Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin promised Dallas Cowboys second-round pick Randy Gregory that he would be a mentor for him as he made the transition to the NFL.
And he’s not backing down.
Irvin, who had his brushes with character issues during a career with the Cowboys that also included three Super Bowl titles, wants football to save Gregory’s life like it saved his.
It’s well-chronicled that Gregory was a first-round talent that dropped to the second-round of the NFL Draft because of a failed drug test, among other issues.
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Irvin first called out Gregory during a meeting with NFL Legends during the NFL Draft, but he said it was about helping Gregory and others learn from his mistakes and being an example rather than standing in judgment.
“I try to build relationships with all the guys and say I’m here as a resource. You want to give them some help,” said Irvin, who works as a football analyst for NFL Network. “I’m a firm believer that the game of football saves lives. It saved my life. There is no telling where these guys would end up.”
Gregory certainly received Irvin’s call the right way, even thought it caught him off guard initially.
“It’s funny, because he kind of went on a rant in front of the players and NFL legends and he called me out in front of everybody,” Gregory recalled on draft day. “It was eye-opening, because I really didn’t expect that. After everything, we talked and exchanged numbers.
“He wants us to come into the game and leave the game better than when we came into it. I’m glad he reached out to me and I’m glad he approached me the way he did.”
Irvin wants to be careful about the publicity he gets about this because his mission in helping Gregory and others is not about self praise and personal adulation.
“Guys seem more comfortable talking to a guy who had situations himself,” Irvin said. “There is no indictment from me. I had my problems. Randy knows I’m saying it from the right place. The kid has been sincere.
“But imagine what it is going to be like when you are on top again. You can be an inspiration for millions of kids who made mistakes. They can say ‘Randy did it. I can too.’”
Irvin believes that Gregory should want some type of structure in place like Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant had the past few years with former adviser David Wells.
Irvin said it’s not just about keeping you out of trouble, but also about protecting you from trouble or perceived trouble.
He pointed out that Washington Wizards guard John Wall has a security detail with him wherever he goes for that exact reason.
“If a player is smart, I would beg for a team to give me a detail for protection, for witnesses,” Irvin said. “Your word has no credibility because of your so-called red flags from the past. You need extra witnesses. You better get you a baby-sitting team.”
And for that reason, Irvin said he is not a fan of Bryant forgoing the relationship he has had with Wells the past few years.
“Does it bother me? Yes,” Irvin said. “I’m a fan of it because I know the kind of target he is. The people out there around you, they know too. All I can say is be prepared and be ready.”
Irvin likes the accountability that the Cowboys put on Gregory by giving him the legacy jersey No. 94 that was worn previously by Hall of Famer Charles Haley and franchise sack leader DeMarcus Ware.
It’s similar to what they did with Bryant when they gave him No. 88, which was worn first by Drew Pearson and then by Irvin, who both finished their careers as the team’s all-time leading receiver.
“It says we are expecting these things out of you,” Irvin said. “It speaks to a great destiny.”
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760