Roland Harper Trusted Too Much - NBC Chicago

Roland Harper Trusted Too Much

The former Bear was sentenced to two years probation for contract fraud.

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    Roland Harper Trusted Too Much
    Harper, on the left, with Walter Payton in more innocent days.

    Roland Harper, a Chicago Bear who played with Walter Payton, was sentenced to two years probation, including a year of house arrest, for his role in defrauding the Chicago Public Schools on a contract worth $1.5 million. The good news for Harper is that he avoided prison, but the bad news is that a man who was known for his hard work and good works has a name that is forever tarnished.

    Harper once spoke to my elementary school in Melrose Park, Ill. Our pastor knew Harper from his various charitable works, and he invited the fullback to come to Sacred Heart and speak to us. I remember Harper being a large but soft-spoken man, and he told us to stay grounded, no matter where we went in life. His playing days were over at that point, and like all retired athletes, he looked for new challenges.

    He found that challenge in Rohar Trucking, an excavating company that Harper founded in 1990. In a 2005 interview, Harper was proud of the company he built.

    "Like anything you do in life, you've got to put 110 percent in," Harper said. "You've got to be a little bit smarter and find a niche that you can fit into. Teamwork is always the key in this business just like anything else because I depend on a lot of professional guys to do a job."

    Looking back at that quote, you could see Harper's naivete come through. Earlier in the same interview, he spoke of his first days with the Bears, when he and Walter Payton, both small-town guys, were wide-eyed and slack-jawed when they got to Chicago. Though he has been in Chicago for years, Harper trusted a man he envisioned a mentor a bit too much.

    Aiden Monahan used Rohar Trucking as a front to get a minority contract from CPS. Harper thought Monahan would help Harper grow his business, but instead, Monahan used the contract to grow his own landscaping business.

    In the end, Harper cooperated with authorities, and helped send Monahan to jail for 41 months. Before this all started, he would have been better off to take the advice he gave to me and the rest of my schoolmates at Sacred Heart. Stay grounded, Ro.

    Maggie Hendricks is a lifelong Chicagoan who has loved sports since she fell in love with Jody Davis at age three. She also writes for Cagewriter, Yahoo! Sports' MMA blog, and Fourth-Place Medal, Yahoo! Sports' Olympic blog.