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A Rising Star

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In 2012, Dallas’ Dez Bryant went undrafted in my league. In the previous two seasons Bryant broke the 100-yard receiving mark only once. He was criticized in the national media for being a player with a low football IQ that had trouble reading defenses and running routes. Add to that the off-the-field issues he was going through and he was not very high on most draft boards.

A few weeks into the season I picked up Bryant as a free agent to replace one of my injured wide receivers. Through the first nine games of the season Bryant had only seen the end zone twice and his numbers were merely pedestrian. In Week 12 with my No. 3 wide receiver on a bye week, I decided to give my new wideout a chance after a good performance the previous week. Boy did it pay off! In a big time Thanksgiving Day game, Bryant torched the Washington Redskins to the tune of eight catches, 145 yards and two touchdowns. He was so electrifying my 6-year-old grandson exclaimed, “that’s what I want to be when I get big.” Bryant continued to fill up the stat sheet finding the end zone 10 times in the last eight games.

In Week 14 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Bryant broke one of his fingers. He gutted it out and made a 27-yard touchdown catch to help the Cowboys secure a comeback victory. There was a question if Bryant would have season-ending surgery or risk permanent damage to the finger by continuing to play. Bryant stepped up big time, put the team ahead of himself, taped that finger to the one next to it, and came out the very next game to help the Cowboys in their playoff pursuit. In fact, two weeks after the injury, he put up a huge nine-catch, 224-yard, two-touchdown performance against the New Orleans Saints.

Sure Bryant was helped by an ineffective running game and injuries to Miles Austin, but the light came on for Bryant. He started running better routes, showed flashes of being able to beat double teams like Calvin Johnson, and became Tony Romo’s go-to guy. With improved defensive play and a healthy running game, Bryant is poised to have a monster season in 2013. I won’t sleep on Bryant in my upcoming draft because he is truly a rising star!