Jim Weber runs LostLettermen.com, devoted to keeping tabs on former players and other bits of nostalgia. Today he tracks down former Oregon running back Reuben Droughns.
Most former NFL players kick back and enjoy the fruits of their labor after a lengthy career in the league. Not Oregon’s Reuben Droughns. Since being released by the New York Giants in February 2009, Droughns has already had what he describes as a medical marijuana dispensary foiled by the Drug Enforcement Agency and is now an assistant football coach – in Serbia.
Droughns is currently coaching for the Central European Football League's Vukovi Beograd in Belgrade. Why there and not a low-level college or high school gig?
"Because I felt like I could lend more of a hand out here as far as these guys, getting the grind work down and learning how to coach with kids and getting personal with them as far as one-on-one situations," Droughns said.
Droughns is certainly used to a nomadic lifestyle. After growing up in Anaheim, he went to Merced (Calif.) Junior College and arrived at Oregon in 1998, rushing for 202 yards and three touchdowns in his first game as a Duck, including a 75-yard sprint to put away Michigan State. He's legendary in Eugene for the game at UCLA a month later when, with his mom in the stands, he racked up 172 yards on the ground and returned to the lineup in the fourth quarter after breaking his fibula. He missed the rest of the season but returned in 1999 to rush for over 1,200 yards on the way to being named first-team All-Pac-10.
A third-round pick in the 2000 NFL draft, Droughns bounced around the league until landing with the Broncos in 2002. Two years later, he became the latest anonymous back to rush for 1,000 yards in Denver’s renowned zone-blocking scheme, following in the footsteps of Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson.
Droughns had another 1,000-yard season for the Browns in 2005 but was shipped out of town again in a 2007 trade with the Giants to make room for new addition Jamal Lewis – it didn’t help that Droughns had developed a rep for getting in trouble off the field, including arrests for a DUI and domestic assault. (He was acquitted of drunken driving; domestic assault charges were eventually dropped.) He won a Super Bowl ring with the Giants despite being phased out of the rotation, and was cut for good a year later.
After taking some time away, Droughns and a friend launched an online retail store called Local Ride Shop that sells surfboards, snowboards and skateboards. But it was his next business venture that made headlines. In January, Droughns was in the news for all the wrong reasons again when federal agents found Droughns growing marijuana in spare bedrooms of his Colorado home. Droughns says he was planning to start a medical marijuana dispensary with his brother, but left to coach in Serbia shortly thereafter, though he's due back in court soon and says leaving the country had nothing to do with the marijuana investigation.
"I'm not messing with that stuff anymore," Droughns said. "I'm good."
In his first extended period overseas, Droughns said he's enjoying his time in Europe and trying to learn the language. Vukovi, the defending CEFL champs, finished the regular season 6-0 and will play the Istanbul Cavaliers in the league semifinals on Saturday. In fact, Vukovi's biggest challenge is not another team but funding.
"Right now, one of our biggest problems with the team is trying to get sponsorships for the team and getting equipment as far as coaching equipment as far as like bags and stuff like that they honestly need," Droughns said.
After the season, Droughns will head to California to work on his ride shop. He says he will return for a second year in the CEFL, then pursue a college coaching career.
At least that’s the plan – Droughns' life so far has had a tendency to go off script.
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Jim Weber is the founder of LostLettermen.com, a historical college football and men's basketball site that links the sports' past to the present.