While Kenneth Fairley faces the potential of time in a federal prison, Marcus Dupree is enjoying life as a revered football legend.
Dupree, a former high school and college football star from Philadelphia, Miss., was all smiles Tuesday night at MGM Park in Biloxi, throwing out the first pitch, signing autographs and taking pictures with every fan who approached him while the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers hosted the Jacksonville Suns.
Dupree was a man in demand that night, doing interviews for both the Biloxi and Jacksonville radio broadcasts.
Fairley, a longtime pastor in Hattiesburg and the man who served as a trusted adviser to Dupree during his football career, is set to go on trial on Sept. 6 for embezzlement and conspiracy charges involving federal housing rehabilitation funds. Fairley and his alleged accomplice, Artie Fletcher, face the potential of lengthy prison terms if convicted.
Dupree and Fairley have been at odds for some time now after the former Oklahoma football star alleged that Fairley cheated him out of millions of dollars in the 1980's. Dupree sued Fairley for his handling of a $4.5 million disability insurance policy and the two men eventually came to an out-of-court settlement in 1989.
Don't count Dupree among those who have sympathy for Fairley's current legal troubles.
“I would say it's about time ... It's about time,” Dupree said with a laugh Tuesday. “You can only run for so long.”
Dupree, 52, recalled a moment from when his mother, who died in 2004, faced down Fairley in court.
“She said, 'You know what, Ken. You're going to get yours,'” Dupree said. “She said, 'I may not live to see it, but it's coming.'”
Quite the story
Willie Morris wrote a popular book about Dupree's recruitment out of Philadelphia, “The Courting of Marcus Dupree” in 1983 and in 2010, an ESPN documentary titled “The Best That Never Was,” brought it all full circle, detailing his rise to college football stardom, a fall due to injuries and the financial difficulties that followed due to poor advice from men like Fairley.
The ESPN documentary shed a poor light on Fairley, who threatened to sue the network after its broadcast.
Former Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer says that Dupree is the only high school player he ever recruited who had an agent, and that agent was Fairley.
Dupree became a star on the national stage as a freshman running back at Oklahoma in 1982, running for 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns. That star began to fade the next season due to injuries and disagreements with Switzer. Dupree transferred to Southern Miss, but never touched the field for the Golden Eagles.
He instead decided to go pro with the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL in 1984, signing a five-year deal for $6 million at the age of 19.
Fairley continued to serve as Dupree's agent while he was with the Breakers.
Dupree suffered a career-threatening knee injury in the first game of the 1985 season for the Breakers and doctors said he'd never play football again. He did manage a remarkable comeback and played for the Los Angeles Rams during the 1990 and 1991 seasons, but the knee injury prevented him from fulfilling his potential.
If he had stayed healthy, many believe he would have been on par with former college and pro standouts like Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker.
‘Ups and downs’
At the time of the 2010 documentary, Dupree was struggling to make ends meet as a part-time truck driver. The film was a story of redemption, but he cast a somber figure during his interviews.
At MGM Park Tuesday night, Dupree wore a broad smile and joked around with those who simply wanted to shake his hand.
“You've got to have fun,” Dupree said. “If you don't have fun, you might as well roll over and die.”
Dupree, who spends much of his time between Covington, La., and Crystal Springs, is staying busy these days, doing speaking engagements for Novo Nordisk where he discusses how he manages his Type 2 diabetes. He's also gotten involved in the oil business and makes regular trips back to Oklahoma, where he's done commercials.
Dupree even dabbled in the movie industry last year, taking on a role as an overbearing dad of a young football player in the film, “Life at These Speeds.” Tim Roth and Billy Crudup are also listed among the film's cast.
“I did enjoy acting,” Dupree said. “Hopefully, I'll have a couple of more (movies) coming up pretty soon. We'll see. I'm just waiting on them to give me a call.”
Dupree has juggled several projects after his plight again gained national interest in 2010, but his biggest focus is now on family.
“I've got grand kids. I'm in pretty good spirits with that,” he said. “I'm just living. We're all going to have ups and downs. It's not how long you stay down. It's how quick you get up.”
As for Fairley, he'll have his day before the judge.
“You don't wish anybody any bad luck, but sooner or later the rooster has got to come home to the roost,” Dupree said.