Sports Illustrated featured Mandarich, showing off an impossibly chiseled bare chest, on its 1989 pre-draft cover. The magazine called him “The Incredible Bulk.” Crowed George Perles, his coach at Michigan State: “As a junior he could have started on any of our Super Bowl teams. He may be the best offensive tackle ever.” The Green Bay Packers bought into the silliness, taking Mandarich second overall in that draft. They gave him a four-year, $4.4 million contract — no chump change in those days — passing on both running back Barry Sanders and linebacker Derrick Thomas, a pair of Hall of Famers, and cornerback Deion Sanders, who will be there soon.
Mandarich rewarded Green Bay by blocking like a third-grader in his first Pop Warner game. The Packers released him in 1993, and from ’96 through ’98 he logged three more undistinguished years with the Indianapolis Colts. In the most unsurprising development since that morning’s sunrise, Mandarich admitted in Sept. ’08 to taking steroids in college. Because of tougher NFL drug testing, Mandarich says he stopped in the pros. Sadly, he may have really needed the help.
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