Ex-Buccaneer Igwebuike gets foot in door with CFL Colts

March 05, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Veteran place-kicker Donald Igwebuike, who hasn't played in the NFL since being acquitted of drug-smuggling charges in 1991, will attempt to revive his career with the Baltimore CFL Colts.

Igwebuike, 33, has signed a contract for one year and an option with Baltimore's expansion team in the Canadian Football League.

"He was probably in the prime of his career when the allegations came up," said Jim Popp, Colts director of player personnel. "Once he was cleared, he never had the opportunity to kick."

Born in Nigeria, Igwebuike had a stunning fall from grace in 1990. He made 75 percent of his field-goal tries in an NFL career that spanned 5 1/2 seasons, most with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Released by Ray Perkins in Tampa in the 1990 preseason, he was signed by the Minnesota Vikings. Halfway through the season, he was arrested and charged with being an accomplice to smuggling heroin.

The Vikings suspended him for the final eight games, with pay. He faced up to 120 years in prison and $6 million in fines. But in April 1991, he was acquitted in federal court in Tampa.

Igwebuike went to training camp with the Vikings that summer, then lost his job to Fuad Reveiz.

Since that time, he has had two tryouts in the NFL and spent four games in the Arena League with the Tampa Bay Storm in 1992. He made $500 a game with the Storm.

Speaking from Tampa yesterday, Igwebuike said he is bitter about the impact the drug-smuggling charges had on his life.

"The way I look at things, I am bitter inside," Igwebuike said. "I am bitter that people ruined my name. But I can't be bitter at everybody. Life goes on."

Still, he stopped short of saying the incident is why he no longer is kicking in the NFL.

He had tryouts with the San Francisco 49ers in 1992 and the Cleveland Browns in 1993, but was not offered a contract.

"It's hard to say whether it has affected my career," he said. "I can't control what decisions people make.

"I'm just happy to have this opportunity. I'll do all I can to help the team."

Igwebuike starred in soccer and football at Clemson in the early 1980s, and got a degree in economics.

Colts owner Jim Speros, who played football at Clemson just before Igwebuike arrived, said the kicker was a victim of circumstances.

"He got caught up in the legal system here," Speros said. "But he's clean. He's not involved with anything.

"He's a heck of a kicker. I'm glad we have him. He's got a lot of leg left in him."

Igwebuike has maintained his residence in Tampa, where he played from 1985 to 1989. He remains the team's all-time leading scorer with 416 points, and still holds club records for career field goals (94) and longest field goal (55 yards).

"I thought I had good years in Tampa," he said. "I'm still thankful to them for giving me five years to play."

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