THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Thursday, September 1, 1994 TAG: 9409010710 SECTION: SPORTS PAGE: C1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY ED MILLER, STAFF WRITER DATELINE: NEWPORT NEWS LENGTH: Long : 118 lines
Reggie Langhorne caught 85 passes for the Indianapolis Colts last season, tops in the AFC. He piled up 1,038 yards receiving and scored three touchdowns in what was the finest season of his nine-year NFL career.
But lately, Langhorne hasn't caught anything except a half-dozen croaker the other day in his native Smithfield. The NFL season may start Sunday, but don't look for Langhorne. He's gone fishing.
``I haven't seen over two minutes of any preseason game,'' Langhorne said Wednesday. ``I have not read the paper twice since January.''
The Colts, coming off a 3-13 season and seeking to trim a bloated payroll, tossed Langhorne and a bunch of other high-priced veterans overboard during the offseason.
``All the old guys making over a million,'' Langhorne said.
What the Colts didn't know is that Langhorne was on the verge of jumping anyway. He says he'd prepared a letter of resignation when he was cut.
``I needed a break, to get away from it,'' Langhorne said. ``And I
guess I've kind of found myself since I've stopped playing ball.''
Langhorne talked about his decision to call it a career earlier this week at Wipeout Eddy's Raw Bar & Grill, a Newport News restaurant and bar he co-owns.
Langhorne, 31, rolled up in a black Porsche and sounded not a bit like a man who misses football.
``I was tired of the pain,'' Langhorne said. ``I got to realize, making a living doesn't always have to mean you wake up with a headache.''
Langhorne couldn't rally his body for another season of across-the-middle patterns, he said. His hips ache, his right knee has been operated on twice, and he can pull a handful of skin from around his battered right elbow.
``I played in the slot all my career,'' Langhorne said. ``The slot is a different story. You take a lot of shots.''
You take a lot of pills, too. At least Langhorne did. He relied on Clinoril, an anti-inflammatory drug, to get him through games. He popped caffeine pills to make it through practices.
``I took Clinoril for six months - for nine years,'' he said. ``You know what my kidneys look like right now? My insides aren't worth a damn.''
At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Langhorne could take more punishment than most receivers. He could dish it out, too.
But Langhorne's physical style was as much a product of his background as his build. He was a seventh-round pick out of Elizabeth City State in 1985 and was about as green as they come when he entered the Cleveland Browns' camp.
``I didn't know you could leave your laundry to be washed,'' he said. ``At Elizabeth City, we washed our own game uniforms.''
Langhorne credits his ``small-college mentality'' with helping him through his early years. Knocked down by the likes of Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield as a rookie, he kept getting up, and getting in a few licks of his own.
``I loved the pain at first,'' he said. ``I felt like I'd worked, like I'd earned my money.''
Langhorne caught just one pass his rookie year. But he started the second game of his second season and every game of his career after that.
Langhorne spent seven years with the Browns before signing with the Colts in 1992. The team went 9-7 his first year but came apart last season.
``We couldn't seem to get on the same page. They didn't know how to win,'' he said. ``The minute things went bad, they started pointing fingers. It's a lost organization. I guess they're trying to get it together now.''
Even with his physical problems and with the team in disarray, Langhorne flourished last year, becoming a favorite target of quarterback Jeff George.
``We were getting our (butts) kicked. We were 3-13,'' he said. ``I would usually catch three or four passes in the first half. By then we were playing catch-up. Jeff believed in me, and he just told me to get open.''
Things didn't go as well off the field in Indiana. Langhorne was arrested for driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident during training camp in Anderson, Ind., last Aug. 11. He admitted he was out drinking with teammates, and he said he got lost on the way to another bar. He was turning around in a gas station parking lot when he backed into a parked car, causing a small dent.
Langhorne said the car was old and dented anyway, and he and the gas station attendant agreed there was no need to call the police.
But shortly after he got to the other bar, police arrived and arrested him, he said.
When Langhorne returned to training camp, the television cameras ``were on me like I had murdered my sister.''
``I didn't talk to the media in Indy the whole year,'' he said. ``I didn't give them the pleasure.''
Langhorne said the DWI charge was dropped recently. The Indianapolis Star reported in May that the charge was dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on the lesser charge of leaving the scene. For that, Langhorne was fined $100 and ordered to pay $250 to a police boys home, he said.
``I had friends calling me and saying they'd heard I totaled my Porsche,'' he said. ``It was way overblown.''
Now friends can pop by and see Langhorne at Wipeout Eddy's, which opened about four months ago. Langhorne is a frequent visitor, although he says he has no responsibilities other than keeping an eye on the bottom line.
``It's nice. Everyone thinks I'm the sole owner, and that brings people in,'' he said. ``It's an investment, but I'm not really in the bar business. I'm not a guy who has to be here every night.''
Several NFL teams have cast lines Langhorne's way, but he has yet to bite. And he said he probably won't. He's stopped working out. He's built a house in Smithfield and would like to get into college coaching, preferably somewhere like Hampton, Norfolk State or Elizabeth City State.
Still, Langhorne's agent calls every 10 days or so, letting him know who's been inquiring.
Langhorne probably would have to take a big pay cut to play again. But he said that isn't really a consideration.
``You've got to want to play. You've got to want to go over the middle,'' he said. ``I went to Elizabeth City State; I didn't go to Notre Dame to play pro football. This was all a gift. Another year? OK. Another? OK. Each year was a gift.''
Langhorne's gift to himself, he said, was walking away while still at the peak of his game.
``I left on top,'' he said. ``I wasn't going to look bad.''
Which is not a bad way to go. ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
Former NFL receiver Reggie Langhorne, center, is flanked by Eric
Wilborne, left, and Mike Perry, fellow owners of Wipeout Eddy's.