Sometimes you have to lose to win, and sometimes you have to fall to great depths before you can rise to even greater heights. In all walks of life, people everywhere are struggling everyday with their personal demon’s hoping it doesn’t get the best of them. While some people are able to find the proper support system they need to overcome their issues, others don’t see their need to get help until they are faced with the potential of losing everything that matters most to them.
Such is the case of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who is looking to return to the NFL following a one year suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. There have been multiple reasons given for why he has smoked marijuana, but the bottom line is, and he knows it, that if he wants to continue his football career, he must stay clean and remain in compliance with the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Following Martavis Bryant’s first suspension over multiple failed drug tests, served during the first four weeks of the 2015 season, the hope was that he would live up to his promise of getting past his issues. It appeared Bryant was making good on his promise, until just prior to the Steelers playoff game in Cincinnati, when it was reported that he had missed multiple drug tests.
This was his second violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, which the NFL views as being the equivalent of a failed drug test, resulting in his yearlong suspension. Over his last two season’s, Bryant has been suspended for a total of 20 out of 32 regular season games, and has a lot of work ahead of him before earning back the trust of his owners, coaches and his teammates. If you ask Martavis Bryant though, he is okay with that.
During a candid January interview with Jacob Feldman of Sports Illustrated, Bryant acknowledged his failure to learn from his first fine and suspension. “I never really paid it no mind. It was what it was. I made my mistake. During the four-game suspension I went to Houston with John Lucas for about four weeks, but I didn’t really take it that serious.” So why is it going to be different this time around for Martavis Bryant? Because he has made critical changes to his lifestyle.
According to Bryant, he had to do things differently. “My way got me in trouble. I cut my circles down. I hadn’t really been paying attention to how many people were around me. It feels really quiet now. I love that. The hardest part was losing my house in Hermosa Beach. It took about a week to move out. My agents recommended I get away from L.A. and refocus. I was against it at first but it turned out to be a great thing. I was so stuck on L.A. Here, there’s not much to do, I don’t go to the Strip that much, mainly just spending time with my girl and my dog.”
A critical part of Bryant’s recovery stems from being able to remind himself of where he came from, by volunteering to coach the wide receivers at Green Valley High School in Henderson, Nevada, through the help of his agent. It’s an opportunity Bryant feels blessed to have had. “Seeing those guys smiling every day when I came out there. I needed that to remind me of where I came from, where I started at, where it changed for me. It was good to see that. I just didn’t like being called Coach. I’m 25 years old.”
As therapeutic as the coaching experience was for Bryant, it didn’t sit well with ESPN’s resident loudmouth, Stephan A. Smith, who couldn’t resist the opportunity to pass judgement on Bryant, “You’re going to go around kids? What the hell are you going to teach them? How to puff and pass? I don’t want to hear that.” His response to Smith, as well as every other naysayer can be summed up with best with these two tweets
While Martavis Bryant may come across as defiant in these two tweets, what he is saying is that he is clean and doesn’t care what anyone other than his family or friends think, because their opinions are the ones that matter. It’s those people he doesn’t want to disappoint ever again, especially his mom. Bryant says this about his mom, “She raised me by herself, working in a plant for almost 30 years. I owe everything to her. When I got suspended, I called my mom and my grandma and told each what happened. It really hit hard for my mom when it came out. People don’t just go at you, they go at your family too”.
Bryant goes on to say, “Everything said on my page online was said on hers too. That was the hardest call, but I’ve made that call before. It’s like, “I’ve got to call and tell her because I don’t want it to come out on TV.” It’s my mom. She told me, she was like, “Ah man, I can’t believe this happened.” She wanted me to learn from my mistakes. It got down to, she didn’t think I was ever going to stop smoking. It took to this point for her to believe me.
Bryant also understands that in addition to transforming his life, it’s just as important to do the same with his body. Prior to his year long suspension, his workout habits were lacking by his own admission to Jacob Feldman….. “I used to just show up on Saturday and ball out. Show up on Sunday and ball. I never trained in the off-season. Maybe like once a month. My first year, I went to L.A. in the off-season and I was good during that first week. Then there wasn’t any more training. After he got to Nevada…”I was skinny when I got here. I was 205. I added 10 pounds in my first few months here. I feel different now.”
When Bryant returns, he doesn’t plan on having any conversations with his teammates about what happened or how it’s going to be from then on out, because he knows that words mean nothing. According to Bryant, “What happened happened. What’s done is done. There’s nothing for me to say. Just move on and show with my actions. They’ll see on the field. I’m not going to go back and say nothing. They’re grown men.” Clean for nearly a year now, with 18 pounds of added muscle from a newfound dedication to the gym, Martavis Bryant is already the most dynamic receiver in the game, and is now looking to find greatness out of shame.