|Friday, July 14|
By Tom Friend
ESPN The Magazine
Peter Warrick and Laveranues Coles rode together until a fateful shopping trip drove them apart
They met four years ago, P-Dub and Trub, and the first thing P-Dub told Trub was, "They're gonna shave your head, so get your butt ready." Florida State football seniors always take razors to the football freshmen, and there's no use fighting it, no use at all. P-Dub told Trub he had come to campus with a rattail the year before, a rat-tail he'd been
growing down his neck since high school, and that those heartless seniors snipped the thing off. Trub appreciated the warning, and they became boys right then and there, P-Dub, short for PW, shorter for Peter Warrick, and Trub, short for Trouble, the nickname of Laveranues Coles.
Wherever one went, the other was sure to follow, and soon they were roommates at the dorm. By that time, P-Dub was a redshirt sophomore and Trub was a true sophomore, and one weekend they'd go see Warrick's folks in Bradenton, and the next they'd hang at Coles' grandmother's in Jacksonville. They sort of had the same history. Warrick's stepfather was a minister, like Coles' mother. Warrick used to sing in the church choir, and Coles was a self-proclaimed nerd who had a 3.0 GPA in high school and wanted to major in pre-med. But things started to change after the Clemson game in 1997, the game that put Warrick on the map. He caught eight balls for 249 yards and two touchdowns and returned a punt 90 yards for a score. Their dorm phone was ringing, ringing only for P-Dub, with agents leaving their names and numbers. "Whoa, dawg, you gonna be rich," an envious Trub would say.
Coles was an all-state running back in high school, and had once run the 40 faster than FSU alum Deion Sanders. FSU already had Warrick Dunn at tailback, so they switched Trub to wide receiver to get his supersonic feet on the field. But P-Dub got all the pub, and all the balls, and one of them was becoming a have and the other was becoming a have-not, and this was going to ruin their friendship.
See, the whole college football world knew P-Dub's full name by then. He'd tell his friend about all the agents chasing him, and one in particular,Carl Poston, from Houston'who had a penchant for throwing big parties in Texas in the summer. But Trub had enough to worry about. He and Warrick found apartments next to each other before their junior seasons, and Trub's mother, Sirretta, was going to drive down and give her son a big-screen TV. But she couldn't deliver it by herself, so Trub's father, Laveranues Sr.,who wasn't married to Sirretta, offered to drive the TV over in his car. Bad idea. Laveranues Sr. had an ex-wife in Tallahassee, and when she saw him with Sirretta, the ex-wife got territorial. Coles says she took a swing at his mom, and Sirretta called her son, and he came over and "mushed" the ex-wife's face against a car window. A misdemeanor battery charge was filed, and now everyone knew Trub's real name too.
They figured his nickname was Trouble because he always got into some. Truth was, when he was born, his mother had an awful four-day labor and the doctor said, "This boy is gonna be trouble." But everyone assumed the name meant he was a bad seed. There was the time FSU's athletic department gave him a verbal warning after learning of an alleged confrontation he'd had at a bowling alley. Then, in the summer of 1999, Coles accepted an airline ticket to Houston and attended a party hosted by Poston, the same agent pursuing Warrick. That was when the school decided Coles was trouble, for sure.
And now the two friends had reputations etched in stone. Trub was the bad one; P-Dub was the clean one. Trub was a candidate to be chucked off the team; P-Dub was a candidate to walk off with the Heisman.
But they were really in it together,until that day last September at the mall. The day at the mall that linked them forever and fractured their friendship. The day at the mall that has NFL general managers, as they approach this month's draft, scratching their heads and asking: What do I believe?
Warrick's car had a flat tire that day. He was living in No.123 at the Villa Dylano Apartments, with Coles next door in 124, so he pounded on Coles' door to ask for a lift. Coles was glad to oblige because he needed to buy video game guns for his Dreamcast system. So they went together, wading through a Dillard's department store on their way to the video game boutique. But Warrick stopped and said he wanted some clothes. Coles, who'd just cashed his $700 FSU off-campus housing stipend check, figured he'd shop too, and they each picked up some Nautica and Polo shirts.
Coles' load was worth about $168; Warrick's was worth $244.38, and a cashier who knew Warrick led them to her cash register. She rang up Warrick's purchase: $10.70 total. Coles says Warrick asked him to pay for it, so he did. She rang up Coles' stuff: $10.70 total. Nobody blinked. "I mean, I knew the price was wrong," Coles says. "But neither of us asked for it, she just did it on her own. It wasn't like we said, "Hey, hook us up?" But at the same time, nobody put no gun to our head and made us take the discount, either."
Says Coles: "I'm not saying what I did was right, but people are always offering us things. I mean, Coach [Bobby] Bowden goes places, and I'm pretty sure they offer him free meals. He's riding high in free cars and nobody arrests him. I'm pretty sure Coach Bowden goes anywhere in Tallahassee and don't pay for nothing. But does anybody arrest Coach Bowden? No."
