Former Gophers star Laurence Maroney came to grips with NFL career ending prematurely – Twin Cities

With the New England Patriots once again having the No. 21 pick in the NFL draft, pardon Laurence Maroney if he gets nostalgic.

Maroney, a former University of Minnesota star running back, was taken No. 21 in the first round of the 2006 draft by the Patriots. And there have been lots of references by New England media entering the April 28-30 draft about the six previous times the Patriots have picked No. 21. That includes the selections of several players who went on to have long NFL careers and make at least one Pro Bowl: safety Tim Fox (1976), defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (2004) and edge rusher Chandler Jones (2012).

Maroney’s career was floating but he did have some success. He played with the Patriots from 2006-09, putting together three seasons of 700 or more yards rushing, before spending 2010 with Denver in a season cut short by injuries. He was arrested on weapons and marijuana charges in his native St. Louis in January 2011 and, despite not being found guilty of anything, said the bad publicity played a role in his career ending prematurely.

“It definitely was cut short,” Maroney said. “I really wish it was better. I’m not saying I had the worst. But I felt like there were things that I still wanted to deliver to the game, to the NFL, to showcase what I really had. But it’s water under bridge. You can’t go back and change it. It wasn’t the best, it wasn’t the worst. I know I could have done better.”

Maroney, 37, lives in St. Louis where he works in real estate in rentals and rehabbing homes. He lives with his girlfriend of him Briante, and they are raising three young children.

Minnesota’s Laurence Maroney celebrates Minnesota’s 42-21 win over Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2005, in Bloomington, Ind. Maroney had 15 carries for 85 yards and one touchdown in the victory. (AP Photo/John Harrell)

Maroney gets back to the Twin Cities at times, his last visit in 2018, when he was inducted into the M Club Hall of Fame. Playing for the Gophers from 2003-05 before he gave up his final year of eligibility to turn pro, Maroney rushed for 3,933 yards.

In 2006, Maroney had hoped to be selected by the Vikings, who held the No. 17 pick in the draft. But they instead took linebacker Chad Greenway.

“It would have been nice,” Maroney said. “For a little minute, I really thought I was going to stay in Minneapolis. It was too much like right. They were in my backyard.”

The following year, in 2007, the Vikings selected a running back in the first round with the No. 7 pick — Adrian Peterson, who went on to have a hall-of-fame-caliber career. As for Maroney, he did show early signs of being an impact back.

Maroney rushed for 745 yards in 2006 and 835 yards in 2007, when the Patriots went 16-0 during the regular season only to be stunned 17-14 by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz. Maroney rushed for 122 yards in each of his first two playoff games that season and scored the first touchdown of the Super Bowl on a 1-yard run. But he ended up finishing with just 36 yards on 14 carries in the loss.

“When we got to the Super Bowl, we just tried to air it out more because it was warm, good weather, and so I feel like if we ran the ball a little more, I probably would have been back over 100 yards that game ,” Maroney said. “But whenever you watch (that game), you’re going to see me make my touchdown, and that’s a memory that’s going to stay with me forever.”

Maroney played in just three games the next season before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury, and then had 757 yards rushing in 2009. But the Patriots traded him to the Broncos after he was inactive in the first game in 2010, and he had just 74 yards in four games in an injury-riddled year.

Shortly after that season, with Maroney bound for free agency, he was one of several people in a car that was stopped in St. Louis. He was arrested for allegedly possessing weapons unlawfully and for allegedly being in the possession of marijuana,

It was determined Maroney had a permit to carry concealed weapons and he never was charged for that, though no final determination was made until June 2011. He was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession before being found not guilty on Aug. 31, 2011. But he never got a chance with another team.

“I end up getting into some off-the-field troubles and (the Broncos) didn’t end up sticking with me and after that I just couldn’t get a workout,” Maroney said. “It was just bad timing. It was the lockout. I get in trouble and it made the news and they stretched it out. I just looked at it (as) teams didn’t want the bad publicity by picking me up. If I was on a team already, it would probably have been swept under the rug, I would have kept playing and had a good career afterward.”

Maroney said it was frustrating having the allegations linger.

“It’s like this dark cloud hovering over me,” he said. “And so by the time the lockout was lifted, I still haven’t been to trial. So right as the lockout was lifted, I end up going to pretrial and the judge threw out the (weapons) case. … But by this time I’d had four or five months of bad publicity. And so once it lifted, I couldn’t get a workout. … I felt like I deserved a second chance.”

Maroney called it “an unfortunate situation.” He ended up training in Miami from 2011-13 but no NFL teams ever called and he retired at age 28.

“I was in the best shape of my life and still couldn’t get a workout,” he said.

Maroney then returned to St. Louis. And a dozen years after playing his final NFL game, he has been able to move on from the disappointment of how his career ended.

“I was like, ‘My time has passed,’ and I figured it out and ended up getting into real estate,” he said. “I’m doing OK. I’m not on the corner asking for money, so I’m good.”

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