In the days leading up to the 1998 NFL Draft, Dallas Cowboys Owner/General Manager Jerry Jones deliberated the idea of drafting the talented but controversial Marshall receiver Randy Moss. Moss had rare athleticism, but other teams were scared off by his off the field antics. When Moss fell to the Cowboys, Jones instead choose North Carolina linebacker Greg Ellis, reasoning that the team already had developed a reputation for having players that lacked discipline and character off the field. Jones regretted that decision for more than a decade and hoped for another chance to redeem himself. In 2010, Jones rectified his mistake by drafting another talented but troubled receiver, Dez Bryant.
Aug 4, 2013; Canton, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (left) shakes hands with receiver Dez Bryant (88) after the 2013 Hall of Fame Game against the Miami Dolphins at Fawcett Stadium. The Cowboys defeated the Dolphins 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Entering his fourth season, Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant looks to repay Jones for his faith in not only selecting him with the 24th pick in the 2010 draft, but moving up to do so. Bryant looks to add to a monster second half of the season in which he torched opponents with 10 touchdowns and over 800 yards receiving, all while playing with a broken index finger that required immediate surgery. There is no denying that Bryant always had the talent to make him one of the top players in the NFL, but his maturity has always been his biggest question mark.
Growing up with parents in and out of jail, a lack of stable housing and free loaders trying to convince you to give them attention could cause many to become immature in handling issues in the real world, and Dez Bryant was no different. Initially, Bryant seemed destined to be a letdown with half ass efforts in games, running bad routes, and terrible conditioning. Add in the constant off season baggage from sagging pants, unpaid jewelry and an alleged altercation with his mother, people start to question if you are really worth all the drama.
The first two years yielded small results and fans started to turn by demanding the young player be traded while he still had some value. Jerry Jones stood firm and stuck with the troubled receiver, believing him to be one of the major pieces to the Cowboy’s chances at a title run. Then Bryant was arrested for allegedly hitting his mother in an altercation at his home. Things were changing fast for the young player out of Oklahoma State.
Sensing a need to live a better life, Bryant instead rebounded from a bout with domestic abuse. Getting closer to religion, football and family, Dez began to dedicate himself to the game and that has been evident. Talent aside, he is showing that he is confident in what he does on the field. There is no second guessing and he feels he can beat out any defender in the league.
In the last preseason game vs. the Arizona Cardinals, Bryant used his amazing balls skills to snatch the ball away from Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, one of the most talented and physically gifted defensive backs in the league. These are the plays that make Jerry smile, and provide evidence that he has finally produced the player that will make up for his botched Moss decision.
Dez Bryant enters this season with more pressure than ever, but for the first time he has the maturity and the skills to ascent to super stardom. We were impressed last year with the preview, but if I were a betting man, I’d say the main feature will be nothing short of legendary.