Second Chances: Mark Chmura Sets Example for Today's Troubled Players

Kris BurkeCorrespondent IJuly 19, 2010

12 Sep 1999: Mark Chmura #89 of the Green Bay Packers looks on the field during a game against the Oakland Raiders at the Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Raiders 28-24.
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

If you wind the clock back 10 years, it is hard to believe what just occurred.

In 2000, the Packers were getting ready to go into battle with their third different coach in as many years and were coming off their first non-winning season in nine years.

Oh yeah, and their Pro Bowl tight end was on trial for sexually assaulting a minor.

That year, Mark Chmura was one of those rare Packer players that go from hero to villain. Despite being ultimately found innocent on all charges in his trial, Chmura's reputation was so ruined among Packers fans that he retired a few months after being acquitted. Everyone thought he was done with the organization and that the Packers wanted nothing to do with the man.

It's amazing what a decade can do.

This week, Chmura was inducted into the Packers' Hall of Fame along with Marv Fleming and Greg Koch.  It's no doubt a slightly stunning development for those fans that followed Chmura's trial closely, and even to Chmura himself.

How did Chmura get here? 

First off, he owned up to his mistakes.  He pointed the finger for his bad decision making squarely at himself and didn't run off blaming the media like a lot of players do today.

Second, he stayed in the area.  Most players that end up in situations like Chmura's get out of town the moment they are cut or traded and never look back.  Now, Chmura was released and attempted comebacks with the Redskins and Saints but to no avail.  He then retired.  Still, with his name being the butt of many crude jokes at the time, it surprises many to learn that he decided to remain in the Green Bay area.  

If there is one story that looms over the NFL despite the pending labor issue next year, it is the character problem many NFL players are suffering from.  Ben Roethlisberger. Michael Vick. Pacman Jones.  Even Green Bay's own Johnny Jolly.

Chmura was one of the poster boys of bad behavior leading up to this new generation of troublemakers.  Roethlisberger, Vick, and everyone else could learn a lesson or two from him on how to get your life back in order and regain the respect of the family, friends, and fans you alienated because of your boneheaded behavior.

Today, Chmura hosts his own Packers pregame show on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee and is a partner in a real estate business.  He also works as a research assistant for the Boyle Law Group, who represented him at his trial.

Chmura's story is basically this: if you make a mistake, even if it is a huge one like Chmura's, accept full responsibility for your actions and show through your actions and not your words that you are serious about rebuilding your life and reputation.

It's a hard lesson to learn, something Vick and Roethlisberger can attest to right now.

By inducting him into their hall of fame, the Packers are saying that all is forgiven and that Chmura has proven through his actions since 2000 that he has changed his life for the better and has learned from his mistakes.

The NFL better hope its troubled players are paying attention so that more cases turn out like Chmura's.  They better hope he becomes the rule, not the exception.  

In fact, the league would be wise to have Chmura speak to some of the players currently in Commissioner Roger Goodell's doghouse.  They need to hear that while they may feel bad now, that there is hope for them to turn things around and get back on the right track.

Heck, if Chmura can do it, so can No. 4.

But that's another topic for another column at another time.

Follow Kris Burke on Twitter @KBurkePackers