LaVar Arrington is a name few Penn State football fans will not remember.
The college football world as a whole might know him from the iconic “LaVar Leap” against the Fighting Illini back in 1998.
However, everyone who follows college football will remember his name once again, as he is now a part of the College Football Hall of Fame class of 2022.
His legacy as a Nittany Lion will be etched into college football history books.
In honor of LaVar Arrington and his momentous achievement, we take this opportunity to rewind the life of LaVar Arrington and unpack the true impact he had on the college football world and beyond.
LaVar RaShad Arrington was born to Michael and Carolyn Arrington in Pittsburgh on June 20th, 1978.
During his early years, Arrington was not your everyday athlete, he would excel at almost anything he tried.
This tendency showed up big time through his high school years and would carry on through college.
Arrington is known for his college and NFL career as a linebacker, one of the best to play at Penn State and Washington.
But few know how athletic Arrington was in his high school days.
In football, Arrington not only played linebacker but was mainly a superstar running back for North Hills Senior High School in Pittsburgh.
He would become the second Class 4-A football player in history to rush for over 4,000 yards.
His stats at the running back position seem unimaginable for a future linebacker, with his 4,357 rushing yards on 711 carries, and reaching the endzone 72 times throughout his high school career.
These impressive rushing stats led to Arrington receiving many awards and honors throughout High school.
To name a few of the biggest honors he received, he was the Gatorade Player of the Year and was USA Today’s Pennsylvania Player of the Year after his senior year.
On Jun 24, 2011, Arrington would be inducted into the WPIAL (Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League) Hall of Fame, cementing his impact on high school football indefinitely.
However, Arrington also exceeded in other sports throughout high school, including basketball and track & field.
With blazing-fast 100 and 200-meter PRs of 10.85 and 23.14 respectively, Arrington could have easily run in college if he had chosen that over football.
This matched with his high jump and long jump capabilities, Arrington had enough athleticism to basically choose what sport he wanted to do wherever he went.
In fact, Arrington was even a gifted basketball player, receiving offers from D-1 schools including North Carolina, Georgetown, and the University of Massachusetts.
While Arrington eventually decided to choose football and play the linebacker position, his explosive athleticism and spectacular ability were not even close to being gone quite yet.
LaVar Arrington chose to stay within his home state of Pennsylvania and attend Penn State.
He started off his college football career in 1997 with the Nittany Lions but didn’t play in any games his freshmen year.
The 1998 season is when LaVar Arrington started to show the college football community what he truly was capable of at the linebacker position.
Arrington was a problem for opposing defenses in all areas of the field.
Not only was he a run stopper, with 65 tackles, but he was also a pass stopper, with 7 quarterback sacks and 2 interceptions.
These outstanding stats would help the Nittany Lions go 9-3 and go on to win the Outback Bowl 26-14 against the Kentucky Wildcats.
The Penn State defense he was a part of allowed an average of 15.2 points per game, ranking 10th in college football.
While the 1998 season was the first chance Arrington could flex his muscles and show the world what he was about, the 1999 season would be the reason LaVar Arrington became a Penn State legend and would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
The 1999 season was LaVar Arrington’s junior year of college and second year suiting up for the Nittany Lions.
After an impressive showing the year before, Arrington had lots of eyes on him to perform equally as well this year.
Arrington started off the 1999 season in top form, and never slowed down.
The high school running back star had evolved into a fearless linebacker that nobody wanted to line up against.
Not only was Arrington performing as well as the 1998 season, but he was outperforming expectations.
Arrington was no stranger to being a pass and rush defender, as he racked up more tackles, sacks, and tackles for loss than in 1998.
He also added an interception and forced fumble to his stat sheet.
But above and beyond what the job description for a linebacker should be, Arrington successfully blocked two kicks during the 1999 season.
Arrington could do it all on the defensive side.
One of the biggest defensive plays of LaVar Arrington’s career at Penn State was the infamous “LaVar Leap”.
The game unfolded into a crucial fourth down and short yardage for Penn State’s opponent, the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Arrington, lined up in the linebacker position, anticipated the snap count of the offensive quarterback and perfectly timed the snap.
He launched himself over the offensive linemen in front of him to stuff the opposing running back in his tracks.
This play was an impressive display of LaVar Arrington’s athleticism, but plays like this were not uncommon, and his athleticism was taken notice of when it came around to the end of the season.
By the end of the 1999 season, LaVar Arrington and his Nittany Lions were a solid 10-3 and ranked 11th in the final AP poll.
His team would go on to win the Alamo Bowl easily with a 24-0 win over Texas A&M.
However, this did not end the college excitement for LaVar Arrington in that 1999 season.
Due to LaVar Arrington’s incredible success and lockdown defense, he had been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, a sports magazine that features some of the top athletes in all of sports.
