Barely two weeks into the off-season and Dez Bryant made headlines – again. When the Monday morning news reports came out, they read everything from detained by police to even arrested after a physical altercation in Miami, Florida. As I always do, I go straight to my trusty Oklahoma State University message board for all things OSU. At the top of the front page was a thread started by a fan relaying the news. My initial thought was GOOD GRIEF DEZ!
When athletes are the featured story of the day, and especially when they are repeat offenders, it is difficult as a fan to not judge that athlete and their actions. I will be the first to admit that I jumped straight to the worst case scenario and deemed him guilty. What I learned is that from a college fanbase perspective, you must NEVER, EVER suggest someone might be in over their heads with fame/money and if they are not reined in, they could spiral out of control. They do not like their “star” being questioned about his behavior. My question to Dallas Cowboy fans, do you feel as strongly about the athletes who don the Cowboy blue as the college fanbase?
Bryant is a Texas boy, born and raised in Lufkin. A Texas All-state selection in high school, with a 4-star recruit rating, he chose to play football for the OSU Cowboys. He set records in 2007 as a freshman, finishing second on the team with 43 receptions for 622 yards and six touchdowns. In 2008 he finished with 87 receptions for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns, including 2 punt returns for touchdowns. Dez always was the first out of the gate on game day and his enthusiasm was infectious.
From the start, however, there were signs of concern for his behavior. His freshman year he was suspended for one game due to being late for a meeting and mouthing off to a coach. He was then suspended during the first quarter of another regular season game. Bryant’s sophomore season didn’t warrant any suspensions and he did end up an AP All-American, so there was progress.
Then came 2009 and a big promising season ahead for Dez and the OSU Cowboys. For some reason, the first two games of that season, fans were complaining that Bryant wasn’t getting the ball thrown to him very often. Some fans thought it was because defenses keyed in on him, while others believed it was because he dropped the ball too many times. It turns out, it never mattered because on October 7, Bryant was ruled ineligible for a violation of NCAA bylaws. He lied, not once, but three times to the NCAA. The penalty – suspension for an entire year. OSU fans were beside themselves with fury towards the NCAA. Their superman would never play another game at OSU. He quickly left college and hired an agent, Eugene Parker.
Prior to the 2010 draft, reports were circulating that he should be drafted with caution. Stories on his tardiness to meetings and even late to games littered the sports world. Mock drafts indicated Bryant was falling fast due to less-than-stellar interviews with professional teams. His lack of maturity reared its head again. He pushed back his pre-draft workouts three times for various reasons and he didn’t work out at the Scouting Combine, supposedly due to an injury. When he finally worked out at his pro-day, he forgot his cleats. There are several other articles written about his pre-draft days, I could go on and on with the list of questionable decisions and concerns.
While originally predicted to go very high in the draft, the Dallas Cowboys traded with New England to snag him at #24. With a contract in hand, training camp began and a new life promised for a kid who grew up under rough circumstances. Bryant’s life was looking up. However, the media didn’t have to wait long for another Dez headline. At the first week of camp, the rookie refused to carry Roy William’s football pads. Why not carry the pads, then follow it up by taking Williams’ starting spot? After not playing football from basically October, 2009 until August, 2010, he came to training camp out of shape and subsequently sustained an injury. Some of these things are possibly out of his control. Then there comes a time when too many issues continue to add up and people start to question a real problem.
Bryant’s 2010 rookie season was electric with 45 receptions, 561 receiving, 6 touchdowns, until another injury twelve games in. Cowboy fans across the nation were disappointed, but knew he would return in 2011. Then came his first off-season as a Cowboy. There was the pants on the ground incident, the subsequent refusal to move his vehicle, and then being asked to leave Northpark Mall in Dallas. Later came reports of unpaid high-priced jewelry purchases and delinquent apartment payments during his college days. The media is either out to get him or he is his own worst enemy.
Bryant’s 2011 season began with being named the starter opposite Miles Austin. Fans were ecstatic and hopeful that this would be the year he would make his name even bigger. In the first game, he had three receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. He missed game two due to an injury. Game three, he played injured, but had four receptions for 63 yards. In the fourth game, he had three receptions for 37 yards, one rush for five yards and two receiving touchdowns. Bryant had four receptions for 78 yards in game five. In game six, Bryant had the most productive game of his season thus far, hauling in five receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. He was not the starter in that game. The seventh game, Bryant had three receptions for 28 yards. In game eight, he recorded four receptions for 76 yards. Bryant also fumbled and lost the ball for the first time in his career as he was tackled near the opponent’s one yard line. Bryant finished 2011 with 63 catches on 103 targets for 928 yards and nine touchdowns. Word around Dallas was that after Dez came off the injury list, he was never 100% and he was unable to play an entire game due to poor fitness. Reports also alluded to the fact that Tony Romo was reluctant to throw to him because Dez didn’t know the playbook.
Dez Bryant is not a criminal; however, it is apparent there is a pattern of character or behavior issues that need to be addressed. Dez promises to be the next Michael Irvin, but it is beginning to be debatable whether the similarity is ON the field or OFF the field. He has shown nothing but little spurts of promise and has yet to even put one entire good game together. There has been a decent half here and there, but nothing more. Maybe all Dez needs is for someone to take him under their wing and be a father figure. Deion Sanders tried that, washed his hands of the whole thing, and gave up. Jerry Jones has reportedly started managing Dez’s finances which would infer that Jerry is trying to look out for him, yet this behavior continues to display itself time and time again.
The NFL history books are littered with promising superstars who never panned out because they could never get their acts together. Dez is at a major crossroads in his career and it is highly possible that next year will determine what path Dez will end up on. It could seriously go either way, he could be unemployed in three seasons with just as much negative publicity hanging over his shoulders as Terrell Owens or he could finally figure it out and turn his life around and end up in the Ring of Honor. The thing is, Dez is such a dynamic person that I don’t think there is any middle ground here. If he fails, he will do so with a major thud, but if he succeeds, absolute greatness will define him.
He is a man, he has children, he makes more money than I will in my lifetime. He plays for THE Dallas Cowboys who he represents ON and OFF the field. It is time to quit making excuses for his behavior and for him to start taking his life seriously. Are we that loyal to these athletes that they can get away with practically anything, as long as they score touchdowns on gameday? Dez Bryant, if you are reading this, please take it to heart. Everyone is rooting for you, but you must stop the antics.