The whole transaction was caught on surveillance tape, clear as day, and Warrick and Coles later were arrested for grand theft. Tallahassee TV stations made it the lead story of their newscasts, and the next few weeks were gruesome. A steamed Warrick said, "It's not like I shot the President or anything." And when he realized his comment had only made things worse, he sat in the office of athletic director Dave Hart and wept.
The school administrators liked Warrick. He'd returned for his senior season, having passed up certain fortune in the NFL, and he was supporting his 3-year-old daughter. They suspended him but assured him that if the charges were reduced from felony to misdemeanor, they would take him back.
Coles was a whole other issue. Warrick admitted to authorities that he had twice before taken the "discount" at Dillard's'known now to his pals as the "P-Dub Discount" and said this was Coles' first time. But school officials had a long list of grievances with Coles and had already quietly placed him on probation. There was the angry incident with his dad's ex-wife, and the one where he allegedly threatened a woman at that bowling alley (he denies it). They also said he had academic problems and had violated team curfew after the Duke game. (Coles denies that, too.) The Houston trip was another strike against him, although they never could prove Poston had paid for his ticket. (Poston publicly denies he did.) Either way, they told Coles he was off the football team and the track team and that he couldn't train at their facilities. So he sat face-in-hands in his apartment,separated by a wall from his best friend, waiting for a phone call, waiting for someone to feel sorry for him, waiting for Warrick to go to Coach Bowden on his behalf. Warrick was torn. He says outright he knew Trub had paid a heavy price, had gotten the worst end of the deal. But Warrick had just started practicing with the team again, and decided to stay out of it. "You can probably voice your opinion, but that don't mean they're going to listen to you," Warrick says. "When the coaches make their decision, it's over and done with."
So Trub and P-Dub were over and done with too, no longer speaking.
And his teammates weren't stopping by either. They crowded outside Warrick's apartment in the days following the incident to see how Warrick was, but no one knocked on Coles' door. He'd never been as popular as Warrick, he wasn't as effervescent and the perception among players and coaches was that he was sullen and self-centered, or as one school official put it, "a me-me-me guy."
They saw it for the first time during his freshman year. He rode the bench one game, and stormed out of the locker room before Bowden's postgame speech. As the seasons went on, he complained to the school officials that they never publicized him, but the truth was that the coaches felt he was a raw receiver with questionable hands who was rightly a distant second fiddle to Warrick. And as he felt more like the have-not, his schoolwork suffered and he became a complainer, and so it was no surprise that the players and coaches wouldn't go to bat for him after Dillard's, or at least not like he wanted them to.
"I took it as, I'm not a Heisman candidate, and Peter is, and that's why I was off the team," Coles says. "Everybody felt sorry for Peter Warrick. Nobody thought, Well, dawg, how is Laveranues Coles feeling? Is Laveranues Coles even living?"
"I know I made a mistake, but it's not like I'd tested positive for weed, like some other guys
we have. I just made some childish mistakes. Things kids do these days. And I took the fall. So I just sat in my room, sat there for two weeks."
And then he left town, left apartment 124, left Peter Warrick behind.
Time moves on. The charges against Warrick and Coles were reduced to petty theft. P-Dub was sentenced to 30 days on a county work program; Coles got 10. Sometime in the future, they'd have to roam the side of a highway, picking up trash. Warrick missed two games. Coles, of course, was kicked off the team.
Warrick had a national title to win, to make up for the Heisman he lost at the mall. When he and FSU showed up in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, guess who'd already been living in town for 50 days, working out? Coles had moved to New Orleans to train with a speed coach, Tom Shaw, and prepare for the NFL Scouting Combine in February. All Coles cared about was reaching the league"even as a waterboy," he told his grandmother, but he found it ironic now that FSU was in town, a mile from where he lived.
He wanted to tell them how he'd matured, how he'd gone to buy $80 sneakers at a New Orleans Foot Locker and how the clerk had charged him only $40, and how he didn't want the discount, even if they really were on sale, not after what had happened at Dillard's. He wanted to tell this story to P-Dub, but Warrick never called, even at the cell phone number Trub knew he had.
It made Coles think about what he saw as a double standard at FSU. He wondered if FSU knew he and Warrick went everywhere together. Or if they knew Warrick would have joined him at the Poston party in the summer of 1999, the one that cost Coles a strike at FSU--if the school hadn't called Warrick's mother and warned her, "Don't let Peter get on that plane." (School officials say they also tried to call Coles and warn him but he was already at the party.) He wondered why FSU had ignored Warrick's prior arrest in Tampa after a confrontation with police in a McDonald's parking lot. (He eventually pleaded no contest.) "You know what they did to him for that?" says Coles. "They took some game tickets from him."
Bowden denies any double standard, he's quick to bring up the fact that he once kicked Randy Moss off his team,and adds, "If Pete had had some problems before, and Laveranues hadn't, it would've been Pete who was gone."
Warrick says he's also paid a heavy price for the Dillard's incident. He remembers walking the mall recently and having a girl ask him for his autograph. "When I started signing," Warrick says, "she said something like, I bet I can take this to Dillard's and get something free? I stopped signing and threw it in the garbage."
