Erik Ainge's tweet on ESPN's story
I just want to say thanks for all the nice comments I have gotten about my article and that tennessee doctors didnt drive me to drugs I did!
Former Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge, now a backup with the New York Jets, opened up about his ongoing battle with drug and alcohol addiction in an interview with ESPNNewYork.com, which published Ainge’s testimonial Tuesday.
Though he admitted to being a drug user since the age of 12, Ainge wrote that he became hooked on painkillers and was an “addict” during his senior season with the Vols. He ran through the prescriptions so quickly, Ainge wrote, that the team doctor had no other choice but to stop giving them to him.
“I was hooked on them and I was playing football, and there was no way I was going to cancel my senior year by going to rehab,” Ainge wrote. “I started getting them from people, buying them, getting them off the street.
“I wasn't the only player on the team that was doing it, so we knew people. It wasn't, like, super sketchy or anything. We knew people who had them, and we were Tennessee football players, so they pretty much just gave them to us.”
Ainge, a Portland, Ore., native, was a four-year starter with the Vols from 2004-07 and threw for 8,700 yards and 72 touchdowns.
He later tweeted a clarification meant to clear up any implication of UT's doctors.
Ainge was drafted by the Jets in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL draft but has yet to play a regular season game. He said his addiction to drugs, which included heroin, only got worse when he moved away from Knoxville. Through most of his rookie year, Ainge was downing 25 Percocets at a time, he wrote.
“I moved up to New York with a bunch of money, and it was where everything started falling apart,” he wrote.
Ainge said he lied to friends and “destroyed relationships” because of his drug habit.
Last summer, Ainge, in the midst of a “two-week bender,” wrote that he “had some trouble with the law” while he was in Tennessee visiting friends.
“It never got reported because the cops were Tennessee fans, and they saw how bad a shape I was in,” Ainge wrote. “It was so bad that I don't even want to talk about it. I was cuffed, but instead of busting me, the cops called somebody in town that knew me.”
Ainge wrote that he has been clean since July 17, 2010.
“I'm showing people that love me that I am changing for the better through my actions, and I'm starting to make amends to those people I've wronged,” he wrote.
Andrew Gribble may be reached at 865-342-6327. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Andrew_Gribble and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/gribble