Let the comparisons begin.
When Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys drafted Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Bryant (6'1, 195) in the 2nd round on the 2002 NFL draft, you just knew the comparisons to Michael Irvin were right around the corner.
After all, Irvin was 6'2, 205 lbs in his prime, and was considered to be an extremely volatile athlete off the field. The case could easily be made that Bryant even has the same style of play as Irvin, as he has the knack for making the big play with his long stride and tenacious attitude.
"I've known about Antonio Bryant and actually, everyone has. This guy can play," Offensive Coordinator Bruce Coslet said. "For whatever reasons, he fell and we got him."
Quite frankly, the reasons are numerous. Bryant was suspended by University of Pittsburgh twice in 2001, following the season in which he was the first sophomore to win the Biletnikoff Award in 4 years.
Bryant started fights with two of his teammates, and he also ignited a heated argument with Panthers' linebacker coach David Blackwell.
He then was charged with using a stolen credit card number which was used to buy a $1,300 airline ticket. Fortunately, those charges were eventually dropped, but he was arrested later an on-campus incident after a parking ticket dispute.
You'd think a track record like that would make you rethink some of your decision making, but that's not the case with Bryant. When asked if he were able to do things differently, he responded, "No. I feel like that's the stumbling stone I needed. I've learned there is more responsibility with every action I take."
To say that the kid is a fiery competitor would be a gross understatement. Fortunately, that sort of swagger and toughness translates very well onto the football field.
"I'd rather have to tone somebody down than fire them up. He's a competitive guy who also produces," noted Pitt head coach Walt Harris.
You might think that Bruce Coslet already has a plan in place to try and keep Bryant on the right track during his tenure as a Cowboy, but before you jump to conclusions, Bryant may have been given a bad rep without talking about his side of the story.
"I'm not worried about getting a bad reputation. Because when people meet me, they're like, "Whoa. He's nothing like what I heard. The media says one thing. They can run away with a story. But when people meet me, they get the truth."
Bryant will be battling it out for that all-important 3rd receiver spot with Ken-Yon Rambo, Reggie Swinton and Darrin Chiaverini. And suprisingly, Antonio might have the upperhand right off the bat.
Pittsburgh ran a similar version of the west coast offense, and Walt Harris actually was taught by Bruce Coslet while the the two were coaching together in New York. Add in Bryant's pure receiving skills, and the end result could spell doom for the rest of the NFC East.
And when you talk about Antonio Bryant, you have to remember that he really handled the media well throughout his college career, and that's coming from a town where Pitt is treated very similar to a professional franchise. Maintaining that track record will likely go a long way during his career as a Dallas Cowboy.
Make no mistake, Bryant's competitive nature will add some much needed spark to a dreadful offense from a year ago, and certainly his talent level alone will elevate the Cowboys to a higher level next season.
How high remains to be seen.
Bryant sputtered out of the gates his first day of rookie camp, attributing most of that to just being "a little nervous". He quickly rebounded though and started showing his smooth route running, as well as his ability to go up and make the difficult catch.
The Cowboys will need a whole of that type of athleticism at wide receiver next season if this offense is going to show significant improvement. Let's just hope Bryant is there to consistently provide it.
Antonio Bryant: Feast or Famine?
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