Napoleon Kaufman was a star running back at the University of Washington, and was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 1995 draft. He had that quintessential Al Davis trait–speed–and was a shifty if undersized running back at 5’9″. His best year came in 1997, when he had over 1,600 yards from scrimmage. At age 27, he retired after six NFL seasons.
Yesterday, the Raiders announced that Kaufman was returning to the Raiders as its team chaplain. With frequent stories about athlete failures after their playing career ends, it’s good to see a story like Kaufman’s. According to this story from 2011, he started the Well Christian Community Church at a strip mall with 15 members nine years ago, and it has grown to a congregation of more than 600.
That article has a story about a teammate, fullback Jerone Davison, who confronted Kaufman during his second year in the league and said, “Napoleon,you don’t even look like the type of guy to be out here cussing and acting crazy. Don’t you know God can use your life?” Kaufman turned his life around, from partying and drinking. He married his live-in girlfriend, and they are still married today. He told his agent to clean out his house and donate things to goodwill. A few years later, he retired for good and has never looked back.
[photo via Getty images, Jerry McDonald of Contra-Costa Times]