In 2006 LaDainian Tomlinson had arguably the greatest offensive season by any player at any position in the history of the National Football League. It was certainly the best year by a running back.
L.T. had 2323 scrimmage yards and 31 touchdowns, the pinnacle of what will soon become a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. Tomlinson did that running behind one of the best offensive lines in Chargers history. Many of those names are well-known to Bolts fans.
Nick Hardwick, the Pro Bowl center, is now a staple in the San Diego media. To his left were Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeill, both still fan favorites. To his right was Mike Goff, who was a long-time contributor to NBC 7’s Football Night in San Diego and a coach at Hilltop High School.
But the right tackle is often overlooked. Perhaps it’s because he simply disappeared, suddenly falling off the NFL radar. Recently that man resurfaced, and oh does Shane Olivea have a cautionary tale to tell.
In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Olivea revealed his NFL career ended because of an addiction to painkillers. Olivea was a 7th-round pick out of Ohio State in 2004. He ended up starting all 16 games as a rookie, but the beating of a long season took its toll on his body. He took a Vicodin, a powerful opiod, and says he was hooked.
“There wasn’t one day in the NFL I wasn’t high on a pill after my rookie year,” Olivea told the Dispatch. “At my height on Vicodin, I would take 125 a day. It got to the point I would take a pile of 15 Vicodin and would have to take them with chocolate milk. If I did it with water or Gatorade, I’d throw it up.”
Olivea says he eventually moved on to Oxycontin and would play NFL games under its influence. He would head to Mexico to buy the drugs, estimating he spent more than half of a million dollars on them.
But he stayed on the field, missing just one game his second season and playing well enough for the Chargers to reward him with a $20 million contract extension.
He would play just 29 more NFL games.
Olivea told the Dispatch his mother eventually staged an intervention. When doctors did blood tests they were shocked the man was still alive. Olivea enrolled at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage and has been clean and sober for more than eight years. In 2015 he re-enrolled at Ohio State and in December of 2016 earned his degree in Sport Industry, honoring a request his mom made.
He’s now entertaining the idea of coaching. Shane says he not only has the ability to teach kids how to be successful football players, but he might be able to pay forward the life-saving advice he received nearly a decade ago.
“If you got it, you can spot it,” Olivea told the Dispatch. “I can spot an addict in a public setting. I know the behavior. I know the tendencies. I know what he’s going to do. I’ll be able to notice somebody going down that slippery path and maybe catch them.”
Olivea has never coached before but says he has a few irons in the fire. He’s now 35 years old and looking to start another career preparing others for the pitfalls of the one that nearly ended his life far too soon.