All-American Running Back Curtis Enis Is Suspended by Penn State for Accepting Gifts From a
All-American Running Back Curtis Enis Is Suspended by Penn State for Accepting Gifts From a Sports AgentBy MICHAEL RAPHAEL
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) _ Penn State fans upset over the abrupt end to Curtis Enis’ college career could take solace from the fact that he probably wouldn’t have been back next year anyway.
Coach Joe Paterno said he intended to suggest to his All-America running back that he turn professional instead of returning for his senior year and a shot at the Heisman Trophy.
Instead, Paterno announced Tuesday that Enis admitted he accepted gifts from a sports agent and then lied about it.
Enis was declared ineligible for the Citrus Bowl and has played his last game for the Nittany Lions, according to Jeff Nelson, Penn State sports information director.
``I think that he realized he made a mistake,″ Paterno said on a conference call from Melbourne, Fla., where Penn State is practicing for its New Year’s Day game with No. 6 Florida. ``He was trying to come clean with everything.″
Paterno talked with Enis and his parents in what the coach called an ``emotional meeting.″ Afterward, the two men hugged and Paterno wished Enis well.
``He said he was sorry,″ Paterno said, and then read from a statement from Enis: ``I know I made a mistake. ... I apologize to my teammates and my fans and ask for their understanding.″
Enis led the No. 11 Nittany Lions in rushing with 1,363 yards this season. For his career, he’s third at Penn State with 3,256 yards.
He is the second Penn State star to be ruled ineligible for the Citrus Bowl. Wide receiver Joe Jurevicius won’t play because of poor grades.
Paterno said he did not ask Enis how he got involved with the agent or what gifts he accepted.
``Obviously I’m disappointed. I also want to be fair. He made a mistake. It happened _ what time, when, we didn’t get into that,″ the coach said. ``I have a bad taste in my mouth ... obviously I’m not very happy.″
Paterno said a university investigation found that the charges, first raised by a Pennsylvania television station, had merit. He then confronted Enis.
``All I was trying to do was get him to the point where we could make a statement and get this behind us so he could get on with his life,″ Paterno said.
WHTM-TV in Harrisburg reported Friday that Houston-based agent Jeff Nalley bought Enis $400 in clothing on Dec. 6 in a Harrisburg-area mall.
Enis denied the charge and said his girlfriend bought the gray pinstriped suit he wore to ESPN’s Doak Walker Award ceremony on Dec. 11. Nalley backed him up, saying he purchased a $75 shirt and $325 suit at John Craig Fashions in Camp Hill for former client Lovell Pinkney, a tight end released by the Green Bay Packers in August.
On Monday, the television station reported that several Harrisburg mall employees said they were certain they saw Enis on Dec. 6. None of the workers would appear on camera.
The station showed a ``Curtis Enis 39″ autograph, which a security guard said the player signed for him that day. At Champs Sports, the station reported, Enis signed one of his Penn State jerseys.
A message left on Nalley’s answering machine in Houston by The Associated Press on Tuesday night was not returned.
The 1997 season started slowly for the Ohio native. In blowouts against non-conference teams, Enis sat during some second halves and appeared to be struggling when he was in.
But when the Big Ten season started, Enis ran for more than 100 yards in seven straight games _ including 211 against Ohio State.
Enis finished first in the conference in touchdowns (19) and third in yards rushing. He was named co-offensive player of the year with Tavian Banks of Iowa.
``He’s one of the best backs we’ve ever had,″ Paterno said.