Players across the NFL have a duty to be role models to millions across the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Plenty of stars across the league experienced off-field issues that almost derailed their careers and ruined their reputations. Some players crumbled and their careers were thrown off-course, but others have rebuilt their tarnished reputations.
These players have had their issues made public, their dirty laundry washed in the public eye. After intense scrutiny and criticism, they managed to change the public’s opinion of them.
For some fans, there is no chance of redemption. But these players managed to just about leave their issues behind them. After a long time and a lot of effort, they were able to reshape their legacies.
Here are five NFL players who repaired their tarnished reputations:
#1 - Peyton Manning
One of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, Peyton Manning had to repair his reputation after being accused of sexual assault. The incident occurred while Manning was in Tennessee in 1996. Trainer Jamie Ann Naughtright claimed Manning pressed his genitals against her face during a foot examination. Manning claimed that he was "mooning” a teammate at the time. Naughtright resigned from the school in 2002 after settling for $300,000 in damages for four separate incidents.
Manning went on to have a superb career after being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Manning won five MVPs, was an All-Pro 10 times, made 14 Pro Bowls and also won two Super Bowl rings. After winning the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos, Manning called time on his career.
#2 - Michael Vick
Michael Vick’s NFL career looked to be over in 2006, after he was arrested for his part in a dog-fighting ring. The Atlanta Falcons quarterback was arrested in 2007. After being released in 2009, he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Vick was excellent during his first season back in the NFL. He made the Pro Bowl and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He formed a lethal partnership with DeSean Jackson and spent seven more years in the league before retiring in 2015. Vick can often be seen on TV as an analyst these days, as he continues to improve his reputation.
#3 - Tyreek Hill
Tyreek Hill’s NFL career was nearly over before it began. He was charged with domestic violence during his time at Oklahoma State. They immediately released Hill, who transferred to West Alabama before being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016.
Many Kansas City fans were critical of the selection given his history, but Hill more than repaid the faith shown in him. After linking up with Patrick Mahomes, he became one of the best wide receivers in the league. He’s been voted to the last six Pro Bowls as a return specialist and wide receiver.
Hill recently completed a blockbuster trade to the Miami Dolphins, signing a four-year, $120 million extension, including $72.2 million guaranteed. This made him the highest paid receiver in the NFL.
#4 - Nate Burleson
After appearing on GMFB for the last few years, many fans have forgotten that Nate Burleson was in the NFL less than a decade ago. His reputation was damaged in 2005, after he and 16 other Minnesota Vikings players were accused of hosting a sex party on a boat. A number of Vikings players were charged, and although Burleson wasn’t among them, his reputation needed enhancing.
Luckily for him, he became part of an iconic team on the popular morning football show Good Morning Football (GMFB). He now talks about all things football in the morning, as well as doing plenty of other TV work after retiring.
#5 - Ben Roethlisberger
Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s reputation was in tatters when he was accused of two separate sexual assault incidents in 2009 and 2010.
Despite no criminal action being taken against him, the league still suspended Roethlisberger for the first four games of the 2010 season. They found that he had violated the NFL’s player conduct policy. He was also ordered to undergo a league-mandated professional behavior evaluation.
Big Ben overcame this and retired following the 2021 season as a legend of the game. Roethlisberger was voted into six Pro Bowls and led the league in passing twice. He was also a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Steelers.