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Unexcused absences and his declining performance, related to what Hargrove now readily admits was drug and alcohol abuse, got him traded to Buffalo in 2007. He was arrested and briefly suspended after a fight outside a night club during the 2007 preseason, then suspended again in 2008 for a full season.
Shortly after last year's Super Bowl, Hargrove left the clinic where he spent 10 months and was reinstated by the NFL.
Johnson, a former Atlanta Falcons assistant who remembered Hargrove at Georgia Tech, pushed for the Saints to give him another shot.
When Hargrove arrived in New Orleans, Johnson accompanied him to meetings for recovering addicts. As far as Johnson was concerned, Hargrove was already a success story, considering his trying childhood in a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y.
By the time Hargrove was 9, his father had died in a fire and his mother had died of AIDS. He was homeless at times and in foster care at others before being adopted by an aunt and spending his teenage years in Florida. He excelled in football at Port Charlotte High School and went on to Georgia Tech, where he performed well enough to get the attention of pro scouts before flunking out.
When Johnson and Hargrove first attended a meeting together, other participants "just thought he was a big old guy from out of prison," Johnson recalled.
"We're to the point now where he can do good things for other people," he said. "There's hope. It's a good story, man."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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