There is no doubt that Dez Bryant is a great football player. His speed, agility and innate ability to make incredible catches thrust him into the spotlight of the NFL in 2010.
That spotlight shines bright... especially when you’re a Dallas Cowboys player wearing the number 88.
It’s a role that comes with intense scrutiny, both on and off the field.
We’ve all read the stories and seen Bryant's early struggle that came with a suddenly big paycheck and national recognition. Even recently, a Sports Illustrated article labeled the wide receiver as "irresponsible."
So when Bryant agreed to appear at an event that highlights kids fighting cancer, I worried that he might be late.
Or change his mind.
His appearance was important... important to another No. 88 whose battle is far bigger than any game.
Trey Sampson is 13 years old. He has a rare form of bone cancer and his diagnosis isn’t good. Even so, Trey is the type of kid who brings a smile to your face. He has a maturity that comes with the knowledge that life is short.
This year, Trey wanted to do one thing — play football. His coach agreed, letting him suit up for a middle school game.
Trey scored a touchdown and a place in the hearts of thousands of North Texans.
I knew that if Dez Bryant had seen Trey’s story, he would agree to surprise him at an event that provides portraits to the families of kids fighting cancer. We contacted the Cowboys and Bryant’s mentor.
Bryant watched the story and agreed to come.
That night, it poured down with rain. And I worried that he wouldn’t show.
About an hour before he was expected, I got a text. It was Dez... and he had arrived.
If that wasn’t surprising enough, he brought two friends with him — Miles Austin and DeMarco Murray.
The group waited outside until Trey took the stage. The hallway to the stage was lined with kids fighting cancer. I wish I could capture their expressions as the three Cowboys walked by.
Trey turned as they walked to the stage. His shy smile covered his face. Bryant, Austin and Murray each gave him a hug. Bryant turned to Trey and told him he wasn’t alone in his fight... that he had watched him score that touchdown and could see the passion in his eyes.
Bryant later told me that he had invited Austin and Murray and several others. And away from the cameras and the spotlight, he, Miles and Murray posed for photos with nearly every child.
Bryant later got word to Trey’s family that he wanted them to attend the Redskins game as his guest.
I asked Trey later that night if he knew that Dez Bryant would be there. He smiled, looked down, and said “I had hoped so." He then added that Bryant had just sent him a friend request on Facebook.
So often we hear negative things about Dez Bryant. But what I witnessed was compassion, pure and genuine.
This time, Dez Bryant got it right.