This cover appearance and many other factors, led to LaVar Arrington being in the conversation of potentially being a Heisman candidate.
Although it didn’t end up panning out that way, ending up ninth on the Heisman ballot, LaVar Arrington still ended up winning many awards for his performance in the 1999 season.
Arrington won the Chuck Bednarik Award, for the best defensive player in college football, the Dick Butkus Award, given to the best linebackers, and the Lambert Award, given to the top college linebacker.
Alongside these awards, Arrington ended up being an All-Big-Ten selection, as well as a first-team All-American.
All these awards and honors continue to paint the picture of just how good of an athlete LaVar Arrington was in college at Penn State and why he is so deserving of being named to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Despite this amazing college football career, LaVar Arrington was nowhere close to being done with his impact on football, as his next steps were to enter the 2000 NFL Draft, forgoing his senior year of college football.
Years In The NFL
After an impressive high school career, followed up by proving himself to the world in college, LaVar Arrington was ready to see if his talents would reciprocate over to the next level, the NFL.
Following his impressive display of talent and skill in 1999, the most logical choice for Arrington was to forgo his senior year with Penn State and to start preparing for the 2000 NFL Draft.
Arrington came into the NFL combine weighing a cool 250 pounds and coming in at a height of 6 feet 3 inches.
His performance in college and the combine left no doubt in the team’s heads that LaVar Arrington was a high first-round pick.
And so, when draft day came around, the Washington Redskins made LaVar Arrington the 2nd overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, being drafted after Courtney Brown, a defensive end and teammate of LaVar Arrington in college on the Nittany Lions.
Being drafted changed everything for LaVar Arrington.
LaVar would later say in 2019 in a letter to himself:
“Everything is going to change. Because money changes everything”.
Arrington signed a six-year, 34.2 million dollar contract that inside the contract, included around 10 million dollars in a signing bonus.
By 2000 standards, this was the biggest NFL rookie signing in history.
So, for an athlete that was still in his early 20’s, Arrington had come into big money, very fast.
This letter, while written a little too late for the young superstar linebacker in 2000, would’ve helped Arrington in more ways than one when it came to his complicated career with the Washington Redskins in the years to come.
Arrington would begin his career in the 2000 season for the Washington Redskins, starting to play right away for his new home team.
He would go on to start in 11 games but play in all 16 games for the Reskins during the 2000 season.
Arrington would produce decent stats for an NFL rookie, but nowhere near his contributions in college.
This initial season for Arrington might have scared some Redskins fans into thinking they may have drafted a flop or a one-and-done rookie.
Little did they know that Arrington was on a mission to prove he belonged in the NFL.
And during the 2001-2003 NFL seasons, Arrington would accomplish that mission, becoming one of the most feared linebackers on the Redskins roster.
In 2001, Arrington led his team in tackles, both solo and assisted, and tied for 2nd in interceptions, despite only playing 14 out of the 16 games on the season.
This outstanding performance in the 2001 season, led to Arrington receiving numerous honors at the end of the season.
Despite it only being his second year in the NFL, Arrington was not only named to the 2001 All-Pro list but was also selected for the 2001 Pro Bowl.
These accomplishments showed the NFL that Arrington was a threat to be reckoned with, and he would only continue to be motivated in the years to come.
The 2002 and 2003 NFL seasons were just as explosive as the 2001 season for LaVar Arrington.
He continued his defensive dominance, putting up above 90 tackles in both seasons.
In 2002 he received his 2nd selection to the Pro Bowl and in 2003 he clinched his 3rd Pro Bowl selection as well as making the NFL All-Pro list for the 2nd time.
For Arrington, the 2002 and 2003 seasons were the last few seasons where Arrington was truly able to exhibit his athletic ability.
The second half of his NFL career was less impressive for the Redskins linebacker and was riddled with problems out of Arrington’s control.
Financial Issues And Injuries
For Arrington, the second part of his NFL career, 2004-2006, was full of mistakes and misjudgments.
The financial issues that pushed him out of Washington and the injuries that ended his career much sooner than anyone would’ve wanted, plagued this second half of Arrington’s career.
At the beginning of the 2004 season, Arrington signed an eight-year, 68 million dollar contract extension with the Redskins.
This contract signified good things to come between the Washington Redskins and Arrington, or at least, that’s what they thought at the time.
At the start of the 2004 season, hopes were high for Arrington, as he was coming off of 3 amazing seasons and had just signed an extension.
Well, those dreams were shattered quickly, as a knee injury held Arrington to playing in just four games the entire 2004 season.
Most offenses couldn’t stop this explosive linebacker, but injuries were no joke.
The 2005 season, despite Arrington playing in 13 games, was a sad disappointment for Arrington.
