Good morning Mr. Bryant. You don’t know me, you’ve never even met me. I’m just a guy from Oklahoma who wants to see you succeed. This will only take a few minutes of your time.
First of all, let me say I’m in awe of your talent and potential. The performance you put on against the Giants on Monday night was nothing short of spectacular. There are maybe, maybe a handful of guys in the league that could field a punt over their shoulder, retreat inside the ten yard line, then turn up field and go untouched for 93 yards. As if that wasn’t jaw dropping enough, you caught four passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns. You were a one man show and the entire country took notice. You are the only bright spot on a Cowboys team in complete disarray. You’re making Jerry Jones look like a genius for drafting you, and let’s face it, that’s not easy. After all, he’s the guy who thought Wade Phillips was the answer.
I hope you become known as one of the best receivers in the game. And I hope that’s all you become known for. I guess I’m a little nervous because, honestly Dez, you’re kind of a knucklehead. Your track record of decision making isn’t exactly sparkling.
Last season at Oklahoma State, you lied to NCAA officials about your relationship with Deion Sanders. Yes, you admitted your mistake and you came clean, but the NCAA saw fit to suspend you for the remainder of the season. It shows you thought of yourself before thinking of your teammates. I know, the penalty was way too harsh for telling a little fib, but like it or not, it’s still a blemish on your record.
You couldn’t workout at the annual NFL combine, so you scheduled a pro day in your hometown of Lufkin, Texas. Scouts and coaches gathered to see you; a huge opportunity to improve your draft stock and maybe even silence some critics. You showed up with a 10-man entourage. Having friends is a good thing, but you could have saved the entourage for after you got drafted. Pro day was an opportunity for humility and performance. You should have kept your head down, mouth shut, and gone to work. NFL teams didn’t appreciate the attitude and the ego. On top of that, you forgot your shoes. Possibly the biggest day of your life, a day that could earn or cost you millions of dollars. You put such little thought into it, you couldn’t even show up with the right footwear? What the scouts saw was an impressive specimen on the field, but they also left with questions about your character.
In February, you signed a contract with Under Armour. The company paid you good money to wear its shoes and clothing. But in May, you showed up at a workout decked out in Nike apparel. Needless to say, this didn’t go over too well with the Under Armour execs and they dropped you faster than a football off the hands of Roy Williams. What part of “under contract” didn’t you understand? See Dez, it’s another incident that shows lack of intelligence, thought, and maturity.
When training camp started, the aforementioned Mr. Williams wanted you to carry his pads off the field. It’s a rookie ritual, it’s been going on in the NFL for decades. You refused and made it clear that you weren’t at camp to be carrying anyone’s pads. That refusal turned into a full-blown media circus. Yet another chance to be humble and accept your role. Instead you made it all about you Dez. It didn’t matter whether you agreed with the ritual or not, because it was an opportunity for you to earn the respect of your teammates. An innocent rite of passage, turned into a divided locker room and brought unnecessary attention to you and your team.
Your effort to make it up to Williams and other teammates also drew the wrong kind of attention. In September, you paid $54,896 for dinner for you and your boys at a Dallas steakhouse. No question, you can afford the filet. One dinner is just a small chunk of your 8.3 million dollar signing bonus. Affordability wasn’t the issue here Dez. There are millions of Americans who would love to make 55K in a year and who struggle to feed their families. How about donating a chunk of change to a local charity? Or, if you’re going to have a dinner with teammates, why not do it discreetly and privately? It’s no secret that athletes spend exorbitant amounts of money on things they don’t need, but those purchases aren’t always rubbed in the face of the public. This didn’t have to make headlines Dez. Again, attention for the wrong reasons.
I know these sound like little things. I know you didn’t hurt anyone, and you weren’t convicted of any crime. But Dez, you strike me as a guy who loves the limelight, a guy who wants the headlines, no matter what they might be. I know you had a rough upbringing and unstable family life. I give you all the credit in the world for making it out of that situation and achieving your dream. Now that you’re in the NFL, I’m pleading with you Dez, surround yourself with the right people. Think before you speak and before you act. Don’t go down the same roads as Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Their careers have turned into sideshows. They’re barely taken seriously as football players. Don’t let it happen to you, Dez.
If you want to have a long, successful career in the NFL, it’s going to happen because of talent, not because of foolish antics. As an Oklahoman, I want to see more of what I saw on Monday night. I’m rooting for you, and I believe in you. I know I’m not the only one.
Thank you for listening, Mr. Bryant.