This week, as locals grappled with Hurd’s arrest on federal drug charges, the house appeared empty, the neighborhood quiet except for the man who hung a homemade sign on a pole. It read: I buy ugly houses — for cash!
Those who professed to know Hurd, 26, now wonder if they ever really did. The emotions his arrest elicited — shock, disbelief, anger — are not unusual. But the charges, the scope of what Hurd is accused of doing while playing in the N.F.L., are perhaps without precedent in American sports, which only amplified the reaction in his hometown.
People who knew him here have become uncomfortably familiar with the details in the criminal complaint: $88,000 and found inside a car; the plan to buy up to $700,000 worth of drugs each week; the receiver, their hero, accused of aspiring to become not just a drug dealer, but a kingpin, Tony Montana of “Scarface” and football’s Joe Montana all at once.
“People are dismayed,” said Al Porter, a retired teacher for whom Hurd was a student assistant, a man who later helped Hurd run his summer football camps here. “We don’t want to believe it. There’s got to be something we haven’t heard yet.”
Porter sighed as he sipped sweet tea at a coffee shop. “Look, people can live a double life,” he continued. “Behind closed doors, you never know. It’s just. …” His voice trailed off, into a whisper. “What they’re accusing him of, it’s not small time. It’s a drug ring.”
Hurd, through his lawyer, has maintained his innocence.
The Sam Hurd whom Porter knew worked with special-needs students at Brackenridge High School and attended Right Way Baptist Church. Even when he scratched his way onto the Dallas Cowboys’ roster as an undrafted free agent to continue an improbable career arc, Hurd returned often to the area known as the Eastside, where he held annual Easter egg hunts.
The neighborhood sits minutes from downtown, east of Interstate 37. For all its warts — abandoned houses with boarded-up windows, homeless people living by the railroad tracks, drugs, gangs, crime — the Hurd family long and proudly called the Eastside home.
Hurd’s mother, Gloria Corbin, came from a family of eight children who moved to Texas from Louisiana, according to her sister Sue Perkins. Corbin, Perkins said, had six children of her own.
The family produced a large number of football stars — Carl Hurd, an uncle of Sam’s, won a city championship in 1979; John Corbin, a brother, returned Brackenridge to the playoffs in 1997 — but Perkins emphasized that the family included judges, lawyers and educators, too.
“We came from humble beginnings, but we are a family filled with productive citizens,” Perkins said. “You could say we went from cotton sacks to Cadillacs.”
Gloria Corbin married Sam Hurd Jr. in 1992, according to public records, but kept her maiden name. She worked at nearby Santa Rosa Hospital and ran the high school booster club even after Sam, her oldest son, made the N.F.L.
When friends asked why she did not move, Corbin told them she did not want to. Her son, she added, had his own family to support. When he gave her money, she often regifted it to others.
“Gloria was a fixture in the community,” said Daniel Thatcher, a family friend. “You’d still see her at games, even a year ago. People would say: ‘That’s Sam Hurd’s mom? Back there? Serving nachos?’ But that’s Gloria.”
The family was not immune to the dangers that surrounded them. One of Hurd’s uncles, Jimmy Corbin, was arrested several times, including on felony charges for robbery and cocaine possession, according to public records.
Sheelagh McNeill, Alain Delaqueriere and Lisa Schwartz contributed research.