Former pro football player from Rock Hill trafficked cocaine. How much time in prison?

A former professional football player from Rock Hill who played at the University of Tennessee has been sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to trafficking cocaine.

Jonathan Jerrod Hefney, 34, reported to York County jail authorities Wednesday after pleading guilty on Sept. 5 in York County criminal court, according to court records, prosecutors and Hefney’s lawyer.

Hefney played several seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Montreal Alouettes, and Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League. He had short spans in the NFL with Tampa Bay, Detroit and Philadelphia.

His professional career came after he starred at the University of Tennessee and at Rock Hill High School.

Hefney pleaded guilty after he was charged by York County drug agents in 2017 with three counts of trafficking cocaine, police and court records show.

Matthew Hogge, 16th Circuit assistant Solicitor, said Hefney was arrested after York County drug agents made three controlled coccaine buys. One of the buys was for more than 50 grams of the illegal drug, Hogge said.

“This trafficking was of a substantial amount,” Hogge said.

Hefney agreed to plead guilty rather than go to trial where he could have faced as much as 25 years in prison, said Hogge and Jack Swerling, Hefney’s lawyer.

Hefney made a mistake. He got involved in the drug trade after a football shoulder injury ended his athletic career, Swerling said. The injury caused physical and financial trouble, Swerling said.

“He fell on hard times and made a terrible error in judgment,” Swerling said. “He has accepted responsibility and now will serve his sentence.”

Hefney plans to help educate young people on the perils of drugs after his release from prison, Swerling said.

As recently as 2016, Hefney donated his time and experience at York County football camps and other events, according to Swerling and news accounts published in The Herald.

‘This is a young man who before this mistake happened, gave back to his community,” Swerling said. “He was always an outstanding young man and an outstanding athlete. He did a lot of good before, and he will again.”

Hefney had no prior criminal conviction.

He was booked into the York County jail Wednesday and will later be sent to the South Carolina Department of Corrections for intake and processing, Swerling said.

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Andrew Dys covers breaking news and public safety for The Herald, where he has been a reporter and columnist since 2000. He has won 51 South Carolina Press Association awards for his coverage of crime, race, justice, and people. He is author of the book “Slice of Dys” and his work is in the U.S. Library of Congress.