STILLWATER — Watching what has happened to his former pupil makes Lufkin (Texas) High football coach John Outlaw cringe.
Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant, a former Lufkin High star, had his final appeal for reinstatement denied on Thursday after the NCAA last week ruled him ineligible for the remainder of the 2009 season.
"I think they (the NCAA) made an example out of Dez,” Outlaw said. "He didn’t kill anybody; he’s not selling dope. There’s a lot of worse things people could do.”
Outlaw said he saw Bryant last weekend and talked, at length, with the Cowboys receiver. Bryant, a potential top-10 pick, told Outlaw he is planning to enter the NFL Draft.
"He’s going to Tampa to get himself ready for the (NFL) combine,” Outlaw said. "He’s the type of kid ... I just don’t think a college degree was going to be a big benefit to him. Had I wished he would have finished it? Yeah.”
Bryant was ruled ineligible on Oct. 7 for lying to NCAA officials about his interaction with Deion Sanders. On Oct. 13, Bryant and OSU officials flew to Indianapolis to meet with NCAA officials to request reinstatement this season, but the NCAA denied that request on Oct. 27. OSU immediately appealed the decision to the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement committee, and that appeal was denied on Thursday.
That decision, coupled with Bryant’s likely departure to the NFL, could mean the end of a superb collegiate career. He had 147 catches for 2,425 yards and 29 touchdowns at Oklahoma State.
"He’s not bitter at anybody,” said Outlaw, who called Bryant the best player he’s coached in his 33-year career. "He admitted he made a mistake, he told the NCAA after he made the mistake. He doesn’t have a guilty conscience, he hasn’t done anything wrong.
"I don’t know what it’s like to be 20 years old and have that many people after you, I can’t relate to it. I’m 57 years old, and if Deion called and invited me, I’d probably go.”
The long-time coach tears up when he thinks how much Bryant overcame to become an All-American at OSU.
"If you knew what that child has gone through, you’d have tears in your eyes like I do when I think about it,” Outlaw said. "I could write a book about what he had to go through.”
Bryant made a mistake by lying to NCAA officials, and while Outlaw understands Bryant should pay for that mistake, it hurts him to see his former player have his final season at OSU taken away from him.
"Football is everything to Dez,” Outlaw said. "He has a passion for the game and he’ll prove that when he gets his chance. He’s a fine young man. He’s had his problems, but who hasn’t?”