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Clayton Holmes' Long, Hard Fall

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No doubt Cowboys fans will recall the name Clayton Holmes; he was, after all, on those Dallas teams that won three Super Bowl rings in the 1990s -- a defensive back and special-teams whiz, a third-round draft pick who played like a first-rounder. "As far as the guys I played with in my 13-year career," says former teammate Darren Woodson, "I'd put him in my top four as far as pure athletic ability. He could do anything. Everything."

Woodson's quote comes from Jeff Pearlman's heartbreaking profile of Holmes, which appears today on Page 2 at ESPN.com. As it happens, Holmes has fallen off the face of the earth and landed back in his hometown of Florence, South Carolina -- living in "a decrepit shack in the front yard of his mother's trailer," writes Pearlman.

As Holmes puts it, he's become nothing more than a "fuck-up," as in: "It's hard being the f---up. I'm not just saying that. Everyone here sees me as the f---up, as the guy who made it to the NFL and made a huge mistake. I'm the f---up to my mom, I'm the f---up to my dad, I'm the f---up to my family …" He has also traded his white Mercedes 560 SEC for a red bike he rides every day through the east side of Florence -- "a downtrodden section of a downtrodden city littered by double-wide trailers, wayward drug dealers and the shattered Budweiser bottles, used condoms, McDonald's wrappers and crumpled newspapers that seem to pock each dirt road and cement walkway." It's actually hurts to read the story. --Robert Wilonsky

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