Never fully reaching the level of play fans were used to seeing him perform before the injury, he put up pitiful stats compared to his previous years playing.
Around this time, the financial issues started for Arrington, and it would send his career and relationship with the Redskins spiraling out of control.
Not many people think of an eight-year, 68 million dollar contract extension as a financial problem in the least.
However, for Arrington this led to disaster, as his longtime agent, Carl Poston found himself in serious trouble after mistakes were made on contract drafts.
Carl Poston had been working with Arrington on his contract with the Washington Redskins, when it was discovered that he had not inspected the final revision of the contract being given to Arrington.
This caused Arrington to lose around $6.5 million of bonuses and hurt the reputation of himself and the Washington Organization.
The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) ended up suspending Poston for two years because of this mistake.
However, Arrington did not want Poston to be suspended and even though this mistake had cost Arrington millions, he chose to support his agent’s challenge of the recommendation for a suspension.
Arrington eventually bought his way out of his contract with Washington for a total of $4.4 million and was signed to an impressive seven-year $49 million contract with the Redskins rivals, the New York Giants.
Despite the poor performance put up by Arrington in the past seasons recovering from injuries, the Giants were confident that Arrington would once again become the fearsome linebacker he was before.
Unfortunately for the Giants and Arrington, he would not come close to becoming who he once was.
Arrington played a total of 6 games for the Giants, recording a measly 16 tackles.
In week seven against the Dallas Cowboys, Arrington suffered a devastating injury that would terminate his NFL career and send him to an early retirement.
Arrington’s Achilles tendon ruptured and caused him to miss the rest of the 2006 season with the Giants.
After the season, Arrington was released by the New York Giants in February 2007.
Only four short months later, Arrington’s chances of signing for another team were thrashed, as he was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in June 2007.
Arrington suffered multiple injuries from the devastating crash, including a broken right forearm, broken lower vertebrae, and deep gashes in his legs.
These injuries made returning to the NFL impossible and solidified the retirement of LaVar Arrington.
The three-time Pro Bowler who once was praised for his athleticism was now plagued with injuries and had to cut short what could’ve been a legendary linebacker career.
Despite the bad blood that Arrington left the Redskins with, he remains seated as the 56th greatest Redskin of All-Time on the 80 Greatest Redskins List.
His time on the field came to an abrupt stop, but his impact on the game lives on.
After The NFL
After seven years in the NFL, even though his career ended early, Arrington wasn’t done with the NFL just yet.
In 2007, he started his journey of broadcasting with Comcast SportsNet.
He continued on and off working on different parts of the Comcast SportsNet team for Washington and then expanded to working on other broadcasting avenues.
The most recent broadcasting venture of Arrington was working as a football analyst on FS1 for the “Speak For Yourself” sports talk program.
This connection that Arrington had with broadcasting kept him connected to the NFL even though he wasn’t playing anymore.
Alongside his desire to broadcast, Arrington was interested in entrepreneurship as well.
He formed his first sports agency in 2008 called Leap Management.
Leap Management was in an essence a way to help young college players prepare for the perilous road of professional athletics.
Arrington founded the company based on the principles that he wanted to help the younger generations and prepare them in any way he could.
Arrington took a bigger step towards helping the younger generations when he founded Xtreme Procision or (XP).
When founding XP, he said:
“I’ve always been into trying to help kids and people”.
This entrepreneurial spirit and care for people would impact many lives over the years of XP’s existence.
In addition to his sports-related business opportunities, Arrington opened a restaurant named The Sideline in January 2008.
This restaurant only lasted around 17 months as the restaurant quickly went bankrupt in December 2009.
Although Arrington wasn’t wildly successful from his entrepreneurial tendencies, these ventures showed his determination to change the world and to help people in any way he could.
More recently, Arrington has been coaching football at the high school level.
He started as an assistant coach for Long Beach Poly in 2017, during his time as an analyst for the NFL.
He then moved to his first head coaching position in 2018, where he became the head coach for Maranatha High School.
Maranatha was located in Pasadena, California, and Arrington was committed to turning the football program around.
However, after just three short seasons, Arrington resigned stating:
“There’s poor leadership at the school and you can’t be the football program that I envision under that type of leadership, so it was time to move on”.
While LaVar Arrington fans wished his career would’ve lasted longer in the NFL, there hasn’t been a way in which Arrington has not affected football.
He played football in high school through NFL, was an analyst and broadcaster for football and the NFL, and has even been a coach for high school football teams.
The man who could play any sport in high school can now do any job he puts his mind to.
As we recognize this tremendous athlete for becoming a member of the Class of 2022 College Football Hall of Fame, may we also remember the impact that LaVar Arrington has had on all levels of football throughout his life.
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