With a career that gave Dez Bryant three Pro Bowl appearances, an All-Pro season, and a reputation as one of the league’s better wide receivers when he was healthy, it is easy to forget that his entry into the NFL was coming off the heels of controversy.
While playing for Oklahoma State, Dez Bryant worked out with former NFL superstar Deion Sanders and proceeded to lie about it to the NCAA.
The result was a suspension that lasted the second half of his final year.
What happened to Dez Bryant?
Bryant was believed to have communicated with agents during a visit to Sanders’ home, on top of participating in illegal workouts. Instead of admitting to the allegations, Bryant lied to the NCAA’s investigators and stated that he never met agents who were associated with Sanders.
Bryant first met Sanders while out and about in Dallas. The two immediately became friends, and Sanders made a habit of sending Bryant text messages meant to inspire and lift him up.
While the charges on their own were not good for Bryant, the lies made the punishment harsher than it may have been otherwise. He was having a good season at the time of the suspension, tallying 17 receptions, 323 yards, and four touchdowns in three games before being shut down. Bryant would apologize for the incident in a statement:
“I made a mistake by not being entirely truthful when meeting with the NCAA. I sincerely regret my mistake and apologize to my teammates, coaches, OSU fans and the NCAA.”
The NFL Draft combine
While the NFL tends to be lenient with regards to players who are charged with violating NCAA rules, but some questioned Bryant’s performance and behavior in the draft process. While his 4.48 short shuttle time and 7.21 three-cone time were good, he was touted as one of the best, and the numbers did not reflect this aspect.
Some thought that Bryant’s conduct showed someone who wanted the perks of being in the NFL more than the football. According to Luke Taylor at Bleacher Report, Bryant showed up with an entourage of 10 and acted as though he were already an NFL superstar and didn’t treat the process seriously, a claim that was not helped by the fact that he apparently left his shoes at home.
Dez Bryant’s draft stock
The questions about his college career combined with his perceived flaws at the combine did cause Bryant to slip a little in the draft. Although, he still was drafted in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys. It may have been a risky pick at the time given all of the question marks, but it would work out well for the Cowboys and Dez Bryant.
While the end of his career with the Cowboys was marred with injuries, Bryant was one of the best receivers in the NFL when he was at the height of his game. Those concerns regarding his love of the game and his dedication have never been a huge issue for Bryant, who is currently looking to make a comeback following an Achilles injury that cost him the entire 2018 season.
Does it matter?
The NCAA’s stringent rules are supposed to help keep amateurs from receiving benefits that could compromise that status, but many believe their rules on incidents such as Bryant’s are self-serving and harmful to players who are ultimately trying to become pros in the future. Whether or not this was the case, Bryant seemed to be able to have a successful, albeit not controversy-free career.
Bryant has been candid about his struggles growing up, his shortcomings, and his attempts to get better. Whether or not his situation was truly unforgivable, Bryant appears to have matured since his college days and you can’t really blame Sanders for trying to help an up and coming college star.