Sometimes it takes a little longer for your investment to pay off. You invest in a risk, hoping to cash out in a big way, but it never happens. This is what most of the NFL avoided back in the 2010 NFL Draft when they had the opportunity to draft the troubled but talented Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Remember that the trade to get him back in 2010 was all Jerry Jones. After watching Randy Moss haunt the organization, Jones didn't let the same mistake happen again and secured the right to land one of the best college wide receivers I have ever seen play the game. When evaluating him, I saw a combination of Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Anquan Boldin.
A few years later, Bryant is making the Dallas Cowboys proud and their decision to trade up and get him look like one of the best in recent memory.
The 2012 season didn't start off promising, though. Bryant was arrested and during the early parts of the year he consistently made mistakes on the football field. Everyone who had doubted the young man pointed their finger saying I told you so. Some fans wanted him gone; cut or even traded. People were ready to give up on him, and that wasn't fair to Dez.
Then it began to come together. Bryant wasn't making mistakes, he wasn't dropping passes and he was outright dominant. He went on to have his breakout season, who many entering the year expected. After all, the third campaign is where the physically talented wide receivers turn on the light and begin producing at an elite level.
Even though he put up 92 receptions, 1,382 yards, 12 touchdowns and averaged 15.0 yards per catch, Bryant was a Pro Bowl snub. You would think that a receiver who arguably had the best second half of the year outside of Calvin Johnson would make it to Hawaii, but Dez was left out. Apparently he's overrated, but that's a different story for another day.
After a quiet offseason where he stayed out of the media, Dez talked about the personal progress he's made.
"I found myself," Bryant said Tuesday after the Cowboys' first organized team activity. "I'm comfortable with my life. I'm enjoying being in the NFL. I wish it could've been a couple years back, but I had to go through a couple of things to figure it out. I think I got it and I'm just more focused on my job and doing what I love to do and that's playing football."
When I read Bryant's recent comments, I knew some people would take them the wrong way. First off, this is a young man who has made tremendous strides as a human being. Everyone struggles in life and faces adversity, it's just part of the progress, but Bryant has been through more than most people face in a lifetime. Read this article for a better feel of what this young man has been through
Bryant has a come a long way on and off-of-the field. When he says he is "comfortable", it doesn't mean he is complacent. If anybody questions his work ethic and practice habits, then they really don't know the type of football player #88 is. He hasn't even scratched the surface of his potential, and trust me nobody knows that more than Dez Bryant.
For the first time in his life, Dez has a solid structure around him.
"Listening and looking at people who do it right," said Bryant when asked what has helped him turn a corner in his life. "When I was younger it wasn't like I was acquainted with all that stuff. I wasn't used to it. I had to get around people who do it right and I feel like that's been my stepping stone, these older guys."
A part of me always felt that going to Dallas was a gift and curse for Bryant, but trouble will find you anywhere. Staying in Texas, Dez was still around some questionable character, but it appears that he has cleaned that up. Now he has the right type of people around him and the Dallas Cowboys are doing everything they can to support him emotionally and financially.
Trust me, not every player loves the game of football, but Bryant does. The guy breaks a finger, holds off surgery and risks further damage to his finger so he can help his team make the playoffs, now that's dedication.
"This is my job," he said. "This is something I love to do. I don't worry too much about if I'm comfortable or not. I'm all in. I'm focused on other things, that's just being right and helping out the younger guys."
Now entering his fourth NFL season, Bryant is 24 years old and more mature. Yes, going from 21 to 24 is a big difference. His experiences have made him the person he is today, it's made him stronger. Growing up in a unfavorable situation, being suspended by the NCAA, falling in the draft, going to the Cowboys, getting caught up in some trouble in Miami and being arrested molded and changed Bryant for the better.
With a better understanding of what he is doing out there on the field (route running and knowledge of the Cowboys' offense) expect Dez to become even more dangerous, but also watch for him to guide young players like Terrance Williams. Knowing the type of teammate he is, Bryant will be more than willing to help the rookie from Baylor and his transition to the NFL. After all, their scouting reports are somewhat similar, suspect route running and questionable build up speed. Watch for them to become close and share a bond during organized team activities and training camp.
Back in 2010, nobody questioned whether Bryant was a beast on the field. Most personnel and draftniks said on record that there was no doubt that Dez had the physical tools needed to be an elite wide receiver, but his off-the-field baggage and tardiness at Oklahoma State were the major factors that kept teams from drafting him earlier.
So far, our #88 is on the right path and continues to work at becoming the next great Dallas Cowboy receiver. As of right now, there isn't too much more you can ask for from him. This is my favorite player, seeing him find himself and finally settle into his life is great to watch. Keep on doing you Dez, you deserve to be comfortable and happy in life, you've earned that much.
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