Tony Mandarich

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Tony Mandarich
No. 77, 79
Personal information
Born: (1966-09-23) September 23, 1966 (age 57)
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Height:6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Weight:330 lb (150 kg)
Career information
High school:Theodore Roosevelt (Kent, Ohio)
College:Michigan State
NFL draft:1989 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2
CFL Draft:1988 / Round: 7 / Pick: 54
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:86
Games started:63
Fumble recoveries:2
Player stats at · PFR

Ante Josip "Tony" Mandarich (born September 23, 1966) is a Canadian former football player who was a tackle for seven seasons in the National Football League (NFL). He was selected second overall by the Green Bay Packers in the 1989 NFL Draft and also played for the Indianapolis Colts.

Referred to as "the best offensive line prospect ever",[1] Mandarich was highly touted during his college football career with the Michigan State Spartans, leading to his selection in the top five of his draft class, alongside future Pro Football Hall of Fame players Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders. Mandarich was unable to live up to expectations, however, and was released following four seasons with the team. After five years away from football, he returned with the Colts, where he spent his last three seasons. He is the only top five pick in his draft class not inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[2] Due to his surprising lack of success compared to his college career and to the players drafted around him, he is known as one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.[3][4][5]

Football career[edit]

Mandarich was born and raised in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, the son of Croatian[6] immigrants. After his older brother John received a scholarship to play football at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, John convinced his parents to allow Tony to play his senior year of high school football at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent to improve his chances of receiving a scholarship.[7] Recruited to Michigan State University by defensive back coach Nick Saban, Mandarich played in the 1988 Rose Bowl and was named a First-team All-American, an Outland Award finalist and a two-time Big Ten Lineman of the Year. Upon his entry into the 1989 NFL Draft, both scouts and media (most notably Sports Illustrated, which did a cover story on him, nicknaming him "The Incredible Bulk")[8] began trumpeting Mandarich as the best offensive line prospect ever, touting his "measurables." "He weighed 330, ran the 40 [yard dash] in 4.65 seconds, did a standing long jump of 10'3", leaped vertically 30" and bench-pressed 225 pounds an unheard-of 39 times". He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice and was also a colorful character, illustrated by such instances as challenging then–Heavyweight Boxing Champion Mike Tyson to a fight, missing scheduled public appearances due to being drunk or hungover, his well-documented love of the band Guns N' Roses (he had a dog named Axl and also a tattoo of the cross-design from the cover of Appetite for Destruction on his arm), and referring to Green Bay as "a village".[8]

Going into the 1989 draft, Mandarich was considered one of the best prospects for an offensive lineman ever and a top-five pick.[9] Mandarich was selected second overall by the Green Bay Packers.[10]

Drafted as an offensive tackle, Mandarich never lived up to the stellar expectations set for him. After a lengthy holdout, which was not settled until the week before the regular-season kickoff, he spent most of his first year on the special-teams unit. He was also known for having attitude issues. He was quoted as saying: "I am not like other players, I am Tony Mandarich, and they have to understand that. If they don't like it, that is just the way I am and they are going to learn to like it."[8] After three seasons of lackluster performance on a four-year contract, Mandarich was cut in 1992 by the Packers who cited a non-football injury.[8] Mandarich is often referred to as one of the top 5 bust NFL draft picks of all time, having been drafted ahead of future NFL stars such as Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, Deion Sanders, Steve Atwater, Eric Metcalf, and Andre Rison. The September 28, 1992, cover of Sports Illustrated featuring Mandarich labelled him "The NFL's Incredible Bust".[11]

The question of steroid use has been discussed as a possible factor in Mandarich's spectacular failure. Mandarich did not admit his steroid use until 2008. Until then, he publicly blamed his work ethic in a 2003 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article: "I wanted to create as much hype as I could for many different reasons—exposure, negotiation leverage, you name it. And it all worked, except the performance wasn't there when it was time to play football." The first Sports Illustrated cover story included allegations of steroid abuse in college, however, mentioning acne of his arms and premature balding.[12]

After getting cut by the Packers, he went to Traverse City, Michigan, for two years, addicted to drugs and alcohol.[8] His family checked him into a rehabilitation clinic on March 23, 1995, and he became sober.[8] Mandarich returned to football for three years between 1996 and 1998 with the Indianapolis Colts starting all 16 games during the 1997 season. He retired from football in 1998 due to a shoulder injury.

