The ghosts of Sam Hurd's Christmas past

As Sam Hurd and his friends feasted on 14-ounce prime fillets, and according to authorities discussed 10-kilo deliveries of cocaine, I wonder if a certain pair of memories weighed on him like ghosts of Christmas' past?

Did Hurd stare off into the shiny ornaments adorning Morton's in Rosemont and become transfixed on what happened that terrible morning just seven Christmases ago?

There were no thick steaks and chocolate soufflés for Sam Hurd or his relatives on that day, Dec. 27, 2004.

Sam was just 19 years old then, when his beloved brother-in-law, Jimmy Corbin, was slaughtered on the family's front porch — the apparent victim of a drug hit.

When Corbin married into the family, he joined a long line of Hurd men who were standout football players at Brackenridge High School in San Antonio. Jimmy was a record-shattering running back in his day but those glory times were long gone by the time he was killed.

Jimmy had spent most of his adult years trying to dodge drug demons.

It came to a sad and violent end on that last Monday of 2004 when Corbin was hit in the head by several gun shots. His mother, who lived across the street, found him when she went to his house to invite him to breakfast.

Nobody ever figured out why it happened, but at the time young Sam told the San Antonio Express-News that “the street got the best of him.”

If the ghost of Jimmy Corbin appeared at Morton's last Wednesday evening, Sam Hurd — now 26 — was apparently too busy to notice.

What is most puzzling is that after Corbin was gunned down Hurd appeared to have dedicated himself to his Christian faith. He was often heard singing gospel songs in the locker room, according to reporters, and friends said he would rarely utter a dirty word.

After becoming the second leading receiver in Northern Illinois University history, Hurd was a popular player on the Dallas Cowboys and frequently seen promoting Christian-related products.

That leads me to the second ghost of Hurd's Christmas' past: Ed Block.

As the longtime trainer for the old Baltimore Colts, Block is best remembered for helping children. After his death a foundation was formed to continue his spirit of giving.

Each year NFL players vote for the member of their team who has the best personal character and is the strongest community role model. That player is given the Ed Block Courage Award.

On December 28, 2010, Sam Hurd was named the winner of that award by a vote of his Dallas Cowboys teammates. As part of his responsibilities, Hurd became an “ambassador of courage for victims of abuse, violence and neglect,” according to the foundation.

If the ghost of Ed Block pulled up a chair at Hurd's table last week, the Chicago Bears player apparently didn't notice.

If Block asked: “Sam, what are you doing here?” Sam wasn't listening. Two weeks shy of his courage award anniversary date, Hurd was more interested in getting some untraceable Mexican cellphones, say federal authorities.

Maybe the apparitions of his past came rushing back to Hurd when he was locked up for a while or will wash over him the next few weeks as he prepares to return to Texas, where the case will be prosecuted.

If not, there may be some ghosts from his past unearthed by federal investigators. As former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Richard Roper told WFAA-TV in Dallas: “One treasure trove of evidence that these agents will look for are cellphone records to identify other people that Hurd or some of these alleged participants to try and match up and see, corroborate the story,” Roper said. “They might search computers, check email accounts to gather more evidence. Also, look at bank accounts. Where did the money flow?”

After being visited by the ghosts of his past, even Ebenezer Scrooge eventually realized that “Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends...but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.”

For Sam Hurd, even though the steak dinner is over, the end hasn't been written just yet.

Ÿ Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached by email at and followed at and

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