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March 14, 2009

My Dirty Little Secrets—Steroids, Alcohol & God: The Tony Mandarich Story
Tony Mandarich and Sharon Shaw Elrod
Modern History Press (2009)
ISBN: 9781932690781

Whether you are a football fan, someone concerned about addictions, or you just like a good success story, Tony Mandarich’s newly published memoir “My Dirty Little Secrets—Steroids, Alcohol & God” is a rewarding and eye-opening reading experience.

In 1989, after an incredible football career playing for Michigan State, Tony Mandarich was the number two draft pick for the NFL and chosen by the Green Bay Packers. Who could forget the
picture of him on Sports Illustrated that spring, showing his incredible muscular build at 6’6” and 315 pounds, and the declaration that he was “The Best Offensive Line Prospect Ever”? It
looked like Tony might become the greatest NFL player ever. Tony was on top of the world! But Tony had some dirty little secrets. For years he had been using steroids to increase his performance. He also had an addiction to alcohol and painkillers. He hid those secrets well, but in his memoir he now tells his complete story honestly, with all his mistakes and regrets laid bare for readers, not merely for sensation to sell books, but to show how he turned his life around and to give hope to others suffering from addictions.

While the media made insinuations about his steroid use during his career, and Tony admits to it, drugs and alcohol were what really caused his world to fall apart. His memoir depicts the
extremes a person will take to hide and continue his addiction. Tony details how he cheated on drug tests so he could play in the Rose Bowl and other games, as well as how he tricked pharmacies and charmed doctors to write him out prescriptions for extra pills. At times, he even drove eight hundred miles round trip in a single day just to get pills so he could avoid withdrawal symptoms. Tony admits he was not sober a single day he played for the Green Bay Packers. The high expectations for his NFL career were more than he could handle. Then once his football career ended, he wasted the next three years doing nothing but living off his savings from his football days to feed his drug and alcohol addiction.

After watching his brother die, possibly from steroid use, and realizing how his addictions were destroying his family, Tony made a decision to turn his life around. He checked himself into a treatment center and never looked back, refusing to be in the majority of alcoholics who return to drinking. For years, Tony and his brother’s relationship had been strained. Even though he was with his brother when he died, Tony continued to feel guilt and shame about their relationship. One of the most tremendous moments in his memoir is the spiritual journey a friend led him upon, using a Native American tradition of meditation, where he was able to talk to his brother again; he realized his brother was his spiritual guide and would be there to help him everyday going forward. This heart-wrenching cathartic experience was a major turning point in Tony’s life and speaks to the importance of the addict healing emotional wounds along with becoming drug free.

The final section of the book reads like a celebration. Tony’s story would have been triumphant enough by simply describing how he overcame his addiction. But Tony went a step farther by
returning to the NFL to play for the Indianapolis Colts. Without steroids, drugs, or alcohol, his performance was better than ever. He was the strongest player on the team, but he was also humble this time, looking to be a team player rather than a superstar. He stated at the time:
“Benching 545 coming out of college didn’t help me pass-block…That’s the way I look at it. I
just want to help this team.”
Similarly, his memoir is not all about Tony Mandarich. It’s about how a person can right past wrongs and overcome addiction. It’s about one addict coming forward to tell his story, to raise awareness about addictions and how a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous and trusting in God can turn a life around. It’s about Tony wanting to help others who have fallen to recover their lives and self-esteem. At the end of the book Tony states, “If this story has helped one of you to recognize that you need help, it was worth all the media controversy.” Tony Mandarich succeeded in his dreams of being an NFL player, but more importantly, “My Dirty Little Secrets” reveals that he has succeeded in being an incredible human being!

— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. author of The Marquette Trilogy


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My Dirty Little Secrets – Steroids, Alcohol and God: The Tony Mandarich Story
Tony Mandarich and Sharon Shaw Elrod
Modern History Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690781
Reviewed by Olivera Jackson-Baumgartner (9/08)

Tony Mandarich’s book “My Dirty Little Secrets – Steroids, Alcohol and God” is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. The reader gets to follow Tony through the best and the worst of college football and his NFL career, as well as his “career” as husband and a father. Everything that readers love is there: humble beginnings, working-class parents, older brother to look up to, promising start to a brilliant career, dedication and hard work, grueling workouts, drugs, invitation to NFL and… a big crash. What follows this first, promise-filled part is heart-wrenching. Tony’s descent into the addiction hell is surprising on one hand and all too understandable on the other. Readers can’t help but be astonished that somebody, who on one hand has trained so hard and turned his body into such a temple to strength, can so viciously destroy it with drugs and alcohol on the other hand. We have to give it to Mr. Mandarich – he is nothing but brutally candid and honest, and he never blames anybody else for his troubles, not even in the cases where some blame could have been shared, if not clearly laid on others. Tony Mandarich’s shoulders are wide, and he bravely decided to take the full load of guilt on himself.

Even if you are not a sports fan, I am convinced that you will find Tony Mandarich’s account of his two NFL careers fascinating. The crystal clear difference in his attitude during his days with the Green Bay Packers and sharply contrasting days with the Indianapolis Colts is elucidating. What a difference an attitude adjustment can – and does! – make. This should be required reading for anybody in the public eye, but most importantly for many athletes who have trouble understanding that they are responsible for their actions on and off the athletic fields. As illuminating as I found the chapters of Tony Mandarich’s years on the football field, they pale in comparison with his insight into his own addiction and his path to recovery and healing, both his own and healing of those around him. Some of my favorite pages are those where he describes his newly rediscovered joy of playing football, and playing it well. And the romantic in me rejoiced when Tony met and reconnected with his college sweetheart, Char. By the looks of it, Tony really learned his hard lessons, and both his second NFL career and his second marriage, to Char, were – and are – so much more successful than either of his first attempts.

Brutally honest at times, and always straightforward, Tony Mandarich’s “My Dirty Little Secrets” is in my opinion first and foremost a great book about the power we all hold within ourselves and everything we can achieve if we only decide to do the right thing. Unfailingly optimistic, but never preachy, this book should find a wide audience of those who are curious enough to reserve judgment until they learn all of the facts. I am not qualified to say how good of a football player Tony Mandarich ever was, but he is certainly a brave man and one who can walk with his head held high anywhere in this world.


My Dirty Little Secrets – Steroids, Alcohol and God: The Tony Mandarich
Story
Tony Mandarich and Sharon Shaw Elrod
Modern History Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690781
Reviewed by Irene Watson, author of The Sitting Swing: Finding Wisdom to Know the
Difference

Compelling, poignant, and timely, Tony Mandarich’s story, as told to Sharon Shaw Elrod, will keep the reader glued to the whole book while turning the pages to find out what’s next. Although Tony is a well-known ex-football player, this book is not about football or specifically the ins and outs of his career, but it’s about an NFL player that exposes his life during his infamous years in the limelight and comes clean with his addictions and overt ego. It could be anyone’s story; many of us can parallel to the experiences and the need for survival, whatever it takes, even with life-threatening substances or dysfunctional behaviors.

At one time known as “The Incredible Bulk” and never tested positive for steroids, Tony now reveals his secrets and lies – the down and dirty of his addictions, not only to substances but to the need of being the best, the need of doing the best, and the need of recognition. A humbling story told with passion and conviction, Tony allows us to see what addictions can do to human spirit, family structure, and career. However, he also gives us the vision of hope and empowerment if we choose to follow the path of surrender, self-forgiveness and the belief in a Higher Power. Reading “My Dirty Little Secrets – Steroids, Alcohol and God” will touch every aspect of your being, I promise you!

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