Gorman: Fields wants one final chance
The surprise of Pitt's Pro Day was that someone who left the university in turmoil a year ago was willing to show his face, a sign of what Elijah Fields hopes is the first chapter of his comeback story.
Fields arrived at Pitt as a prized recruit, but his college career ended when he was kicked off the Panthers in February 2010 for failing a drug test.
"I think about it a lot, every day," Fields said Tuesday. "Things just went downhill for me. I'm definitely not happy with how things ended. I'm not going to blame anybody else. It was all my fault."
Fields was one of the best high school football players I've covered, a tantalizing two-way talent who led now-defunct Duquesne High to the '05 WPIAL Class A championship and PIAA final and was the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's football player of the year and athlete of the year.
That led to expectations of Fields making an immediate impact, which only increased when he had two interceptions in the Big 33 Football Classic, returning one 67 yards for a score.
Instead, he became a cautionary tale.
His transition from a tiny Class A school to BCS-conference program was tumultuous. The 6-foot, 215-pounder was recruited as a receiver but soon switched to safety, where he initially struggled. Despite being suspended for part of that spring, Fields' seven tackles and 53-yard interception return in the Blue-Gold Game only increased hopes of future stardom.
"Everybody knew how talented 'Scoot' was," former Pitt safety Dom DeCicco said of Fields. "To be that size and move the way he does, he's a physical specimen. But he was never real cocky or talked a lot.
"Sometimes, you got the impression he didn't realize how talented he was."
At least, not until it his college career ended so abruptly.
Fields was suspended for his sophomore season for violation of team rules, which he now admits was for smoking marijuana. It had been a "bad habit" since high school, one that would prove destructive. A check of Allegheny County court dockets shows that Fields has no criminal history, but when photographs of stacks of cash bound in rubber bands appeared on his Twitter page — along with a message that read, "Never knew football was gon get me all this money Sike I knew ha ha" — former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt forced him to take a drug test. When Fields failed it, he was dismissed.
"If you Google my name, that's what pops up," said Fields, who claims his Twitter account was hacked. "Those weren't my pictures."
Embarrassed, Fields says he dropped out of Pitt and hid in a hotel. He tried to enroll at North Alabama last summer only to learn that he didn't have enough credits to be eligible last fall. It wasn't until this past October, when agent Jason Silver spotted him at an open tryout for the Pittsburgh Power, that Fields found someone willing to take a chance on him.
"One kid stood out, but I didn't know him from Adam," said Silver, a Mt. Lebanon native whose APEX Management Group is based in San Diego. "When he said his name, I said, 'You've got to be kidding me.' Someone needed to reach out to this young man. ... He's a Sunday player."
Fields has transformed his physique, dropping 20 pounds, and reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.5-second range and flashed fluid hips and quick feet during pro days at Duquesne University and California (Pa.) this week.
Who knows whether that will be enough for a team to take a chance?
Fields said he no longer smokes weed, and Silver said Fields is willing to take toxicology tests to prove it. Fields will have to answer questions about his drug use, explain the Twitter saga, and, most of all, prove he can play.
"That's what I don't want people to think, that I'm a waste of talent," Fields said. "That was the biggest thing, letting my mom down. People look at her a certain way now because of me. I was just young, immature. I've had time to sit back and reflect. I had a million-dollar chance, and I blew it.
"I just want to be a success story. I had a rough college career, but I want to finish strong. I just want a chance to change my image, start a new legacy and make Duquesne proud."
Fields is looking for one more chance.
Here's hoping it's not too late for him to be great.