Dimitrius Underwood’s NFL career was just as bizarre as it was brief. But 13 years after his selection, there is no sign of the former Michigan State defensive end.
Compared to some of the biggest draft busts of all time, it’s hard not to characterize Underwood as the saddest case – and not just because he didn’t make it in professional football. It was the manner in which he failed.
The selection of Underwood in 1999 was a big risk to begin with for the Vikings since he had missed his final season with the Spartans. There was a report in the L.A. Times that Underwood faked an ankle injury that kept him out the entire ’98 season under then-head coach Nick Saban.
Underwood was projected by many as a late draft pick before scouts fell in love during his pre-draft workouts and the Vikings took a gamble a year after striking it big with the troubled Randy Moss. Underwood’s struggles were obvious before the draft but the Vikings thought they’d found another freak athlete that was worth the risk.
Underwood was selected with the 29th overall pick and showed up to his first practice during training camp in fatigues and saying he was ready to “go to war.” Apparently not. Underwood went AWOL after that first practice, causing many to categorize him as the worst first-round pick ever. Furthering the head-scratching nature of his departure, it came immediately after Underwood ended a hold-out and signed a five-year deal with the Vikes. Underwood said he was conflicted about his faith and playing football.
Out of the NFL, Underwood stabbed himself in the neck in October of 1999 when many thought he would be starting for Minnesota. Underwood walked down a Lansing street with blood dripping from his neck after cutting himself with steak knives. The L.A. Times said he told a police officer who came to his aid: “I am not worthy of God.”
Underwood also reportedly told officers, “You are Satan and you’re going to hell” and “I want to be saved, I want to meet God.”
With an ordained minister for a mother, she was concerned about Underwood attending Immanuel’s Temple Community Church in Michigan while in college that she labeled a “cult that’s posing as a church” (she later retreated from the statement).
It seemed apparent that Underwood’s struggles were psychiatric. According to multiple reports, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Despite that internal struggle, Underwood attempted an NFL comeback and played 19 games with the Dallas Cowboys from 2000-02. But in ’01, Underwood attempted suicide again by walking into traffic on a Florida highway and asking passengers for a gun, telling police he “wanted to go to Jesus.” In ’02, Underwood was arrested for robbing a paraplegic and assaulting a police officer.
Two years later and now out of the NFL for good, Underwood was found in his car in what was deemed a “drug-induced psychosis” that led him to be taken to a psychiatric ward.
He made a last-ditch attempt on the gridiron with the CFL’s Ottawa Renegades, who cut the defensive end before the 2005 season began. He finished his football career with 15 NFL tackles and four career sacks.
Underwood, now 35, hasn’t been heard from since – except, that is, for his appearance on lists like this one in 2007 from Charles Robinson of Yahoo, who ranked Underwood among the biggest draft busts of all time, and this similar USA Today piece from last year about draft failures.
It’s annual rite of spring to conjure up some of the worst draft decisions by teams and ask: Where are they now?
In Underwood’s case, it’s anyone’s guess.
But there is this: Craig Domann, who served as Underwood’s agent, told Lost Lettermen by phone Wednesday that he last heard “about three or four years ago” that Underwood was in Dallas, TX, where he had been in a mental institution – suggesting that as a reason he has dropped off the grid.
“Very good possibility he is institutionalized at this point,” said Domann, who admitted losing touch with Underwood around 2001. As such, Domann couldn’t say for sure.
In 2009, Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Underwood was sent to the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center and placed in a unit for the mentally disturbed in ’07. When reached by phone, the correctional center said Underwood left the facility in February of 2011.
An internet search now turns up a Dimitrius P. Underwood in Philadelphia – Underwood’s middle name is Paul and Philly is his hometown – but phone numbers for his brother in the area, as well as sister and mother in Texas all have been disconnected or are out of service. Calls and an e-mail to Michigan State’s athletic department were not immediately returned, but the sports information department there has said in the past it does not know of his whereabouts.
Is Underwood now in a mental institution or a functioning member of society? Is he still getting the proper treatment he requires for better mental health? Has he been able to pull his life back together?
We wish we could ask him.