Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has stayed out of trouble this offseason, and recently has been making the headlines for positive news.
Back during his rookie season Dez originally signed with the apparel company Under Armour, but later backed out of the deal because the shoes were uncomfortable. He then switched to Nike cleats, but never signed an endorsement deal with the company.
Those that have followed him since his collegiate days know that Bryant is a big basketball fan as well as a sneakerhead. He grew up a huge fan of Michael Jordan and his shoes, and now is a part of the Jordan Brand.
The basketball legend and shoe mogul met up with the talented wide receiver back in February during All-Star Weekend in Houston. Jordan had some advice for his potential employee, stay out of trouble.
"The only thing he told me was 'stay out of trouble,' '' Bryant said after Tuesday's practice at Valley Ranch. "Hearing it come from him … He is a strong voice. His opinion matters."
Dez has been criticized for ignoring potential advisers and motivators before. Deon Sanders, Michael Irvin and Drew Pearson have all attempted to get across to him, but maybe growing up and maturing have helped him learn to accept the advice someone is trying to give him.
Especially considering that Bryant grew up idolizing Jordan, this could be the perfect relationship and mentor for our talented wide receiver to have in his corner.
If the new partnership wasn't interesting enough, Dez isn't earning a paycheck during the first year of a three-year deal. Bryant truly wants to prove that he is worthy of being part of the Jordan Brand, but he also wants to show the world he is ready for the responsibility.
"It just adds fuel to trying to do things great at all times," Bryant said. "That's something you don't want to mess up. Now, I do pay attention to that, just because of the fact of who he is and what he is about. Everybody knows Michael Jordan is about his business, so that make you want to be about yours."
An emerging star in the league, it continues to look like Bryant is on his way to stardom. Recently even the hard-to-please Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN stated that he believes Bryant has matured and poised for a big season. According to Taylor, Bryant is working on his conditioning and route running in order to become even more dangerous in 2013.
He has spent the offseason improving his conditioning so he can run routes in the fourth quarter with the same intensity as he does in the first quarter. That means at least an hour on the stepmill most Sunday evenings and route running at a neighborhood middle school on Sunday afternoons.
People have been very critical of Bryant's route running and attention to detail. I've always felt that if he spent more time in the film room and watched tape on receivers who worked at becoming the best in the business, then Dez would pick up on some of that detail and carry that over into his game. Watching players like Jerry Rice, Bryant is beginning to pick up tendencies that can help him.
"Oh my God! You should see the way Jerry runs that thing," Bryant says, his voice rising. "Let me show you. Jerry doesn't just take a step inside, he takes two hard steps inside and -- check this out -- he turns his head to look for the ball, which really sells the slant. Then he plants hard, cuts back out and it's a wrap. Steve Young just lofts it up there, Jerry gets it and he's gone. I'm trying to perfect that route because he runs it so smooth. That's the kind of stuff I've been working on."
With Jimmy Robinson coaching him, Dez became a terror and nightmare for opposing cornerbacks. Robinson is now out of the picture and there is a new receivers coach in town. If Derek Dooley and Bryant develop some chemistry, then #88 is going to continue growing. So far, everything looks like the two are forming that bond and they are working on improving deep routes.
"A lot of times when you're trying to create separation, the DB will lean his shoulder into you and you'll lean yours into him," Bryant said. "Coach Dooley told me to quit doing that. He says just keep running and you'll get on top of him because he's leaning and running and you're just running. I've been trying it in practice, and it works."
If he continues to take football this seriously, I see no reason why Dez Bryant can't dominate in 2013. He's come a long way and if he stays on this path, the sky is the limit.