Post-football career[edit]

After his career was over, he moved back to Canada. He owned a golf course and remarried his wife Char in 2004.[8] From September 2004 until September 2005, Mandarich served as an NFL analyst for The Score TV sports network in Canada. He quit in October 2005 and moved to Arizona.[8]

He now runs a photography studio, having begun doing nature photography as a hobby in 1990.[8] Mandarich has expanded his business, named Mandarich Media Group, to include photography, video production, web design, search engine optimization, and Internet marketing.[8]

In September 2008, Mandarich admitted to using anabolic steroids during his college career at Michigan State, and that he faked a drug test before the 1988 Rose Bowl. Mandarich stated that he did not use steroids while in the NFL, but did reveal that he was addicted to alcohol and painkillers while playing for the Packers.[13]

Tony Mandarich's older brother John made his own reputation in professional football in the Canadian Football League. John Mandarich's early death from skin cancer is documented in Tony's memoir.

In the March 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated, Mandarich spoke about his use and addiction and about his book called My Dirty Little Secrets — Steroids, Alcohol & God.[8] In that book, Mandarich ascribed his underwhelming performance with the Green Bay Packers to his painkiller addiction, which sapped his drive and work ethic. His addiction was such that he kept syringes in his athletic supporter to have his narcotics supply close at hand. Mandarich went on to describe his traumatic and triumphant stint in rehabilitation, and his subsequent return to the NFL. "I didn't write the book for forgiveness," Mandarich said. "I wrote the book for explanation and for, hopefully, helping somebody see the light that there is hope for addiction or alcoholism and that you can change and save your life."[8]

In 2009, Mandarich was sued by his former girlfriend for posting explicit photographs of her online.[14]

In 2019, ESPN broadcast an hour long documentary on Mandarich as an episode of its sports newsmagazine series E:60.[15][16]


  1. ^ "Most Popular". CNN. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  2. ^ Jones, David (April 22, 2019). "How Tony Mandarich survived legendary 1989 NFL Draft class bust, shed steroids and painkillers to live again". Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  3. ^ Top 10 Draft Busts, retrieved January 19, 2024. Originally broadcast by NFL Films.
  4. ^ "Biggest draft bust ever for all 32 NFL teams". April 13, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2024.
  5. ^ "Ranking NFL's 10 biggest draft busts since 1990: Where Trey Lance ranks after being traded to Cowboys". August 26, 2023. Retrieved January 19, 2024.
  6. ^ Mandarich, Tony; Sharon Shaw Elrod (March 2009). My Dirty Little Secrets - Steroids, Alcohol & God: The Tony Mandarich Story, page 171. Modern History Press. ISBN 978-1-932690-78-1.
  7. ^ Pierson, Don (April 21, 1989). "Mandarich's Size And Skills Block Reality Off The Film". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Weber, Jim. "Tony Mandarich is enjoying life behind the camera". 22 April 2011. Yahoo!. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  9. ^ "The McGinn Files: How Tony Mandarich duped the scouting world and the Packers". Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  10. ^ "1989 NFL Draft Listing". Retrieved May 26, 2023.
  11. ^ John Biever/SI. "Tony Mandarich - OT, No. 2 overall, Green Bay Packers, 1989 - Top Draft Busts of the Modern Era - Photos -". Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  12. ^ "Most Popular". CNN. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  13. ^ "NFL bust Mandarich says he used steroids at Michigan State but he was one of the greatest linemen ever - NFL - ESPN". ESPN. September 30, 2008. Retrieved October 18, 2010.
  14. ^ Ray Stern/Phoenix New Times. "Tony Mandarich, Ex-Green Bay Packers Player, Sued by Ex-Girlfriend Over Explicit Online Postings". Phoenix Sun Times. Retrieved June 19, 2009.
  15. ^ "Former MSU star Tony Mandarich to be featured on ESPN's 'E:60' on Sunday morning". Lansing State Journal. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
  16. ^ "Steroids, rehab: Tony Mandarich documentary examines Green Bay Packers' draft bust". USA TODAY. Retrieved May 1, 2019.


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