He turned bitter then, and told friends he might not attend the NFL Draft in New York. "I wasn't sure I wanted to," Warrick says. "I felt like I'd paid my dues, I'd missed two games. Every day I was looking at TV and the media was showing my face. They'd just built me up, and now they tore me back down."
The Sugar Bowl was his salve. He scored three touchdowns to lead the Seminoles to the title. "I needed that game. My image had killed me, and I needed a good game to get back where I was."
Over by the French Quarter, Coles watched that game alone. Then he turned off the TV and said the NFL Combine was going to be his Sugar Bowl. "Gonna run a 4.2, you watch," he told his grandmother that night, "you watch."
Their paths had to cross again someday. In early February, Coles was back in Tallahassee for the first time, back in No. 124, when guess who drove up in a white Cadillac SUV, complete with a DVD player and a sound system that would rock a small country? Warrick, who had signed with SFX, the mega-agency, was obviously well taken care of by now, although he didn't appear to be working out much. But Coles, just in from his New Orleans speed camp, looked fitter than ever. They sized each other up. It was an awkward moment.
"Peter said, "I've been trying to call you," Coles says. "And I was like, 'Oh, okay, you had my cell number. And he was, 'I've been getting your voice mail.' I was, 'Why don't you leave no message? And he didn't say nothing, just left it at that." Says Warrick: "Why didn't he hear from me? Because he left, he left town. Usually he stays right next door, and I'll go over and holler at him. But he left town."
They didn't talk again until they met at the Combine in February. "What's up, Trub," was P-Dub's greeting, but Coles told him, "Trouble is not my name anymore." He was serious. Coles was paranoid that NFL teams would judge him if he answered to Trouble. Even his own mother and grandmother stopped calling him that. "I still accidentally call him Trouble some of the time," says his grandmother, Barbara Wakefield. "I repent when I do."
Still, teams thought he was a thug. "Excuse my language," Coles says, "but Baltimore said, We wrote you off as a plain d---head. And Tampa Bay was the meanest. They wouldn't even meet with me. I'm gonna light them up for three scores someday. Promise you."
Warrick, who was then the front-runner to go No.1, didn't run the 40 that week. But he did hear at least 40 questions about the Dillard's arrest. "Every team asked the same thing," he says. "All I did all week was defend myself." Coles had no choice but to run the 40, and he ran a respectable 4.47 despite slipping on his start. Warrick saw the time and did a double-take. He called Coles and said he was going to run for teams in a March workout, and asked Coles if he could offer some tips. Coles, who planned to run at the same workout, agreed to come to Tallahassee and help. But when Coles arrived, Warrick was out of town,and hadn't even let him know. "That's Pete," says Coles. "He's like night and day."
When Warrick did come back to town, Coles noticed Warrick was always out late and sleeping late, while Coles was up early training. One day they posed for pictures together, then Warrick cut the shoot short, saying he had to work out. But all Warrick did was spend 15 minutes at the track and then go get lunch.
Then came that mid-March workout. It rained that day, and the workout was moved to a gymnasium. An eager Coles ran first: His best time was a sizzling 4.3; his worst was a no-slouch 4.35. The Bears raved about him, and the Cowboys told him he wouldn't be around for their 49th overall pick. "On pure talent, he could go in the first round," says one GM. "But he could fall to the second or further, just because of all the trouble. I mean, it's pretty hard to get kicked off at Florida State. But if the guy can run a 4.3, someone's gonna give him a chance."
Warrick ran next, and his slowest time was a mediocre 4.63, although he says he ran in slippery outdoor running shoes. "Besides," Warrick says. "I run faster when someone's chasing me." The Bengals agree, and may still take him with the fourth overall pick, but the damage was done that day. "No wonder the police ran him down that day in Tampa," said one NFL executive. "I mean, for a 5'10" wideout, that's a terrible time. You can't take him first overall."
So at least for a day, Coles was the have and Warrick was the have-not, and the Dillard's incident had come full circle. It was all over now. They weren't a pair anymore, they weren't boys. "After everything that's happened, I can't be concerned with nobody but myself," Coles said back then. "I'm leaving Tallahassee pretty soon for good, and ain't ever coming back."
He should have left right then. Nine days later, a man at a gas station allegedly rolled his car into one of Warrick's hometown buddies and a nearby car, and a fight broke out. Initial reports by the police and local media had Coles taking part in the brawl, then driving off with Warrick. But police learned later that Coles hadn't even been in Tallahassee that night, but in Orlando at a football all-star game. "I guess the police thought since Peter was there, I was there," Coles says. "Peter and I are still cool, but we don't ride together anymore."
Coles' family wanted him to leave that place, to leave that awful college town, but he couldn't, not until he and Warrick reported for road detail, not until they settled up for that foolish day at Dillard's. And so that's how P-Dub and Trub spent their last hours together, picking up trash along the highway, never having picked up the pieces.
|Warrick hopes the NFL will let him breakway from his problems.|