By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
Fred Smoot came here for the money.
Four years into a professional career marked by highlight-reel interceptions and prodigious trash-talking, the quick-footed, self-assured cornerback was lured to Minnesota by a six-year, $34 million offer.
Flush with cash, Smoot moved onto a quiet block of newly erected McMansions a short drive from the Vikings' Eden Prairie headquarters. His wealthy, white-bread neighbors were star-struck.
"The kids wanted to throw the football around with him," recalls one stay-at-home mother living nearby. "But he was never very interested in that."
A single young man with a yen for carefree fun, Smoot turned his home into a sweet bachelor pad tricked out with a full bar, a billiards room, a voluminous fish tank, and a deluxe hot tub on a screened-in back porch.
The parties started soon after he moved in. Invariably, they were loud. Inevitably, they lasted well into the morning. On one occasion, a young teenage boy in a house behind Smoot's reported to his parents that he had seen "naked ladies in the hot tub!"
On most party nights, recalls one neighbor across the street from Smoot, "there were a million dollars' worth of cars sitting in the driveway, and different gals leaving in the morning."
The parties weren't violent or menacing, neighbors say, just annoying. Police records show that during Smoot's time there, cops were called to his house four times, but no arrests were made.
A few months after he moved in, Smoot's devotion to his extracurricular activities became national news. During the Vikings' bye week in October 2005, Smoot organized a rookie initiation party in the form of a cruise on Lake Minnetonka.
The innocuous-sounding event would eventually be referred to alternatively as the "Love Boat" or "Smoot Boat" Scandal. It reportedly included hookers flown in from Atlanta and Florida. According to a criminal complaint, witnesses saw Smoot "holding a double-headed dildo and moving the dildo while each end was inserted into the vagina of two women who were laying on the floor near the lounge area of the charter boat."
The night after the scandal broke, neighbors recall, Smoot held a team meeting at his house.
"There was every kind of fancy car," recalls the neighbor across the street. "And a bunch of 6'6" guys that were recognizable Vikings."
Their game plan didn't work. In the spring of 2006, Smoot pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and being a public nuisance on a watercraft.
But if neighbors thought Smoot had learned his lesson, they were quickly disabused of any such notion; the partying continued.
And there were other problems. For one, he ignored his monthly $250 neighborhood-association fees. For another, his young pit bull kept getting loose and running around the neighborhood. Also, he rarely, if ever, watered or cut his grass, raked his leaves, or shoveled his sidewalk or driveway, according to neighbors.
"He's a multimillion-dollar athlete, and he doesn't pay $60 a month to have someone mow his lawn?" asks the incredulous neighbor across the street. "I don't have any bad will against him, but it does open your eyes to the lifestyle of a professional athlete."
By the spring of 2007, it became clear Smoot wouldn't be their neighbor much longer. As much of a disappointment on the field as off in his two tumultuous seasons with the Vikings, Smoot found his welcome with the team had worn thin. Tail between his legs, he went into head coach Brad Childress's office and asked to be released. Childress and the Vikings were happy to comply. Three days later, Smoot signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Washington Redskins, the team he'd left through free agency to join the Vikings.
Neighbors were as happy as the fans. "We were all so thrilled when he moved out," says a blond woman who insisted that her name not be used.
Initially, Smoot rented his house to former teammate Dwight Smith, who was as considerate as his landlord had been thoughtless. But the neighbors' good fortune wouldn't last. Last winter, the Vikings released Smith and he signed with the Detroit Lions. That left the house vacant. On the block for $1.2 million, the home attracted no bidders in a bad housing market.
Smoot didn't exactly keep the place up, either. The yard was soon dead and brown, starved by a broken sprinkler system and neglect. And the inside wasn't any better off. Recently, a curious neighbor stopped by for a showing—she estimates that it will need tens of thousands of dollars' worth of work.
In the wake of yet another public shaming, Smoot agreed to fix the sprinklers and hire contractors to spruce the place up. The house remains for sale at the discounted price of $849,000. Included in the bargain is the hot tub, as well as the hefty lien his neighbors managed to get slapped on the house for Smoot's unpaid neighborhood-association fees.
Smoot's real estate agent, Allison Shiff, declined to comment. The Redskins declined to make Smoot available for an interview, and his phone number is unlisted, but last year he told a reporter that his scandal-plagued tenure in Minnesota had been a growing experience. "I just learned to leave stuff alone and to watch where you're at and who you're around," he said. "Minnesota was a dark cloud. During those two years I don't remember a good thing happening."