Kenny Decker

Dez Bryant Has Come A Long Way

Created on Oct. 11, 2013 7:00 AM EST

Stuck with a past filled with bad decisions and unfortunate circumstances, Dez Bryant could have easily fallen off, sending yet another NFL talent away before completing their career. In a league that has seen off the field issues shorten or end players’ careers, Bryant has battled through his mistakes and has performed as one of this league’s top receivers.

If you go all the way back to Bryant’s childhood, credit is due to him for making it out of a troubled situation. His mother had him when she was 14 years old, and served 18 months in prison as a convicted crack cocaine dealer when he was a kid. Bryant’s father was in and out of his life, and Bryant moved from home to home before arriving at Oklahoma State. To make it from such a difficult home life to a football scholarship at a big Division I program is an achievement in and of itself.

While at Oklahoma State, Bryant ran into off the field issues as he became one of the many NCAA investigations of preferential treatment. He faced suspensions during the investigation and left after his junior year in which he only played three games. After a spectacular sophomore campaign, the Cowboys saw enough talent and potential in the young Bryant that they traded up to draft him.

Since arriving in the NFL, Bryant has faced more issues off the field. He had several incidents that included a run-in with mall security and lawsuits from unpaid debts. But his big issue was in July of 2012 when he was arrested for domestic violence in a situation involving his mother. The issue has since been resolved, and Bryant has been quoted saying, “I love my mom. My mom loves me. Everything is great between us.”

This brings us to October 2013. Bryant is off to one of his best starts of his career. He’s 10th in the league in receiving yards, second in touchdown receptions and tied for third in first down receptions. He’s been a consistent option for Tony Romo with just two drops on 41 targets, and is highly regarded by opposing defenses. He’s got a nose for the end zone and opens up the field for other options by attracting extra attention.

But, most importantly, Bryant has been determined to be more of a leader on this team. He said before the season that he recognized the development of his role as a leader and was looking forward to leading along with other Dallas veterans. We know of his off-the-field issues, but we also know of his overwhelming passion for the game of football. Say what you want about his off-the-field issues, but he plays the game passionately, and that’s a great example for young players that sometimes get caught up in the bright lights of the NFL.

Bryant has come a long way, and he’s avoided the trap that athletes with troubled childhoods sometimes fall into (see: Aaron Hernandez, Michael Vick and Adam “Pacman” Jones). Through all his off-the-field issues, Bryant has always been able to play a very high level. With his off-the-field issues hopefully behind him, it will be exciting to see what he can do without distraction.

So far: 29 receptions, 423 receiving yards and six touchdowns … this could be fun!

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