Barring an injury, this was always going to be Dez Bryant's last season at Oklahoma State -- All-American receivers who hang out with future Hall-of-Famers tend to have a rather low retention rate for their senior year -- and his suspension for lying to the NCAA last month about his relationship with Deion Sanders only made the leap that much more inevitable. With Bryant's final appeal officially denied today, his high school coach confirmed for the Oklahoman that Dez is officially done in Stillwater:
"He was here this weekend," Lufkin High coach John Outlaw said. "We talked for a long time. He's going to Tampa to get himself ready for the (NFL) combine."
Last week, Bryant was ruled ineligible until September 2010 and OSU appealed to the NCAA's Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee. That appeal was denied on Thursday.
That decision, coupled with Bryant's likely departure to the NFL, represents the end to a superb collegiate career. He had 147 catches for 2,425 yards and 29 touchdowns during his Cowboys' career. He also added three touchdowns as a punt returner.
Bryant's numbers, spectacular as they are, don't quite do justice to his smooth acrobatics as the latest (and one of the greatest) in the long line of tall, high-flying receivers that emerged this decade along with increasingly sophisticated passing attacks. He led an all-star lineup of Big 12 receivers as a sophomore in yards and catches and in yards per catch among players with at least 30 receptions, and was well on his way again through the three games he played this year; on top of 29 touchdowns, he had 29 catches of at least 25 yards in less than two-and-a-half years. He certainly couldn't be covered man to man.
Athletically, Bryant is a certain first-round pick and likely destined to be the top-ranked receiver in the draft unless the league looks on his suspension (or any other part of his very rough background) as a "character issue," a real possibility when the other prolific Big 12 receiver associated with Sanders and his agent, , is ex-Texas Tech star and current 49er Michael Crabtree, who missed training camp and the first month of a season in a holdout. That association might scare teams off, but if he drops, it definitely won't be anything he's done or hasn't done on the field.