When one mentions the name “Albert Haynesworth,” controversy quickly comes to mind.
Haynesworth made headlines for stomping on Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode’s head during a heated game on October 1, 2006.
Haynesworth told The Athletic in 2021 that Gurode rubbed him the wrong way—the latter set him off after he told him he wanted to take him out of the game.
Fortunately, Haynesworth and Gurode have put the controversial incident behind them.
Controversies aside, Albert Haynesworth was a fearsome pass rusher who could have been part of the Titans’ Mt. Rushmore of defensive linemen.
This is Albert Haynesworth’s eye-opening football journey.
Albert George Haynesworth III was born to parents Albert II and Linda in Hartsville, SC on June 17, 1981. He is the second of three brothers.
Unfortunately, Albert II and Linda divorced when Albert was just a four-year-old preschooler in 1985. Linda had to raise her three boys all by herself.
According to The Athletic’s Dan Pompei, Linda worked as an operator, truck driver, and mechanic at night.
Since then, she has been working for the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Linda finds fulfillment in her job because she helps straighten out convicted criminals so they can find the right path.
Linda made wise investments so she and her boys could live a comfortable life. Before long, she and her kids moved into a house in the Hartsville, SC neighborhood.
Linda, a devout Christian, taught her children about hard work and spirituality. Those virtues made a profound impact on them during their formative years in South Carolina.
Fast forward almost forty years later and Linda told Pomei that Albert hasn’t changed one bit—he has always been a gentle giant since his childhood days on the East Coast.
In the house here in Hartsville tonight – their biggest alum- Albert Haynesworth checking out the Red Foxes and Berkeley pic.twitter.com/nnhdPchoz0
— Scott Eisberg (@SEisbergWCIV) November 25, 2017
Haynesworth wrote in a first-person essay for The Players’ Tribune in the summer of 2015 that he told his mother that he was going to play in the National Football League when he was just eight years old in 1989.
Albert also idolized legendary Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers defensive end Reggie White as a youngster in South Carolina.
Albert Haynesworth attended Hartsville High School in his hometown. He was a two-sport star in football and track during his high school days.
Haynesworth suited up for Hartsville Red Foxes head football coach Lewis Lineberger.
Although Albert had massive potential as a high school defensive lineman, he didn’t maximize it. Lineberger told Sports Illustrated’s Damon Hack in the fall of 2008 that Haynesworth slacked off between his junior and senior seasons.
Albert, who attended summer school prior to his senior year, did not work out as intensely as in previous years. Consequently, his heavier playing weight proved detrimental to the Red Foxes.
Nevertheless, Albert racked up a combined 12.0 sacks and 260 tackles during his junior and senior seasons in 1997 and 1998.
Although Haynesworth had his issues as his playing days at Hartsville High wound down, he still became the top-ranked high school defensive tackle in the nation.
According to The Associated Press’s Elizabeth Davis (via UTSports.com), people in Haynesworth’s home state criticized him harshly for choosing the Tennessee Volunteers over the South Carolina Gamecocks for college.
Despite the criticism, Albert Haynesworth would eventually become one of the SEC’s most feared pass rushers when he played for Phillip Fulmer’s Tennessee Volunteers in the next phase of his gridiron journey.
College Days with the Tennessee Volunteers
Albert Haynesworth attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN from 1999 to 2001. He played for Tennessee Volunteers head football coach Phillip Fulmer.
Fulmer introduced Albert to a psychologist who eventually became one of his closest friends. That psychologist became Haynesworth’s trusted confidant over the years, per The Players’ Tribune.
Before long, Albert introduced him to his mother, Linda. She thought something about him felt off—he had a vibe that rubbed her the wrong way. Linda trusted her instincts and eventually told her son to steer clear of that guy.
Unfortunately, Haynesworth did not listen—the unnamed friend was actually responsible for blowing millions of his career earnings in the NFL several years later.
Haynesworth’s infamous temper manifested on the college gridiron. Albert got into a scuffle with a teammate during practice in his junior season in 2000, per Sports Illustrated.
