When he was last with the New England Patriots back in 2007, a then 27-year old Donte Stallworth was an up and coming receiver in the NFL. After several productive seasons with the Saints and a solid year in Philadelphia, Stallworth had a nice transition to New England, catching 46 passes for 697 yards and three touchdowns.
He seemed to have everything figured out. Well, he quickly figured out that he didn't. Following a fairly disappointing season as a Cleveland Brown--where he signed a multi-year deal following 2007--Stallworth hit an all-time low. He was arrested for DUI-Manslaughter in the summer of 2009, and was forced to serve a year long suspension and 30-day jail sentence because of the severe crime he committed.
Years later, Stallworth finds himself in New England once again. But this time, he seems to have become a more mature person and player. Just before Friday's Patriots practice, head coach Bill Belichick praised Stallworth as an "example" we can all follow. Stallworth said he doesn't view himself quite like that, but acknowledged his maturity.
"I really don't think of myself like that," he said. "I just try to go out and help out the young guys as much as I can, because I was once that guy. And anything that I see from the younger guys that they might not notice that they're doing, I try to pull them to the side and tell them some things here and there. But mainly, I just try to do the things that I've learned throughout my career.
"I know I've matured as a player, matured as a person," said Stallworth. "I'm a lot smarter now than I was then. I think more so, when I was back here at the age of 26, I was more so playing off of talent. And now I've kind of developed into a smarter player, a better route runner, and things like that."
If he makes the final roster cut, this will be Stallworth's second go-around with the Patriots. Even though he's been all over the NFL it seems like, he says that he held his time in New England close to his heart. For him, coming back to the Patriots is like a homecoming. He's ready to seize this opportunity and make the most out of it.
"Any time you can come back to a great organization like this -- great fans, great people here in the city -- it's always a plus," said Stallworth. "And there was no doubt in my mind that, if they would ever welcome me the opportunity to come back, I'd jump at the opportunity."