ALBANY, N.Y. - Former NFL offensive lineman Brian Holloway initially thought the Twitter photos showing young people partying at his family's second home in upstate New York were a hoax. Then he saw pictures of teenagers standing on the dining room table he bought with his Super Bowl bonus.
Holloway's rural vacation home was trashed during a Labor Day weekend party attended by up to 400 teenagers. Holloway said the partiers caused at least $20,000 in damage, breaking windows and doors, punching holes in walls and spraying graffiti. He saw the whole thing unfold live on Twitter — and now he's using the teens' own posts to reveal their identities and to try to set them on a better path.
Holloway, who played offensive tackle for the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders in the 1980s, said his 19-year-old son, a University of Southern Florida sophomore, alerted him to the party after receiving tweets about it the night of Aug. 31.
Holloway was at his home in Lutz, Fla., at the time and watched as more tweets about the party were posted, many of them accompanied by photos of young people drinking throughout his home in Stephentown, on the Massachusetts border 25 miles southeast of Albany.
"We were getting eyewitness reports of what was happening while it was happening. We couldn't believe what was going down," Holloway told The Associated Press.
Before he could call police, more tweets reported that officers had arrived, Holloway said. The partygoers scattered across his 200-acre property, which includes the main house and a guest house set amid rolling countryside in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains.
Yvonne Keefe, spokeswoman for the Rensselaer County Sheriff's Office, confirmed Wednesday that a "very large investigation" into the party was underway. Police believe 200 to 400 young people were at the party, but investigators aren't commenting on the role social media is playing in the probe, she said.
No arrests have been reported.
Word of the party had spread via social media, and it attracted students at high schools from the Albany area and western Massachusetts, Holloway said. Holloway, who's now a motivational speaker, said he gave anti-drug and alcohol talks at some of those same schools during his playing days, which included an appearance in Super Bowl XX, when the Patriots lost to the Chicago Bears.
Holloway said the partiers broke about 10 windows and glass doors, punched dozens of holes in the walls, dragged kegs of beer across oak floors and left behind an "enormous amount" of graffiti. His $20,000 damage estimate does not include personal items that were stolen.
Several teens who weren't at the party but heard about it showed up this week and helped remove urine-soaked carpets and 10 large trash bags filled with liquor bottles, Holloway said, adding that drug paraphernalia also was found scattered about his property.
Holloway, a father of eight, said he used Twitter postings to compile 200 names of teens he said were at the party. He has been posting them on a website — helpmesave300 — in an effort to get them to come forward, take responsibility for their actions and change their behaviour.
"It's not hard to identify who they were. We've got 170 tweets. We have 200 to 220 names already confirmed today. I'm going to go online right now — I guarantee I'll have 10 more names of people who are sharing who was there, what they did. And that data is all going to the sheriffs," Holloway said.
He said he is inviting "the 300" to show up and help clean the place up for a celebration picnic he is hosting this weekend for military personnel.
"We need to get these young kids turned around," he said "We need to get them on the right track."
The superintendent for a district where Holloway said some of the partiers go to school said one student had been confirmed as having been at the party. Averill Park Superintendent James Hoffman said the underage drinking party is a police matter but will be used to educate other students about personal behaviour.
"It will be brought up in freshman seminar classes about kids making choices," Hoffman said. "It's definitely a topic that'll come up in places like that."
Associated Press writer Michael Hill contributed to this report from Stephentown.