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Dez Chooses Novacek As Mentor

Dallas Cowboys v San Diego Chargers

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM)  - All of his life – beginning with the moment Dez Bryant was discovered to be a football prodigy – potential mentors have reached out to him, offering guidance … but in so many cases, seemingly wanting something in return.

That didn't change when he left little Lufkin, Texas, and attended Oklahoma State. It didn't change when he left college and was taken in by Dallas bail bondsman David Wells and by Deion Sanders. And it didn't change in his first two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, either. Sanders has feuded publicly with the gifted former first-round receiver.

The Cowboys themselves have tried to give structured help. And other well-meaning Cowboys legends like Drew Pearson have offered friendship to Bryant, only to be rejected.

For the first time, there is a positive and unique change in the mentorship of Dez Bryant: The player sought out the help himself. And the person he's approached is former Dallas tight end Jay Novacek.

Jay Novacek
Photo Credit: Armen Williams, KRLD-FM, CBS Radio Dallas

"We've talked, yes,'' Novacek coyly tells 105.3 The Fan. "I'm certainly available to Dez if he needs me.''

Sources tell me that Bryant approached Novacek when the five-time Pro Bowler visited the team's Oxnard, Calif., camp and said, "How did you do what you did? Can you show me how you did what you did?''

Said a source: "It seems like a weird choice. But at the same time, it's a wonderful choice.''

Novacek doesn't want Dez' money, doesn't want Dez to sign with an agent crony, doesn't want Dez to hook up with a certain sports apparel company. Novacek – who during his years as a three-time Super Bowl winner marched to the beat of his own drummer but always did so within the boundaries of team rules and the law – has no ulterior motives here except to grant Bryant's unorthodox request.

When Coach Jason Garrett says "Dez is maturing as a football player and as a person,'' this is the sort of sound decision he's talking about.

It is unorthodox, of course, for reasons that are obvious: Novacek, who will be 50 in October, is old-school. He drives a truck. He rides cutting horses. He's from Nebraska. He's a family man. He's quiet. He wears a Stetson. Oh, and he's white. Suffice to say,  Novacek has never spent $800,000 on a jewelry shopping spree, has never been in conflict with mall security over baggy pants and has never been told by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that there is an airplane ticket home waiting for him if he doesn't get in line.

Those sorts of incidents (all topped by Bryant's still-looming domestic violence issue involving allegedly striking his mother in the face with a baseball cap) have caused supposed mentors like Sanders to turn their back on him

"He needs help," Sanders once said in a radio interview. "I told the Cowboys from day one that he needs help."

Of course, it was Deion himself who had signed on to provide that help, along with people like bail bondsman David Wells and attorney Sen. Royce West, both of whom remain in his life. The Cowboys, too, from Jones and Garrett on down, have attempted to guide and bring structure to the life of a young man who experienced a troubled childhood but might slowly be maturing into a better direction.

That "better direction'' is one Novacek lives every day. Of the old tight end, Hall-of-Fame quarterback Troy Aikman once said, "If I ever have a son, I would want him to grow up to be like Jay.''

It is encouraging that Dez Bryant, at 23, may just see the same quality in the man.

Sanders' involvement dates back to Dez' college days, when the player was suspended in September 2009 for the remainder of that season after lying about having contact with Sanders the NCAA deemed inappropriate. Bryant has bounced back and forth with agent representation, starting with Eugene Parker (a Deion associate), moving to the controversial Drew Rosenhaus, and this summer changing back to Parker.

He's also spurned offers from people like Pearson, the iconic Cowboys receiver, who recently told 105.3 The Fan that Dez "laughed in my face'' at the suggestion of mentorship.

But Dez and Novacek? There are no strings attached. There is nobody dictating this to the kid. There is no defined structure to how the relationship might grow.

It is unorthodox, but it is also natural and organic. And it can be a wonderful thing, most of all, because it's all Dez Bryant's idea.

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