Some things can’t be fixed.
Not by a loving village. Not by a caring campus. Not by amazing athletic ability. Not by the world’s most famous football team.
So Dez Bryant’s life continues to spiral out of control. Even if he does wear the vaunted No. 88 for the Dallas Cowboys and might be the best player in shoulder pads for the men who wear the star. Even if he was such an athletic marvel at OSU that his last name no longer is necessary in the state of Oklahoma.
Dez was arrested Monday and booked on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting his mother, Angela.
There is no excuse for striking a woman, much less your mother. But the people who know Dez know what he’s up against. How a horrible home life growing up in Lufkin, Texas, gave him few tools in which to make good decisions and live a fruitful life. How OSU gave him structure in his 2 1/2 years as a Cowboy, but once he was gone from Stillwater, that protection went, too.
A Lufkin teacher emailed me Tuesday to try to provide a glimpse of Dez’s situation.
“The news media, the Dallas Cowboys, the public, the normal sports fan, cannot imagine the life that this young man had,” wrote the teacher, who I later spoke to and wished to remain anonymous. “What he had to overcome can’t be imagined by most decent people.
“He comes from absolutely no home life, but when he was drafted, the family came out of the woodwork.”
At OSU, Dez never was a problem in terms of behavior. People throughout the athletic department will admit that Dez was completely irresponsible — didn’t always go to class, late for meetings, didn’t understand the concept of a schedule — but never was he a problem otherwise. No drinking. No drugs. No disrespect.
“The Dez I knew would not beat up his mother,” said Marilyn Middlebrook, OSU’s associate athletic director for academic affairs. Middlebrook termed Dez “sweet” but “irresponsible.”
Which is not surprising, considering his home life. Dez’s mother was 14 when he was born and later spent 18 months in prison for drug trafficking. Dez often went house to house to sleep. Middlebrook said the story around the athletic department was that Dez in Lufkin would sleep in his clothes, because he often had to move in the middle of the night.
“He didn’t have any kind of family support,” the Lufkin teacher said. “Lived with all kinds of different people. He just never had anybody stable in his life. When these kids go off to college, or when they get drafted, they take that with them.”
Lufkin’s coaches provided Dez with male role models, and former OSU assistant coach Gunter Brewer was a rock for Dez in Stillwater. But then came the 2010 NFL Draft. The cocoon was gone.
I figure the Cowboys selecting Dez actually was a curse. That he needed to go anywhere but Dallas or Houston. As far from Lufkin as possible. To Seattle or Miami or Buffalo.
That’s what the people at OSU thought, too.
But the Lufkin teacher said it wouldn’t matter, that Dez’s family would have followed him.
Middlebrook said she’s counseled former OSU basketball star Tony Allen on the same dangers. Allen was from the streets of Chicago. “Away from Chicago, he did great,” she said. But when he went home to visit his mother, old friends “who haven’t been successful pull him away.” She’s urged Allen to steer clear from those Chicago influences and believes he has.
But Dez has not. Since his OSU playing days, Dez and friends have been banned from a Dallas mall for inappropriate language and dress, he has been sued for unpaid debts, detained but not arrested for an altercation at a Miami Beach nightclub and fined by the Cowboys for infractions such as being late to meetings.
Dez needs direction and mentoring, but whoever he’s turned to, including apparently his family, is providing neither. Dez had surrogate parents to some degree in the form of Lufkin High School faculty and OSU’s athletic department. Just because he’s 23 and an NFL player doesn’t mean that need has expired.
The Lufkin teacher said Dez always had pride. Was always clean and decently dressed. “One of the sweetest, most generous kids you would ever want to meet,” the teacher said. “Just a really good kid. I don’t know how he overcame what he overcame.”
But the sad truth is, Dez hasn’t overcome it. Not yet anyway.
Some things can’t be fixed.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.