CHICAGO – Three weeks ago, Laremy Tunsil was the likely No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.
On Thursday, he suffered one of the biggest and most bizarre falls down the draft board in recent history, after a video of him wearing a gas mask and smoking a bong was posted on his verified Twitter account just before the start of the draft.
And then even after he was selected there was more controversy when he said a coach at Mississippi had given him money.
The video – and the entire Twitter account – were quickly deleted, but the damage was done.
Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley was the first offensive tackle drafted, to the Baltimore Ravens at No. 6. And then Jack Conklin, a tackle from Michigan State, went at No. 8 to the Tennessee Titans, the team that was so often linked to Tunsil in February and March while they still owned the draft’s top pick.
Tunsil’s slide ended at 9:43 p.m. ET, when the Miami Dolphins selected him at No. 13.
Tunsil bear hugged mother, exhaled deeply, and made the long walk from the green room at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University to greet NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He smiled as he held up his new teal Dolphins jersey, but it hardly could have been the happy draft moment he envisioned.
“It was a huge mistake,” Tunsil told reporters nearly an hour later. “Things happen. I can’t control (people) getting in my phone and hacking my Instagram and my Twitter.”
Tunsil was also asked twice if he took money from a coach while at Ole Miss. At first, he denied it, but then said “I have to say yeah.” He was then ushered off the interview podium and behind a closed door.
It was all part of what will be remembered as one of the most unusual draft night experiences for any first-round pick.
First there was the video, and later, shortly after Miami made its pick, a pair of screen shots of text messages were posted on his Instagram account that appear to show him asking a coach for money. All of that came less than two days after Tunsil’s stepfather, Lindsey Miller, filed a civil lawsuit late Tuesday against Tunsil, claiming the former Ole Miss player attacked Miller last summer.
According to the Clarion-Ledger, the lawsuit alleges that Tunsil defamed Miller’s character and caused the “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”
“The timing of the lawsuit is transparent while simultaneously counterintuitive. The photo is obviously meant to hurt his draft status and seems to have had the desired effect,” Tunsil’s attorney, Steven Farese, told USA TODAY Sports via email. “I am saddened by the viciousness of both acts and disappointed that jealousy and greed are so prevalent in today’s society.”
Though buzz intensified in the 24 hours before the draft that the San Diego Chargers preferred Stanley to Tunsil, this sort of draft freefall showed that more teams must have been concerned about Tunsil’s off-field issues.
The Dolphins were not one of them.
Miami general manager Chris Grier told reporters in South Florida that Tunsil was the No. 2-ranked player on the team’s draft board. Team officials began making phone calls Thursday night after the video surfaced to make sure their own internal scouting reports about Tunsil were correct, and they were confident in what they found. Grier said the team believes the video is two years old, and that team owner Stephen Ross was on board with the Dolphins selecting Tunsil.
“We know the story behind it,” Grier said, declining to reveal any additional details.