Dez Bryant isn’t happy that people are talking about his background. But he should be.
Bryant’s unpleasant upbringing came up recently in a radio interview regarding former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was charged with murder.
The discussion was about whether NFL teams should be wary of draft prospects who come from rough backgrounds. Bryant’s background was described by a former NFL scout as “the worst I had ever seen.”
Bryant apparently didn’t take kindly to being included in this conversation and responded on his Twitter account, @DezBryant:
“I just wanted to know why is my background relevant right now? I promise there is more [expletive] to talk about in this world than my background”
On one level, Bryant is correct to be offended that his name is lumped in with Hernandez, an alleged murderer.
Hernandez’s background, especially what’s been uncovered in recent weeks, shows a history of violent, criminal behavior and drug use, in particular marijuana.
Bryant has made lots of headlines for his off-field behavior, but none of it involved drugs and the only criminal behavior he’s been associated with was a domestic dispute with his mother.
Nearly all of Bryant’s misdeeds can be attributed to either irresponsibility or immaturity. But no one has ever accused Bryant of being a thug.
That one charge of family violence has not been pursued because Bryant reached an agreement with the district attorney’s office to seek counseling for anger management.
So far, that counseling – or perhaps the brush with the law – has resulted in Bryant becoming both a model citizen and an elite wide receiver. No coincidence that as Bryant found peace in his personal life, he found focus on the football field.
And if Bryant has been unfocused in the past, who can blame him? Those who know about Bryant’s upbringing would certainly cut him some slack.
The root of Bryant’s current discontent is an interview former Cowboys scout Bryan Broaddus gave about teams doing background checks on draft prospects.
“The worst I had ever seen of a background is the kid Dez Bryant,” Broaddus told 105.3 The Fan. “When you look at what he went through and then you’re talking about these players, and it’s hard for them to get away from these people in their lives because these people have been with them when they were nothing, when they were nobodies.”
Broaddus said the worries about NFL prospects don’t end once they’re drafted.
“On Dez…that’s the thing as a personnel guy,” Broaddus said. “You don’t sleep at night. And when you wake up you’re thinking, did he go off the reservation today? That was something that we had to deal with. You deal with, ‘OK, What happened? Check TMZ. Nothing happened? OK, we’re good for a day.’
“You’re constantly worrying about players because they get put in terrible situations, sometimes by their own doing.”
A “terrible situation” is how many would describe Bryant’s childhood.
Bryant grew up in Lufkin, a small town in East Texas, but it wasn’t much of an upbringing. His mother, who gave birth to him when she was 15, was often absent, including spending 18 months in prison for selling crack cocaine.
Stability was practically non-existent in Bryant’s home life, and the classroom presented another challenge because of a learning disability. Prone to emotional outbursts, the young Bryant often fought what little structure was offered him.
If there is one parallel between Bryant and Hernandez, it’s the absence of a parental figure. Those who knew Hernandez as a youngster say that he was devastated by the death of his father when he was 16. After that, Hernandez reportedly began hanging with the wrong people and leading a life that would eventually lead to a murder charge.
Both Bryant and Hernandez overcame their backgrounds to become NFL stars. However, Bryant has so far overcome the adversity of his early life while Hernandez seems to have succumbed to it.
That’s why Bryant shouldn’t be upset when people talk about his background. It’s an example to others that they can realize their dreams despite not getting the best start in life.
The other commonality between Bryant and Hernandez is that both began their NFL careers near their childhood homes. A professional athlete trying to overcome his past is doubly challenged when he’s presented with it on a regular basis.
“I think the fact that his family is here with him, I think that was a really hard adjustment for him,” Broaddus said of Bryant. “Hopefully from what we’ve seen, he’s managing that well. That’s the important thing.”
And that’s the important part of the interview that Bryant should focus on. He can’t change the past, but he is in control of his future. If Bryant continues along the course he set for himself, both personally and professionally, during the 2012 season, any discussion of his background will ultimately reflect positively on him.