The Coast Guard called off the search Tuesday for two NFL players and a third man lost at sea off the Florida coast after their boat capsized during a fishing trip.
The Coast Guard said it doesn't believe anyone is on the surface
of the water and the search would end at sundown. Still missing in
rough, cold water were Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper,
free-agent defensive lineman Corey Smith and former South Florida
player William Bleakley.
"We're extremely confident that if there are any survivors on
the surface of the water that we would have found them," Coast
Guard Capt. Timothy Close said.
Hopes were raised Monday when rescue crews found a fourth man
who was aboard, 24-year-old former South Florida player Nick
Schuyler, who managed to stay with the boat for more than 36 hours
after it overturned Saturday evening.
Prospects for survival were beginning to look more grim
throughout the day, with the father of one of the men saying the
Coast Guard told him privately that officials were losing hope
because of the time that has passed and the possibility the men
would be suffering from hypothermia. Coast Guard officials said
publicly that they were still hopeful.
Close said searchers found a cooler and a life jacket 16 miles
southeast of the boat.
Schuyler told the Coast Guard that the boat was anchored when it
capsized in high seas. He said the four friends were able to put on
life vests and huddle together, but the others eventually became
Schuyler was dehydrated and showing symptoms of hypothermia, but
his condition was upgraded to fair on Tuesday.
Cooper, a 26-year-old who owns the boat, was selected in the
third round of the 2004 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of
Washington. He played 26 games for the Bucs in his first two pro
seasons, then led a nomadic NFL existence.
Jack Scharf, Cooper's agent, said he had no comment on the Coast
A man who answered the phone at the home of Smith's father,
sounding upset, said no one there could comment.
Cooper and Smith, 29, became friends when they were teammates at
Tampa Bay. Smith signed with the Bucs as an undrafted free agent in
2002, and spent last season with Detroit before becoming a free
agent. The former North Carolina State standout recorded 42 tackles
(28 solo), three sacks and 10 special teams tackles in 2008, his
best NFL season.
Bleakley, a 25-year-old former tight end from Crystal River,
Fla., was on the USF football team in 2004 and 2005. He had one
reception for 13 yards in his career, which also included some time
on special teams.