Haynesworth left the premises only to return with a metal pole he wanted to swing at his teammate. Fortunately, Fulmer and his coaching staff intervened in a timely manner before the issue escalated.
Got to chat briefly with Albert Haynesworth at the game tonight. A fellow Tennessee Volunteer.
Thanks for the photo @haynesworthiii
(My daughter said i did good and didn't get too fanboy. We wouldn't want to embarrass our kids now, would we?)
😆#VFL #TennesseeVols #UTK pic.twitter.com/PG79tjsAB0
— Adam Howell (@achowell2014) January 19, 2019
Fortunately, Albert finished his junior season on a high note. He earned Second-Team All-SEC honors in 2001 and helped the Volunteers, who averaged nine wins per year from 1999 to 2000, winning 11 games in 2001.
With Haynesworth wreaking havoc on the defensive line, Tennessee beat the Michigan Wolverines in the 2002 Citrus Bowl, 45-17.
Haynesworth decided to forego his senior season and declare for the 2002 NFL Draft. He finished his three-year tenure in Knoxville, TN with 66 tackles, 5.0 sacks, and 20 tackles for loss.
Albert Haynesworth remained in the Volunteer State and evolved into one of the NFL’s most feared and controversial pass rushers during his days with the Tennessee Titans from 2002 to 2008.
Pro Football Career
The Tennessee Titans made Albert Haynesworth the 15th overall selection of the 2002 NFL Draft.
Haynesworth’s fiery temper continued making headlines in his second pro football season. According to Hack, Albert kicked Tennessee center Justin Hartwig in the chest during a scrimmage game in the summer of 2003.
Haynesworth’s penchant for sitting plays out because of minor injuries wore thin on some of his Titans teammates. Whenever a minor injury bothered Haynesworth, he sometimes had to catch his breath on the sidelines. That was the trend during his first few years in the NFL.
“A lot of people used to call him ‘Two Plays,'” Titans safety Chris Hope told Sports Illustrated in 2008. “He’d give us two plays, and then he was done.”
Haynesworth also did something in 2003 that took a massive toll on his health well into his retirement years.
He confessed to Pompei 18 years later that he allowed his Titans teammates to convince him to take the painkiller Toradol prior to games.
Albert’s teammates assured him that particular medicine would help increase his threshold for pain—a way of life in the National Football League.
Before long, Haynesworth fell in line before kickoff and let a team physician inject Toradol into his buttocks. By his estimate, that trend continued for the next eight seasons. He claimed that Toradol helped him play through various football-related injuries, including a partially torn hamstring.
Atlhough Haynesworth soon discovered the debilitating effects of Toradol, he still took it every Sunday during the NFL season. He and his teammates felt invincible as soon as the effects kicked in.
40 Best Titans All Time
10:Albert Haynesworth DT @AlbertHayneswo2
Haynesworth was drafted by Titans in first round 2002 NFL Draft where he spent 7 of his 10 seasons. Led Titans to two top 5 defenses '07/'08 272 tackles,60 TFL,42 QB hits,6 forced fumbles,4 recoveries,24 sacks pic.twitter.com/L2aC6I9tPW
— 🏈TitansFanatic🏈 (@titanfan8) March 18, 2022
However, as soon as the effects wore off the following day, they could barely walk. He remembered legendary Titans quarterback Steve McNair shredding defenses with his arm and legs after getting his shot.
When McNair woke up the following morning, his leg was in so much pain that he had to wear a boot for the rest of the week, per Pompei.
The Titans were a force during Albert Haynesworth’s first two pro football seasons. Although Tennessee averaged 12 wins per year from 2002 to 2003, the team never made it past the AFC Championship Game.
The Titans regressed considerably over the next two seasons. Tennessee averaged just five wins from 2004 to 2005 and missed the postseason each time.
When Albert Haynesworth entered his fifth NFL season in 2006, he would make headlines for the wrong reasons.
After Dallas Cowboys running back Julius Jones scored a red zone touchdown on October 1, 2006, Haynesworth took off Cowboys center Andre Gurode’s helmet and began stomping on his head.
A bloodied Gurode tried to fend off Haynesworth by wrapping his arms around his head. It took 30 stitches to close the wound in Gurode’s right eye after the game.
New NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who had taken office just one month earlier, came down hard on Haynesworth. He slapped him with a five-game suspension that docked approximately $1.1 million from his paycheck and assorted bonuses.
15 years after the infamous stomping incident, Albert Haynesworth explained his side to The Athletic.
Haynesworth claimed that Gurode had done his chopping motion from the blind side. Had Albert planted his leg, he would have sustained a serious knee injury.
Gurode told Haynesworth that he couldn’t block him the traditional way. The latter saw red when the Cowboys center said he was trying to take him out of the game.
“I couldn’t believe he said that,” Haynesworth told Pompei in the fall of 2021. “If I had a gun, I probably would have shot him. It was beyond football. That’s what took me to that place.”
Fortunately, Haynesworth and Gurode patched things up and became friends several years later.
Haynesworth did his best to put the controversial Gurode incident behind him.
First, he reached out to Gurode to apologize. Next, he referred to his behavior as “despicable.” On top of Haynesworth’s five-game suspension, the Titans scheduled counseling sessions with clinical psychologist Dr. Sheila Peters. The latter had previously worked with Titans quarterback Vince Young.
Haynesworth’s weekly sessions with Peters lasted for an hour. Albert, who already had three young children at the time of the Gurode incident, used those sessions to get certain issues off his chest.
“It gave me a chance to open up; everybody has problems,” Haynesworth told Hack in the fall of 2008. “I have a family. I have three young kids who look up to me. You have to present yourself well.”
Peters wasn’t the only one who lent Haynesworth a valuable helping hand during his harrowing ordeal midway through his ten-year pro football career.
Chuck Smith, a former defensive lineman who played for Haynesworth’s alma mater, the Tennessee Volunteers, reached out to the Titans’ big man and invited him to Georgia (Smith also played for the Atlanta Falcons) to train with and counsel him.
Smith told Hack that he saw a troubled man in Haynesworth at the time. He knew Albert was fearful and nervous right off the bat. Smith reprimanded him like a younger sibling during their time together.
Smith refined Haynesworth’s game—he left no stone unturned. According to Sports Illustrated, Haynesworth added spin moves, hand techniques, and the finer points of pass rushing.
Smith tipped his hat to Haynesworth, who rededicated himself to football, owned up to his mistakes, and tried to change himself for the better.
Albert Haynesworth’s long-awaited rebirth would occur in just a matter of time.
Albert became one of the most dominant defensive tackles from 2007 to 2008. He racked up a combined 91 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 27 tackles for loss, 37 quarterback hits, seven passes defensed, and three forced fumbles during that memorable two-year time frame.
Haynesworth promptly earned two First-Team All-Pro and two Pro Bowl selections for his efforts. He was also the second runner-up in The Associated Press‘ voting for 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Sporting News also proclaimed Haynesworth the league’s best defensive player in 2008.
Titans center Kevin Mawae told Sports Illustrated in the fall of 2008 that Haynesworth’s quick burst off the line of scrimmage set him apart from other defensive linemen of his era.
Albert was so good that offensive coordinators had to scheme against him instead of the entire Titans defensive line. They always cringed whenever they had to face him on Sunday afternoons.
“Albert is a big man who can do a lot, and those guys are extremely valuable,” Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz told Hack in 2008.
Haynesworth’s resurgence helped the Titans average a gaudy 12 wins per year and play postseason football from 2007 to 2008 after a three-year drought. Unfortunately, Tennessee never advanced past the AFC Divisional Round.
Although things on the professional front were looking up for Haynesworth, he encountered a setback in his personal life. His wife, Stephanie, filed for divorce several months after the 2007 NFL season concluded.
Haynesworth thought his impressive showing in 2007 and 2008 warranted a hefty contract extension from the Titans. They could only dangle a seven-year, $28 million contract.
In sharp contrast, the Washington Redskins were willing to pay him $100 million. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took it a notch higher—they were willing to shell out $135 million to Haynesworth, per The Athletic.
