EVERETT, Wash. (AP) – Ex-University of Washington defensive standout Jeremiah Pharms, who went to prison after his conviction in a drug-related shooting, has made it back onto the football field.
Pharms wasn’t in the NFL uniform that he once expected to wear, but he started at defensive end in the Everett Hawks’ 64-48 victory over the Rome Renegades in a National Indoor Football League game on Sunday. He joined the team last week.
Pharms helped then coach Rick Neuheisel’s Huskies beat Purdue 34-24 in the 2001 Rose Bowl to finish with an 11-1 record before the Cleveland Browns selected him in the 2001 NFL draft.
But less than two weeks after the Browns picked him in the fifth round, Pharms was charged with a 2000 drug-related shooting and robbery that occurred in Seattle’s U-District. In January 2002, he was sentenced to serve 41 months in prison.
Pharms told The Herald of Everett that the NFL wasn’t on his mind in helping the Hawks improve their record to 3-0.
“It’s a privilege to play with these guys,” he said while taking a short break from signing autographs for members of the Everett Events Center crowd after the game. “I’m not thinking about anything but the next day right now.”
His teammates of six days expressed surprise that Pharms could be the same person who was charged with wearing a ski mask and shooting a man during a struggle while stealing $1,500 worth of marijuana five years ago.
Hawks coach Dan Maciejczak said he wasn’t concerned about Pharms’ past or football future outside of Everett.
“He’s going to do a great job for us,” Maciejczak said. “He’s a great kid. I don’t judge people. I judge them for what they do for me, and he’s done great things for us as an organization. He comes to practice early, stays late, works hard and never complains.”
The announced crowd of 3,556 gave Pharms a solid ovation when he was announced as a starter and bumped chests with Hawks defensive back Jamley Austin.
“I felt like a gladiator out there,” said Pharms, who played before crowds of 70,000-plus in Seattle when he played for the Huskies as an outside linebacker.
Pharms added size and quickness to an Everett defensive line that was already solid. He is one of the few players who starred at a major college in a league that contains mostly players from junior colleges or lesser-known four-year schools.
“He’s a hog, and it’s good to have hogs,” said defensive back Jaquwan Brackenridge, who played at Chaffey Community College in California.