IRVING, Texas -- Trading up to pick Dez Bryant in the first round was only one way Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones showed his affection for the receiver.
He went a step further Friday by giving Bryant No. 88.
|Dez Bryant: 'I'm excited to wear that. I'm very excited he [Jerry Jones] thinks that I can be a great player.' (US Presswire)|
"Dez has the chance to make the same kind of impact that the people who have worn this jersey before have had, and personally I think it has a nice synergy relative to our fans," Jones said. "One of the first things I said when we made the pick was, 'Get No. 88 out."'
Bryant realizes this is an honor, even if he doesn't understand the details. After all, he was just 10 when Irvin caught his last pass and Pearson's last reception was five years before Bryant was born.
"I know it means a lot to Mr. Jerry Jones," Bryant said. "I'm excited to wear that. I'm very excited he thinks that I can be a great player."
The Cowboys made one pick Friday, moving up from 59 to 55 to get linebacker Sean Lee from Penn State.
Alas, Jones bestowed the same honor on another receiver drafted in the post-Irvin era, coincidentally another guy named Bryant. Antonio Bryant was dumped after 2½ seasons.
Both Bryants were considered elite talents who slipped because of character issues. Dallas considered Dez Bryant among the 10 best players available, but got him at No. 24. The Cowboys are confident this Bryant's problems were nothing more than youthful mistakes, such as lying to the NCAA (which kept him off the field the last 10 games of last season at Oklahoma State) and problems showing up on time.
When it was noted that this introductory news conference started about 10 minutes late, everyone laughed because that's pretty typical for Jones.
"Some people can be late," coach Wade Phillips said, smiling.
Jones brushed it off, too, then noted with a straight face that Bryant had been there more than an hour.
Bryant certainly didn't come across as a troublemaker. His answers were peppered with "yes, sir" and "no, sir." He remained overwhelmed that he was drafted by the team he rooted for while growing up in East Texas. He also said he won't carry a chip on his shoulder for falling in the draft, even though it cost him millions of dollars.
"I put that all in the past," Bryant said. "I have flipped a new chapter in life. I am a Dallas Cowboy now and I am looking ahead."
He's already looking ahead to a rookie minicamp next week, even bringing his playbook to the news conference. He also said he is "pretty sure that I will be here on the first day of camp," which bears watching because he's pals with Michael Crabtree, who held out until October last season; Bryant also is surrounded by many of the same people.
"I enjoy football," Bryant said. "I have been away from the game for a little while and I am ready to get back on the field."
Stephen Jones, who handles the team's contract negotiations, said he expects things to work out smoothly.
"We have a great history and a great relationship with [agent] Eugene Parker," Jones said. "As Dez said, hopefully we will be able to get that done in a timely fashion."
Bryant is 6-foot-2, 225 pounds -- big enough to run over defensive backs but also fast enough to run by them, and with great hands. He had 23 touchdown catches in his last 16 games for Oklahoma State.
He likely will step in as the third receiver behind Pro Bowler Miles Austin and Roy Williams. He certainly will replace Patrick Crayton as the punt returner; Bryant scored on three of his last 20 punt returns in college.
"Punt return touchdowns are more exciting than receiving a touchdown," Bryant said. "Giving me the opportunity to return a punt really means a lot to me. It is just that feeling of receiving the punt, seeing that open space and seeing the green. It is a great feeling."