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NFL Potential Doesn't Sway Judge; Draftee Gets Nine Years

April 28, 1991|CHRIS DUFRESNE

The Atlanta Falcons selected wide receiver Walter Sutton in the 10th round of last week's NFL draft because of his 4.28-second speed in the 40-yard dash. That won't do the Falcons or Sutton much good in a 10-by-10 prison cell.

Sutton pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to possess and distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine between 1986 and 1988 and will begin serving a nine-year prison term Jan. 28, 1992.

What were the Falcons thinking?

Sutton told U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich last week that he had been told that a career in football might take years off his sentence.

"I thought they would probably give me probation," Sutton said.

Kovachevich has had a tough month with athletes, having recently presided over the Donald Igwebuike drug-smuggling case, which ended in acquittal for the Minnesota Viking kicker.

"You want me to forget that sentence just because you have a great employment opportunity?" the judge asked Sutton.

Kovachevich had already allowed Sutton to return to Southwest State University in Minnesota to get his degree in sociology before reporting to prison.

Add Sutton: Falcon owner Rankin Smith, known in Atlanta as "Jed Clampett" for his sometimes back-hills approach to football operations, took the latest episode in stride.

"You come to sort of expect things like this at times," he said.

Smith said the Falcons will not attempt to sign Sutton. Nor will they wait for him.

Trivia time: Before Todd Marinovich, who were the last two Raider quarterbacks selected in the first round?

Malpractice update: Veteran NFL writer Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated, known as "Dr. Z" in his magazine's pages, needs a new prescription for prognosticating. Zimmerman missed on 26 of his 27 first-round picks in his preview of last Sunday's NFL draft.

He correctly predicted that Tampa Bay would choose Tennessee tackle Charles McRae with the seventh pick.

In his defense, mock drafts around the nation were rendered meaningless when Raghib Ismail defected to Canada and Dallas traded up with New England for the No. 1 pick.

Add Dr. Z: No excuse for this one: Last season, Zimmerman predicted that the Rams would advance to the Super Bowl. They finished 5-11.

Last add Dr. Z.: Zimmerman's biggest reach was pick No. 24, where he had Central State linebacker Keith Traylor going to the Raiders. Traylor lasted until the sixth pick of Round 3.

Trivia answer: Brigham Young's Marc Wilson in 1980 and, in 1968, Tennessee State's Eldridge Dickey, who was later converted to wide receiver because the Raiders' second-round pick of 1968 was Alabama's Ken Stabler.

Quotebook: Former pitcher Bill (Spaceman) Lee: "Baseball is the belly button of society. Straighten out baseball and you'll straighten out the rest of the world."

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