Two NFL Ballers Among Four Missing At Sea

Published March 2, 2009

Two NFL ballers are among four fishermen missing since Saturday off Florida's west coast.

Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper and NFL free agent Corey Smith, who played for the Detroit Lions for the past three seasons, were targets of a massive search after failing to from a fishing trip in water off Clearwater , Fla. , family members and colleagues told reporters Sunday.

"It feels like my greatest fear coming true – it doesn't feel real," Cooper's wife, Rebekah, told TV station WTSP in Tampa on Sunday afternoon. "I'm just waiting for a phone call."

CNN reports that the Coast Guard began searching around 2 a.m. Sunday after it learned that four men – Cooper, Smith, and former University of South Florida football players William Bleakley and Nick Schuyler – had not returned from their fishing trip Saturday evening as expected. Rough weather has hampered the effort, but "it's still a very active search," Coast Guard Capt. Tim Close told reporters Sunday afternoon. The search-and-rescue effort was being conducted primarily by air, because of the conditions at sea, although authorities deployed patrol boats as well, Close said.

Searchers have focused on 750 square miles of open water in the Gulf of Mexico, about 50 miles west of Clearwater Pass. From there, the men had left the Seminole Boat Ramp in a 21-foot single-engine boat about 6:30 a.m. Saturday, the Coast Guard said. "Fishing is his first love, it always has been," said Rebekah Cooper. "I have a lot of faith in him out there."

Written by BET.com Staff

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