Former Colts quarterback rooting for Commodores

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By Larry Goffinet

I was eating lunch at the Tell City Dairy Queen Friday when a man approached my table and asked, "Aren't you the sports editor?"

After I replied that I was, he asked how I thought Perry Central's football team would do the rest of the season.

I said I expected the Commodores to go undefeated in the regular season. Then he asked if I thought they could beat Linton in the sectional.

I said there was a good chance they could but it wouldn't be easy. I also said it could be Tecumseh, which also has a very good team, that they could meet in the sectional finals, but either way the Commodores would likely have to play the championship game on the road because of the way the IHSAA sectional drawings were set up.

All of this conversation took place without my knowing whom I was talking to, which frequently happens when someone sees me in a restaurant or grocery store and wants to ask my opinion about some sports related topic.

I thought the man might be the father of one of Perry Central's 61 players, since I certainly don't know all their parents.

Then he introduced himself. "I'm Art Schlichter, I used to play quarterback for the Colts."

I had not recognized him, as at 48 his hairline has receded a bit and it looks as if he has put on a few pounds since his playing days. And a lot of football players are hard to recognize without their uniforms, complete with 12-inch numbers.

There was a time when most football fans in America would have recognized Schlichter, though.

When he quarterbacked Ohio State's team he finished in the top six in Heisman Trophy voting three years in a row.

He was the fourth pick in the 1982 NFL draft by the then Baltimore Colts.

But his gambling problem, which had started during his college days, spiraled out of control during the 1982 NFL players strike. According to USA Today, by the end of the strike he had at least $700,000 in gambling debts.

His gambling got him suspended from the NFL for the 1983 season (he had bet on NFL games, though apparently never on Colts' games).

He returned to the by now Indianapolis Colts for the 1984 and '85 seasons but never lived up to the potential he had shown in college.

In January 1987 he was arrested in New York City for his involvement in a multi-million-dollar illegal sports betting operation.

He later played in the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League. But his gambling addiction and passing bad checks to pay for it led to his serving time in various prisons, including the Branchville Correctional Facility.

I heard of his being there and had planned to try to interview him when the Colts made their run to the 2007 Super Bowl title. But then I learned he had been paroled in June 2006.

I wanted to know what he thought of the current Colts but I also wanted to know if he had gotten his life back on track.

A chance meeting in a restaurant, though, didn't feel like the proper place to pry into his past.

But he referred to it unprompted. He mentioned that one reason he knows Perry Central assistant coach Ron Gibson is because Gibson works at Branchville Correctional Facility and "I was in prison there."

He said he now does radio work for Ohio State's football team and works with a group to educate others about the perils of compulsive gambling (He founded Gambling Prevention Awareness after his release from Branchville).

He is dating a Tobinsport woman, whose children go to Perry Central. That and his time at Branchville, which is also in the Perry Central school district, apparently explain his interest in Commodore football.

Gibson said later Friday that Schlichter "has come out and watched a couple of our practices. He's a really nice guy."

He also said that Schlichter had volunteered to work with the team's quarterbacks if the coaches ever wanted him to.

Gibson speculated that some teams might be reluctant to have him do so because of his past, but "I think he'd fit in the community real well."

I agree. Either he's beaten his previous problem or he's an Oscar-worthy actor.

Since he's spending some time in this area, any team should be willing to take advantage of his expertise.