A big thanks to Twitter follower Coy Lebrija (@CoyLebrija) for alerting me to this story from the website of the Oklahoman about Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant. As we all know and have been discussing in intense depth all week, Bryant was arrested Monday on domestic violence charges and has established a pattern of poor choices and bad behavior off the field during his brief time in the NFL. This story is about Bryant, the kid from Oklahoma, and why it might be that he finds himself unable to avoid his poor choices. It is worth the full read, but this is a key excerpt from Berry Tramel's piece:
A Lufkin teacher emailed me Tuesday to try to provide a glimpse of Dez’s situation.
"The news media, the Dallas Cowboys, the public, the normal sports fan, cannot imagine the life that this young man had," wrote the teacher, who I later spoke to and wished to remain anonymous. "What he had to overcome can't be imagined by most decent people.
"He comes from absolutely no home life, but when he was drafted, the family came out of the woodwork."
At OSU, Dez never was a problem in terms of behavior. People throughout the athletic department will admit that Dez was completely irresponsible — didn't always go to class, late for meetings, didn't understand the concept of a schedule — but never was he a problem otherwise. No drinking. No drugs. No disrespect.
"The Dez I knew would not beat up his mother," said Marilyn Middlebrook, OSU's associate athletic director for academic affairs. Middlebrook termed Dez "sweet" but "irresponsible."
I am not arguing that a difficult upbringing makes it OK to hit your mother. Let's make sure that's clear right now. And I am not arguing that Bryant, at age 23, doesn't need to take responsibility for his choices and his behaviors. But too often, the debate over Bryant gets too narrow-minded and focuses on certain things to the exclusion of others. And way too often, people who talk about Bryant assume they know why he acts the way he acts and profess an impossible degree of certainty that he's irretrievable, or worse, "not worth the trouble."
This is a human being we're talking about here, and when we do talk about him, his value as a football player and his future in the NFL or the world at large, I think it's worth understanding whatever we can about where he's come from, what's behind the issues and just what it is that he's up against as he tries to figure it all out in the spotlight. I don't know if he will or not. But if he does, it'll be a hell of a comeback story.