Jonathan Vilma, the superstar linebacker from Coral Gables who figured prominently in Nevin Shapiro's University of Miami scandal,has been suspended for an entire year
by the NFL for his role in another major football-related debacle.
The New Orleans Saints star allegedly helped his former defensive coordinator, Greg Williams, create and fund a bounty program to knock out opposing players, according to ESPN. The NFL's investigation already led to the suspensions of Williams (indefinitely) and Saints head coach Sean Payton (for one year). Vilma is the first player to be punished as a result of the scandal.
Vilma allegedly pledged $20,000 to any Saints players who knocked out former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and ex-Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre in two separate playoff games. Last year, in a Yahoo! Sports exposé, Shapiro -- a Ponzi schemer who showered UM players with money, free meals, and comped trips to nightclubs -- bragged that Vilma was one of the biggest recipients of his impermissible gifts. Vilma gave him the nickname "Lil Luke," a reference to former 2 Live Crew frontman Luther Campbell, Shapiro claimed.
Shapiro boasted he paid Vilma and other UM players bounties for big hits on opposing players. In one game, Shapiro offered the linebacker and his teammates a $5,000 prize for knocking out Florida State QB Chris Rix from a game.
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"Guys were all going after that $5,000 in cash," Shapiro told Yahoo. "Vilma tried to kill him -- just crushed him -- a couple of times trying to get that $5,000."
However, Rix remained in the game, so no one collected the bounty. Shapiro said he did pay Vilma $2,050 for hits on the Florida State QB in other games played against the Hurricanes' rival school.
ESPN reports that Vilma, who graduated from Coral Gables Senior High, will appeal his suspension.