Honesty is indeed the best policy   

Updated: April 23, 2007, 3:44 PM ET

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If I had the No. 1 pick in this weekend's NFL draft, I'd take a guy who smoked marijuana.

Calvin Johnson

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Shouldn't Calvin Johnson get points for telling the truth?

According to Pro Football Weekly, Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson and two other potential top-10 picks -- Amobi Okoye and Gaines Adams -- admitted in closed-door interviews at the NFL combine that they had smoked marijuana before. So basically, with millions on the line and his future in the hands of a league eager to prove it hasn't been overtaken by thugs, Johnson told the NFL, "I didn't just smoke, baby, I inhaled."

Not exactly "man bites dog," considering on most college campuses marijuana and experimentation go together like Anna Nicole and autopsy. And certainly the timing of this leaked information reeks of the shell games NFL teams tend to play this time of year.

But in my mind, this admission only cemented why Johnson is not only the best player in the draft, but the player the Raiders should select No. 1 overall.

A 4.35 in the 40-yard dash? Stunning. Being 6-foot-5 and 239 pounds? Terrific.

Unflinching honesty? Priceless.

Let me first give you the obligatory "weed is bad, bad, bad." But Johnson, Okoye and Adams all passed their drug tests at the combine, and nothing in their personal histories suggests it was more than an isolated incident. If you want to question someone's character, take a look at potential draftee Ramonce Taylor, the running back who transferred from Texas after he was arrested for allegedly possessing four pounds of marijuana -- more than enough to pique Nate Newton's interest.

Considering the big buzzword around the NFL these days is character, you'd think people would recognize true character when they see it. And a surefire way to tell if someone has good character is if they are willing to tell you the complete truth when they have absolutely nothing to gain from it.

As TO's former publicist, Kim Etheredge, might say, Johnson, Okoye and Adams all had millions of reasons to be dishonest. It wasn't as if they were hooked up to a lie-detector machine. If they lied, nothing was going to happen.

I'd be much more concerned about the players who didn't tell the truth about using marijuana. Although, ask yourself: If you were interviewing for a job with a lucrative salary, could you answer that question truthfully? I'm not sure if I could.

But if you're a team trying to decide on a No. 1 pick, if you're a company looking for a CEO, or even if you're looking for someone to run your fantasy league, you want a person capable of telling the truth when it's not exactly convenient for them.

Besides, don't we have enough people in sports using the truth to manipulate or as a get-out-of-jail-free card? Isn't sports badly in need of more people who tell the truth simply because it's the right thing to do? If not for a book deal, Pete Rose never would have admitted to betting on baseball. If not for the heavy hands of Congress and federal investigators, no player would have admitted to using steroids -- most of them still haven't. And speaking of our federal government, it's not like it is an absolute beacon of honesty, either.

Some of you think what Johnson, Okoye and Adams did is a stupid thing. What's wrong with keeping a little pot in the past a secret, you ask?

Well, the guy who chooses to lie about that might also be inclined not to tell his team about that little bar fight he got into in college. He might also choose to take something to gain an "edge." Or slide a few numbers around on his tax return.

And if you can justify a little white lie, what's to stop you from justifying a whopper?

Jemele Hill, a Page 2 columnist and writer for ESPN The Magazine, can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.


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