OXNARD, Ca (CBSDFW.COM) – As politely as I can, I ask Dez Bryant if he was… a hyperactive child. Far from insulted, the Cowboys star grins widely as memories flash through his mind. ‘Oh, man, you have no idea!’ he tells me. ‘I wish my brother was here to tell you … I knew I was like this when I was 6!’ The implication, of course: Dez is still hyperactive. And he’s still happy about it.
Dez is no longer an elementary-school kid with a relentless hunger to throw, catch, run, jump and play under the unforgiving Texas sun with his brother Shaun Hatton, who Bryant offers as a witness to what Dez and I agree was and is a case of hyperactivity gone right. But when the 25-year-old Cowboys star talks about his maturation as a football player, as a father of two, and as a man, he makes sure to tell me that his boyish exuberance will never fade.
“I’m not really a person who is good at siting still,” Dez says. “I always want to be doing something, accomplishing something. I recognized that about myself when I was really young.
“I like that about myself.”
As Bryant begins his fifth Cowboys training camp, there is a lot to like. He’s posted back-to-back 1,200-plus-yard seasons, has 25 touchdowns combined in the last two years and is coming off what figures to be the first of many Pro Bowls.
And, he says, “I’m still rising,” using the word “scary” to describe the places he and the Cowboys offense might go.
In the next breath after what could be interpreted as a lack of humility, he adjusts the ballcap sitting loosely atop his head and launches into a dissertation of all the things he needs to do to improve. (Minutia like “arm-pumping” while running.) And then he shifts gears again – hyperactive in his multi-themed presentation – and heaps praise on the wide receivers group that he now leads. Between Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Devin Street, they have “the best hands” and are “incredible route-runners” and have “special talent.”
“The mindset that we have now, Dez says, “is to go out there and be one of the best receiving crews, and just want to go out and be the best receiving group, the best position for this team, we’ll do that.”
If that happens, Bryant will be the central reason. He is in the final year of his contract (worth just $1.78 million base this season) and the Cowboys plan to provide him an extension sometime soon that will rank him among the highest-paid talents in the sport. The dollars will come because of his production and his promise. But they will also come because Dallas has complete faith in his commitment to the sport and to the franchise. At a recent OTA, he filled the time of what supposed to be a rest break by dragging a trash can full of balls over to the JUGS machine for some extra catches. At this training camp he will inevitably be given a day off … and will nevertheless spent two hours running routes on the sideline.
“Dez just catches more balls than anybody else,” coach Jason Garrett says. “He’s worn my arm out, he’s worn the managers’ arms out, the quarterbacks’ arms out.”
Offer him a bowl of homemade chili being served to the Oxnard-visiting media and Dez laughs. “I can’t keep my six-pack eating like that,” he says, lifting up his shirt to reveal abs that are carved in the same manner as the rest of his 6-2, 220-pound frame. (Dez tells me that throughout camp, he’s “all about turkey sandwiches.”)
“He loves the game,” Garrett says. “He has a great passion for the game. Contract aside, he’s not worried about that. He’s trying to get himself to be the best player he can be to help our team be the best it can be. He does it every day.”
This is Dez’ effort and emotion and will funneled in the very best direction, something not always true in his embryonic career. Fatherhood is a part of this; “I’ve got two baby boys and they’re watching every day,” Bryant says. “I have to make sure I’m doing it right. … I just had to figure out what it was and get on the right track and remain on the right track. I honestly feel like that’s what I’ve been doing.”
He grins again, his smile almost outshining his diamond earring, when he explains why he’s too occupied to worry about contract negotiations.
“I’m confident in my play, and I’m pretty sure that’s going to take care of itself,” Bryant says. “There is no need for me to be stressed out or worried about it. … I really can’t have my mind focused on that because I have guys here who are counting on me. I can’t be selfish.”
He takes joy in playing with these “brothers” as he once did playing with Shaun. And maybe it was always simply inevitable that the irrepressible 6-year-old who would work at football all day in the Texas sun would grow into a man who channels hyperactivity into productivity.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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