Dimitrius Underwood

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Dimitrius Underwood
No. 91
Position: Defensive end
Personal information
Date of birth: (1977-03-29) March 29, 1977 (age 38)
Place of birth: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Career information
High school: E.E. Smith (NC)
College: Michigan State
NFL draft: 1999 / Round: 1 / Pick: 29
Career history
*Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career NFL statistics
Games played: 19
Tackles: 21
Sacks: 4
Stats at NFL.com

Dimitrius Paul Underwood (born March 29, 1977) is a former professional American football defensive end in the National Football League for the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, and Dallas Cowboys. He played college football at Michigan State University.

Early years[edit]

Underwood attended E.E. Smith High School. He played college football at Michigan State University under head coach Nick Saban. As a junior starter he registered 57 tackles (12 for loss) and 8 sacks. He missed his senior season because of an ankle injury, although it has been speculated that it was not the real reason.[1]

Professional career[edit]

Underwood was selected in the first round (29th overall) of the 1999 NFL Draft after his stock rose with his pre-draft workouts. He signed a five-year, $5.3 million contract on August 1, 1999, and walked out of training camp the next day after the first practice and never returned. He forfeited a $1.75 million bonus saying he could not resolve the conflict between playing football and serving his Christian faith. Although he eventually returned, he was released later that month.[2]

He was claimed on waivers by the Miami Dolphins as 23 teams passed on him. He was signed for $395,000 dollars, played in only one preseason game before injuring his shoulder and also showed a lack of focus towards football. Multiple times during team meetings, Underwood was found not taking notes, but instead writing about the apocalypse. He only played one preseason game for the Dolphins before getting injured.[3]

In September 1999, Underwood was arrested by police for failure to pay child support. Within 24 hours, he attempted to commit suicide by slashing his own neck with a cutlass before repeatedly yelling "I'm not worthy of God".[4] According to his mother, an ordained minister, his behavior had been influenced by attending the Immanuel's Temple Community Church in Lansing, Michigan, which she describes as a "cult that's posing as a church." The church's pastor stated that neither he nor his wife had ever counseled Underwood and that no one in the church told Underwood to leave football.

His mother later retreated from her comments and issued her own statement: "We should both be on the same accord, rather than creating conflict caused by misrepresentation."[5]

Underwood later spent two months in protective care and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After he escaped from a psychiatric care facility, he was released from the Dolphins on December 17, 1999.[6] On March 10, 2000, he signed a two-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, who took a chance on him because of the earlier success the team had with Alonzo Spellman who also suffered from bipolar disorder.[7] During the 2000–2001 seasons, he was moved from defensive end to defensive tackle and had 21 tackles and four sacks in 19 games as a reserve player. In January 2001, he tried to kill himself for the second time by running into traffic twice on a busy suburban highway. The Cowboys released him later that month after he missed practices.

He served stints in the Dallas County Jail for aggravated robbery, assault on public servant, and evading arrest starting in 2002. Underwood spent his time locked down in a closed custody cell.[8]

After four years out of football, he resurfaced in the CFL with the Ottawa Renegades on May 24, 2005. However, he was cut during the preseason on June 13.

In 2007, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports listed Underwood as one of the worst first-round picks since the AFL-NFL merger. According to the article, Underwood missed most of his senior year, and his coaches at Michigan State warned NFL scouts that he was not mentally stable enough to play in the NFL. In Robinson's view, by ignoring these warnings the Vikings made "arguably the dumbest pick ever made in the first round." In a September 28, 2010 article Yahoo Sports noted Underwood's mental health issues as a case in point in regard to the NFL falling short in helping players who suffer from various mental illnesses that are in no small part connected to the pressures of the job of an NFL athlete. The 2010 article also pointed out that "Underwood was tormented by visions of the apocalypse. He used to write notes discussing the end of the world on pieces of paper the size of postage stamps. When he was in a normal state, he could be engaging in conversation. He was funny and intelligent. He also exuded physical confidence and had extraordinary talent."

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