage like this.  It's all about choices.

Paulo_S
Paulo_S

@JVee Reading comprehension isn't your forte... 

Josh222
Josh222

@MikeE2 Or more importantly, where did the money go???

JVee
JVee

@Schultz Committing his crimes in the state of Texas has nothing to do with it. It is sad to see such misinformed opinions and myths about Texas still so prevalent in the black community. As a black man, I have lived in Texas for the past decade and have not had one problem with with racism. The most problems I had with that were when I lived in NY, go figure.

Hurd would not be in prison if he had not broken the law in Texas, Illinois, and California. He decided his own fate.

o0john0o
o0john0o

@Schultz Are you ignorant or just a race baiter?  This is a FEDERAL war on drugs and he was investigated, arrested, and is being prosecuted by FEDERAL agents.  It has nothing to do with Texas, California, or race.  All of these WARS on Americans that the feds are engaging in are just more ways for them to garner funding (tax dollars).  They buy up millions of rounds of ammunition, have rules of engagement that are less stringent than military members in the GWOT, and they have armored vehicles with machine guns to hunt down Americans possessing processed plants.  It's wrong and this War On Drugs has done NOTHING to better our society.  While I am not a drug user and I understand there is a lot of bad things that surround drug users, this WAR on America has become another tool for their mission of people control. 

But please, keep your partisan, race baiting fallacies to yourself.

o0john0o
o0john0o

@Robert35 I don't know about your conspiracy theory, but it is a FACT that our own government provided guns to the very cartels their informants in this case pretended to be affiliated with.  We have become a ruled people.  We are no longer free.

Willmac7496
Willmac7496

@randomdeletion Cocaine is a powerful and dangerous drug.  Notice that there is a battle for marijuana's legalization (whether you agree with it or not)  but nothing for cocaine as it is much more harmful and has much more serious effects  

PaulRosenberg
PaulRosenberg

@Paul Revere Big jump in logic that the weed hijacked Hurd's mind.  And if so, based on the 50% of NFL players doing weed, why aren't more of their minds hijacked?

Ryan59
Ryan59

@Paul Revere You're completely missing the point of weed advocates.  Nobody's advocating that it's harmless. Of course there are negative side effects to abuse, any drug is bad if abused.  Fast food is bad if abused. Why is that so hard for people to understand? The fact is that moderate consumption of it is far less harmful than say alcohol.... Yet you can be put in prison for minimal amounts of weed.  It's ridiculous, and it's disappointing that may people share your perspective. 

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

@Paul Revere Wow.  You are suggesting you know what pro-weed advocates and users fail to understand about the effects of weed?  Let me guess.  You have never smoked and never will smoke weed, but you know more about it's effects than anyone that has ever tried it?  Right?  It is monumentally unbelievable people like you take the stance you do and take yourselves seriously.  It is more harmful to our society as a whole when people take a position they have been told to take, rather than from personal experience and first hand knowledge.  

In my experience you are correct that weed does effect decision making, when you are the least bit hungry do not smoke any and then go to the grocery story, you will come home with a crap load of junk food that you shouldn't be gorging on. That is about the extent of the effect on decision making I have seen.  Never seen anyone smoke any and say "you know what I want to be a Kingpin drug dealer".  But go ahead, keep kidding yourself so that you can feel better about who you are and how much better you are than other people.  

rusty60101
rusty60101

@Paul Revere Haha. You think weed affects your mind to the extent that you would involve yourself in drug traffiking that could put you away for life? If anything, it would make you more paranoid about such activity. Easily the funniest thing I've seen all day.  

Ken1
Ken1

Like Sam Hurd to maintain their paychecks without actually working hard or taking any real risks.

rsrobinson
rsrobinson

@Ilovemesomeme @EricFuhrer   The feds didn't just contact him out of the blue.  By his own admission, Hurd gave his pal $88k that he knew was probably going to be used to buy and distribute drugs which is what got him involved with the feds in the first place.

 Anyway his story is outlandish.  He just happened to have $90k lying around that he was going to use to buy a house and then just spontaneously lent it to his mechanic for a purpose not disclosed to him?  And then later played the part of a drug kingpin just to help him out again?   Rubbish.  Hurd was knee deep in it all along.

DeAntonyCollins
DeAntonyCollins

@Josh222 @JVee The truly sad thing is that you have indirectly/covertly made this a different issue by only naming white players that don't get "involved in garbage like this". First I agree that it's ridiculous to waste a once in a lifetime career, but there are plenty of white players throughout NFL history to be convicted of crimes - harsh crimes that carry big sentences. Since you named 3, I'll respond in kind. Billy Cannon - Convicted of Counterfeiting. Eric Naposki - Murder. Art Schlicter - Fraud/theft. 

This list could continue.. The nature of the crime may be different but I think we can agree that sometimes "power" creates a culture of criminality. Next time try and be a bit more diverse when naming players.. There are plently of them. And you are right- It's all about choices!

tb100786
tb100786

@rsrobinson @Ilovemesomeme @EricFuhrer The fact of the matter is that the only real evidence they had was the kilo of coke and the 90k. To be convicted off a bunch of hearsay evidence is absurd, and makes me sick. 90 thousand is not enough to become a drug lord. One kilo of coke and an unexplained 90k to a first time offender would not be a 15 year sentence. But the prosecution doesnt care about the truth, all they care about is convictions.The war on drugs gives huge incentives to  people like Tyrone to lie and make up complete crap in order avoid a huge sentence. , tyrone is also a convicted felon who is facing 30 years to life in jail. By making up the stories about having Sam hurd's financial baking, the prosecution was able to paint the picture that Sam was a drug lord and tyrone was able to avoid life in jail.. and the legal system is downright pathetic. Think about it, Tyrone got got caught with 200lbs of weed and 5 kilos of coke and hurd gets caught with one kilo and 90k. Tyrone got 8 years even after multiple felonies and Hurd a first time offender gets 15 . When people say what the prosecution wants it make it a whole lot easier  to put more people in jail, and Hurd is a victim of this.  I am not saying hurd is innocent but he should of only got 1-2 years for the kilo of coke, instead the injustices of the legal system gave him 15.

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