NFL

Ex-Browns player once charged with attempted murder eyes NFL comeback

It all started with a punch. Ausar Walcott punched a man at a Passaic, New Jersey strip club and hours later he was charged with attempted murder. The victim, 24-year-old Chris Jones, was in a medically induced coma because of a brain injury. And Walcott’s NFL career was over before it started.

The former the University of Virginia player went undrafted months earlier but had recently signed a three-year deal with the Browns. A day later, the Browns released Walcott, which came on the same day authorities arrested former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez for first-degree murder.

In retrospect, Walcott suspects he was a target at the club; he says it was known that he had just signed an NFL contract and that may have played a part in the melee that ensued.

“I was basically just targeted for the position that I was in,” Walcott told NJ.com’s Dan Duggan. “I don’t know why. I don’t know why you would try to pick a fight with somebody that’s in shape, but there was a lot of them, so I understand. I was just trying to protect myself, honestly.”

Thanks to a tenacious attorney, not to mention letters from the Hackensack police department, former coaches and classmates attesting to his character, Walcott had his bail reduced from $500,000 to $85,000. He was eventually indicted on aggravated assault instead of attempted murder. His case came to trial last September, and some six months later, Walcott was found not guilty after just five minutes of deliberations.

“When he was reading the verdict, it was like a 1,000-pound weight was lifted off my shoulder,” Walcott told Duggan. “I just fell back in the chair. It was just amazing to hear that after all those years.”

And now, some 3.5 years later, Walcott is hoping to continue his professional football journey. In January, he ran a 4.57 40-yard dash at an open tryout for the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul. And the plan is to work out for an NFL team, though the CFL might be the first step in that journey.

“I don’t even think that the three years were a toll on me as much as it should have been athletically,” Walcott said. “I don’t think I’m too far behind where I was. I want to be even better than I was when I went to Cleveland.”

Walcott remains upbeat, even though his NFL dream was temporarily derailed.

“Honestly, I think it’s made me a better, stronger, wiser person,” he said. “I believe everything happens for a reason. Life is long. That was just three years of my life. I have a whole life to live. It’s honestly all on me on how I move forward. I can take it as a positive and make something good out of it, or I can take it as a negative and feel sorry for myself. I’m going to keep it as a positive and try to build something with it. I made it that far and it got taken away from me. I’m on the journey trying to make it back.”

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