Former NFL linebacker Terry Tautolo had a lot of success early in life. After winning a Rose Bowl with UCLA in 1976, Tautolo was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. He won a Super Bowl with the Niners in 1981 and played nine NFL seasons before concussions forced him into retirement. Things quickly went downhill for Tautolo from there.
Not long after his NFL career ended, Tautolo found himself without a home and living in a tunnel below a Los Angeles freeway. He battled methamphetamine and alcohol addictions, which contributed to tooth loss and deteriorating health.
“I’m here now, and I’m grateful,” Tautolo told CBS Los Angeles. “It’s such a bad word, addiction, alcoholism, but it really isn’t. That’s my truth.”
Fortunately, a former coach learned of Tautolo’s situation and was willing to help. Dick Vermeil, who recruited Tautolo to UCLA and drafted him into the NFL, helped set his former player up with a recovery house in Santa Monica. He has also offered financial support to Tuatolo to help pay for his treatments.
“When you see him…” Vermeil said. “It startled me. My wife Carol was with us, and she was very close to Terry.”
MRIs have shown several spots on Tuatolo’s brain that could be related to concussions, but he refuses to blame his hardships on brain injuries. He isn’t involved with any of the concussion lawsuits against the NFL and insists playing football was not his problem. When asked if concussions played a role in how he has lived his life, Tuatolo had a simple answer.
“They haven’t,” he said emphatically.
Tuatolo said he has a large support group that has been helping him stay sober. You hate to see anyone end up in the position he was in, especially when he had so much going for him at one point. Hopefully Tuatolo remains on the straight and narrow.