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Givens lawsuit proves an ugly point

Sep 24, 2009, 6:00 PM EDT

After talking with Shane Walton last night, I was reminded how quickly an NFL career can turn. Walton went from being a consensus All-American cornerback, one of the rarest breeds in college and professional football, to an NFL player whose career only lasted four games.

The news of former Irish wide receiver David Givens’ $25 million lawsuit against the Tennessee Titans shocked me. I’d been trying to get in touch with David for weeks about a potential “catching up” column, and had been unsuccessful. His agent, Brad Blank, steered me to an email address, but like many of his former teammates have told me, Givens was impossible to track down since his knee injury.

David Givens and Shane Walton seemingly have nothing in common. Givens hails from Humble Texas while Walton is from seaside San Diego. Givens walked onto campus at Notre Dame looking like he was chiseled from granite. Walton walked on to campus wearing soccer shorts and shin pads, his body admittedly nowhere close to being ready for the rigors of college football.

Both Givens and Walton were late round selections in the NFL draft, each for very different reasons. Givens’ body of work at Notre Dame was far from impressive. He struggled to find a position in the Irish offense, while failing to put up numbers that were befitting of fans’ expectations. Walton, as he himself mentioned, failed to fit into the prototype that NFL scouts and coaches want from a defensive back.

Back in March of 2006, Peter King wrote an excellent profile of David Givens’ roller-coaster weekend that kicked-off free agency. Givens had a difficult decision to make: Stay with New England, where he was assured to play for a winner, or look at all of his options, and go where the money made the most sense.

King later spoke to Givens about the decision to sign with Tennessee during one of his MMQB columns, where Givens fessed up to making a decision based on money. But Givens’ rationale was solid. He came into the league as a late round pick, never signed the large contract that many first-round draft picks signed, and knew this could be his only opportunity to make the type of money that could support him and his family for a long time.

The five-year, $24 million contract that Givens signed was his last as an NFL player. Just 10 weeks into his first season with the Titans, he was carted off the field with a knee injury.

“His knee just exploded on him. He’s had multiple surgeries, and it can’t be fixed so that he can play football again,” Givens’ lawyer Dan Warlick told WTVF-TV in Nashville.

Reading the stories on Givens’ lawsuit, and hearing Shane Walton pass the NFL credo along of “You can’t make the club in the tub,” gives you a real look inside the lives of late-round NFL draft pick. For Givens, he was lucky to have signed his contact that guaranteed him a $6 million signing bonus. For a player like Walton, who only lasted four games in the NFL, he never had the chance to sign a big contract.

The more I think about David Givens and Shane Walton, the more I realize just how much they have in common. 

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