If you read anything at all about the Dallas Cowboys' training camp in Oxnard, you know that everyone is raving about the way Dez Bryant is putting on an absolute show of receiving skills and pure athletic prowess. And if you paid attention during the offseason, you know that there was a total stillness surrounding his formerly chaotic life. No unpaid jewelry bills, no trespass warnings, no police calls.
After an admittedly rocky start to his NFL career, the extremely talented athlete has apparently matured to the point he can fully exploit his abilities on the field. Perhaps more importantly, he is becoming a player that the newer members of the team can now emulate as he sets the example while still being able to tell them what he learned from his mistakes.
Just how high is his ceiling? Well, a man who is certainly in the conversation about being the best wide receiver in Cowboys history dropped in at Oxnard, and he thinks Bryant has the potential to be an all time great. In an interview with Tim MacMahon, posted at ESPN Dallas/Ft. Worth, Michael Irvin has nothing but great things to say, about both the man and the football player. Here are a few highlights.
On what Bryant has overcome:
"I like to measure men in distance traveled. When you look at where Dez came from - I'm talking about his upbringing - the story becomes a good story, an inspirational story to tell other young kids that are starting in a tough place. Just because you start here doesn't mean you have to end here. Then you point to some people who have had some struggles, like a Dez Bryant, but came through on the other end to give that kid hope. That's why it's important."
On whether it is unreasonable to talk about him having a 2,000 yard season:
"Absolutely not. Not for a guy with his talent, that physically gifted. He's so physically gifted it's incredible. He can absolutely do that."
On whether he thinks Dez is more talented than he was.
"What do you mean? I look at him and say, that's what I used to pray for. I used to pray for that! I used to pray, ‘Why didn't you give me this?' Absolutely!
"What I was great at we can teach. We can teach thinking through the game, consistent route running. We can teach [that]. What he has, you can only hope and pray that God has blessed you with it. That's the difference."
Now, I must point out that Irvin has always been a bit of a Dallas homer at heart, but he also has the reputation of being one of the hardest working players ever to wear the Star. And he had one or two misadventures in his personal life as well, so he knows what it is like to make mistakes and overcome them. It is encouraging to see him praising and to a certain extent endorsing the player that is carrying on the tradition of # 88.
But it is not just people with a certain attachment to the Cowboys that are noticing the emergence of a new star to wear the Star. The man who interviewed Bryant has been known to be somewhat critical of, well, almost anything to do with the Cowboys. And yet the day before he talked to Irvin, Tim MacMahon put up an article about Bryant at ESPN Dallas/Ft Worth that is, well, pretty much nothing but glowing praise.
Laugh if you want at the thought of Bryant as a leader. Go ahead and crack jokes about the immaturity that caused him to drop in the draft and detoured his path to greatness. Just know that the fact that Bryant embraces the role is a phenomenal development for the Cowboys.
Like it or not, Bryant was going to be a leader. He's determined to make sure he leads in the right direction.
Yes, this is Tim MacMahon, singling out a member of the Dallas Cowboys for his leadership. I checked with rabblerousr, our intrepid man on the scene in Oxnard, and he assures me there have been no reports of strange, man-sized pods being found nearby. And a quick review of his tweets today shows the same snarky take on things related to the Cowboys that we have all come to know and love.
But he is fully sold on Dez. He compares him favorably with Jason Witten as a role model. He even gives credit to Jason Garrett and the culture he has installed for shaping Bryant's young career.
Ever since Bryant fell to Dallas in the draft after his situation involving Deion Sanders (which really always seemed to have been much more on Deion than Dez, at least to me), there has been skepticism about him. But after the charges involving the domestic violence he was accused of committing were resolved last season, it was like he finally cast off the weight that was holding him back. His breakout performance last year commenced once that was behind him. And now, he is poised for his talent and all the hard lessons he has learned to carry him forward.
It is easy to impress the fans that want to root for you because you wear that Star on your helmet, or like our own Archie Barberio, who always saw the player Bryant could be. But when you start convincing the cynics and the doubters who almost hold that Star against you, then it's time to get a bigger bandwagon, because it is about to get crowded.
Dez Bryant is on track to be the next Cowboys Superstar. Buckle up. It looks like it's going to be a fun and exciting ride.