Former Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike Holmgren once told Jerry Jones not to draft Dez Bryant because he was not worth the risk. Mr. Mentor to America’s Troubled Youth, Deion Sanders, went so far as to cut ties with his protégé because Bryant wouldn’t listen to him.
There were other warnings before and after the Cowboys selected Bryant with the 24th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft that this guy was going to be a giant head case who was destined for a tragic ending.
How he and the Cowboys reached Wednesday’s deal was often painful and sometimes embarrassing, but they did it. Dez, please don’t blow it — don’t become another sad sports statistic.
On Wednesday, with a 3 p.m. deadline looming to complete a deal, Bryant agreed to a five-year contract worth $70 million, with $45 million guaranteed.
The hope for the Cowboys is they will have their best skill position player lead them to more winning seasons. There should be equal hope that a guy who came from less than nothing will properly use this type of financial security rather than squander it.
“I’m just proud of Dez; he’s gotten better and I’m proud for him,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Wednesday afternoon. “You have to be proud of him individually. It’s a life changer for him and he’s worked to get it.”
Sports is littered with sad cases of guys who had it all and blew it all just as quickly. The stories are so common they are cliché, and so numerous that ESPN produced a compelling 30 for 30 documentary on this very subject. It is essentially a tragedy: guys who came from nothing, had money, and wasted it on cars, family, friends, girls and stuff.
In the months leading up to this last-hour deal, there was considerable chatter that “Dez is broke,” so he would cave to the Cowboys’ demands because he could not risk losing nearly $800,000 for missing the first week of the regular season.
A lot of “inside sources” speculated that Dez needed the money. They don’t know. I have no idea about Dez’s financial situation, and would be highly skeptical of anybody who says they do. Frankly, it’s none of our business.
Given the sad stories of ex-millionaire players going broke, it is highly believable that Dez Bryant was low on funds. It’s not uncommon for NFL players, who are paid only during the season, to be out of money by the time training camp arrives.
It is believable, but that does not mean it’s true. This is what we do know: After signing his deal, Dez should be financially set for the rest of his life.
If anybody can appreciate the value of a couple of extra bucks, it is Dez Bryant. It is no secret the man grew up in a “financially troubled” environment in Lufkin, and there is speculation a lot of people are dependent on his bank account.
Dez is like a lot of guys in the NFL — they all have a story, and their talent and their money makes them a patriarch at a ridiculously young age.
When Dez attended T. Boone State University, there were many red flags. He was suspended for a year by the NCAA. He didn’t know the plays.
Even Deion Sanders, who sells himself as a mentor to young athletes who are coincidentally talented and could be potential clients, cut ties with Dez in late 2010. There was the incident between Dez and his mom that involved the cops. A police report involved Dez’s friends, and cars in his name.
In the last two years, there has been nothing off the field other than reckless speculation, and he has been a Pro Bowl player on the field.
He is smart enough to learn what it takes to be exceptionally good at his craft, and to make it in a league that looks for replacements. Dez got in the door because of his talent, but he got the contract because he figured it out.
How a guy who came from that environment made it to Wednesday’s agreement is truly inspiring. Dez Bryant is the soul and the bravado of the Dallas Cowboys. His rawness and willingness to wear his emotion on his helmet has made him the most popular athlete in Texas. Dez Bryant is not as big as J.J. Watt, but Dez Bryant is bigger than J.J. Watt.
“He has gotten better every year and we have every reason to think that at this age, which is young (26), he’ll continue to get better,” Jerry said. “And I’m very proud of him.”
Considering how many people told Jerry not to take him, he should be proud.
So should Dez. Like Jerry said, it’s a life-changer.
Now please, please, don’t blow it.
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