Albert Haynesworth ultimately signed with the Redskins on February 27, 2009. His lucrative deal included a league record $41 million in guaranteed money, per ESPN’s John Clayton.
The Titans’ deal left a bad taste in Albert’s mouth—he declined to sign sports apparel associated with the team for some time.
He also told Pompei more than 12 years later that he left Tennessee because he never earned the accolades he thought he deserved as a top-notch defensive lineman.
“My goal was to be in the Hall of Fame. I felt I got shunned a couple of years for Defensive Player of the Year,” Haynesworth explained to The Athletic in 2021. “That’s the main reason I left Tennessee.”
Little did Haynesworth realize back then that his playing days in Nashville, TN from 2002 to 2008 were the best of his ten-year pro football career.
When Haynesworth first wore Redskins burgundy and gold in 2009, he continued taking the painkiller Toradol before he took the field.
This time around, instead of a doctor injecting the drug, Albert took a combination of Toradol and hydrating fluids through an IV, per The Athletic.
Regrettably, Albert did not play at the level he did with the Titans when he suited up for the Redskins in 2009 and 2010. He simply did not live up to the potential of a $100 million defensive tackle.
According to Pompei, Redskins owner Dan Snyder and head coach Jim Zorn promised Haynesworth that he would thrive in a system similar to the Titans’.
Albert Haynesworth: Redskins ‘Took My Love Away from the Game’ pic.twitter.com/KRjIiYpvjX
— Siva Kodali (@kodali_siva) March 5, 2015
It turned out that Washington simply wanted Albert to take blockers out of the equation instead of sacking the quarterback or stopping the ball carrier dead in his tracks.
“Football in Washington versus football in Tennessee was like the difference between a general physician and a cardilogist,” Haynesworth wrote in The Players’ Tribune in 2015. “Both doctors. One is just a little more sophisticated.”
When Albert entered his second season in Washington in 2010, new Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan summoned him into his office.
Shanahan told Haynesworth he only had one job to do—grab the center and let the linebackers do the damage.
An incredulous Haynesworth could not believe what he had just heard. He could not fathom the Redskins paying him $100 million just for grabbing the center, per The Players’ Tribune.
Shanahan, a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach with the Denver Broncos, also told Haynesworth that he would be angry if he recorded more than 1.0 sack in 2010. The latter was stunned, to say the least.
Worse, Haynesworth’s ego became a problem for Zorn and Shanahan. The Redskins averaged just five wins per season during Albert’s two-year tenure in the nation’s capital from 2009 to 2010.
Since the beginning of the new century, Washington had missed the postseason nine times in the past 11 years.
Haynesworth soon wore out his welcome in Washington. The Redskins traded him to the New England Patriots for a fifth-round selection prior to the 2011 NFL season.
Haynesworth’s tenure with Bill Belichick’s team lasted all of eight games. New England eventually placed him on waivers before the Buccaneers—the team that pursued him as a free agent just two years earlier—signed him for the rest of the season.
The turn of events was not surprising considering Haynesworth had fallen out of love with football since his fallout from the Redskins.
“After the Redskins, I was so sick of football, I didn’t even want to play no more,” Haynesworth admitted to Pompei in 2021. “I was pretty mentally checked out. I’m done. Sick of it. Not fun anymore.”
Albert Haynesworth retired from the National Football League after he played out his contract with Tampa Bay in 2011.
Haynesworth had 30.5 sacks, 347 combined tackles, 74 tackles for loss, 65 quarterback hits, six forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries in his ten-year pro football career.
Haynesworth had several run-ins with the law during his career in the NFL. A motorist claimed that the former Tennessee Titans defensive lineman tried to run him off the road in 2006. Police eventually dropped the reckless driving charge against Haynesworth.
Authorities charged him with misdemeanor reckless driving and using an expired registration three years later. Haynesworth eventually received probation and community service for his actions.
Albert Haynesworth and his family currently reside in the Nashville, TN area. He spent the immediate aftermath of his retirement in Florida before returning to Music City so he could spend more time with his four kids: Ashari, Alani, Albert IV, and Ayden.
Haynesworth continued running afoul of the law after he hung up his cleats. Police charged him with assault after he allegedly struck another motorist during a heated traffic dispute in 2011.
