In the spring of 1997, Ross Verba was on top of the world. The 6’4″, 305 pound offensive guard from Iowa had just been voted First Team All Big Ten, and selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. Led by Brett Favre and Reggie White, the 1996 Packers were truly dominant. Not only did they win the Lombardi Trophy, they did so while sporting the league’s highest rated offense, defense, and special teams, and after winning 13 games and romping through the playoffs.
The NFL having just entered the free agency stage, these were the halcyon days of hateful football empires in San Fransisco and Dallas. The Packers were the best team in the NFC, and the NFC was, so went common knowledge, by far the stronger conference. Verba had every reason to believe he would soon have a ring.
From there, things became rosier yet. Verba won the starting left tackle position, and the Packers ran out to another 13-3 season and an easy trip to the Super Bowl. One could have faulted Verba if he felt as strong as Paul Bunyan, virile as Ghengis Khhn, and pretty as Molly Ringwald. Little could he have known that at the tender age of 24, he had reached his personal zenith.
Yes, the Packers failed to complete their mission in 1997, losing to the vastly overrated John Elway and the Denver Broncos. The Packers defensive line was assassinated by a knee injury to the season’s revelation, Gabe Wilkins, and Terrell Davis carried his aging counterpart to his first ring. Verba would stay with the Packers through 2000, just long enough to enjoy being coached down by Ray Rhodes and Mike Sherman. He then played for three years with the woeful Cleveland Browns, before eventually setting on the Detroit Lions and their venerable 3-13 2006 squad. At that time, Verba wisely retired.
Good decision-making is not always rewarded, however, and in January of 2007 Verba was arrested for writing bad checks in Nevada. Though that case was eventually dismissed as a “misunderstanding,” he was later arrested in 2009 for failure to pay a gambling debt. Doubtless Verba’s time in Cleveland and Detroit caused him to question humanity and the nature of the soul. Let us hope by now he has recovered.