Authorities charged him with misdemeanor sexual assault after he allegedly made inappropriate sexual advances at a waitress in Washington, D.C. that same year. Haynesworth eventually entered a not-guilty plea to sexual assault.
Haynesworth had some serious health issues during his retirement years. He survived two brain aneurysms that resulted in an 11-day stay in the ICU three years after he played his final down in the NFL.
Haynesworth told The Athletic in 2021 that Toradol was not the reason behind his two aneurysms. Three years after that harrowing incident, he sank into a deep depression on Father’s Day 2017.
Haynesworth toyed with the idea of taking pills. Fortunately, he never did it because he wanted to set a good example for his children.
Several years later, he was running on fumes after reaching first base while playing t-ball with his three-year-old son, Ayden.
Albert felt cold, clammy, and fatigued in the subsequent days. He knew something was wrong. Haynesworth underwent further testing and discovered his kidneys were working at half their normal capacity.
Things took a turn for the worse in the summer of 2019. Haynesworth’s coughing spiraled out of control. He also couldn’t breathe when he lay in his normal sleeping position. Albert had to sit up so he could go to bed at night.
Haynesworth feared the worst—he told Pompei two years later that his kidneys were malfunctioning. Albert’s doctors had to drain approximately 12 pounds of fluid from his kidneys.
He eventually blamed the NFL for destroying his kidneys because he took the painkiller Toradol prior to kickoff for eight seasons.
Albert Haynesworth’s life hung in the balance. The 38-year-old, who was once the highest-paid defensive player in league history, was teetering on the brink of death.
The only recourse at that point was to find a willing donor so Albert could undergo a kidney transplant. According to The Athletic, three of Haynesworth’s fellow eight dialysis patients eventually passed away.
Haynesworth did the next best thing—he posted a picture of himself lying on his hospital bed on Instagram. More than 1,000 prospective donors contacted Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Zach Penny, a physical therapy assistant from Arkansas, was one of the people who read Haynesworth’s Instagram post. Penny had previously tried to donate one of his kidneys on two separate occasions. However, neither possibility played out.
The third time was the charm for Penny—doctors determined the man’s kidneys were a match for Haynesworth, per Pompei.
It took some time for the kidney transplant to materialize. Some issues—including Haynesworth’s bout with COVID-19 and two bouts with pneumonia—got in the way.
The transplant finally took place at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on April 15, 2021. At the end of the procedure, Penny, who drove seven hours from Arkansas, had one kidney remaining.
Haynesworth, who calls Penny his “living angel,” currently has functional kidneys. Although he lost roughly 50 pounds since his renal issues began, he is now in relatively good health.
In fact, Haynesworth urinated 4,000 ml over a 90-second span after doctors removed his catheter. He had hardly urinated in the previous ninety days.
It turned out that Haynesworth’s health issues were just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
According to The Athletic, he lost millions of dollars after a trusted friend invested his money only to blow it all in the end. It was a first for Albert—he never had any financial issues prior to that fiasco.
Congrats to VFL's Brittany Jackson and Albert Haynesworth on the birth of their new baby boy, Ayden Jaxson. pic.twitter.com/N1Y67hSBzM
— Hewitt Pruitt (@HewittPruitt) July 17, 2015
Haynesworth also accused his former girlfriend Brittany Jackson of verbal and physical assault during his retirement years. He also claimed Jackson, his youngest son Ayden’s mother, used racial slurs during their arguments.
Jackson, in turn, accused Albert of threatening her and her new lover. She is a former Tennessee Volunteers women’s basketball player who played for legendary coach Pat Summitt in four Women’s Final Fours from 2001 to 2004.
Authorities subsequently charged Haynesworth with domestic assault and disorderly conduct. Fortunately for Albert, they could not find any evidence of physical assault. As of October 2021, the matter has not been filed in court.
Through it all, Albert Haynesworth knows things in life happen for a reason.
“I’m a sinner, but I know God’s plan,” Haynesworth told The Athletic in 2021. “He puts me through things not to test my faith but to make me stronger.”
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