Take a Chance on Randy Gregory? You know I would.

Randy Gregory was a legitimate top 10, first round draft pick. He was finally picked up by the Dallas Cowboys at 60. If all goes well (and yes, I know that “If” is a damn big word), the Dallas Cowboys will have the steal of the draft.

How does a young man slip about 50 places on draft night? Two reasons. The first reason says something about him, and the second reason might say a lot about us.

Randy GregoryGregory was a standout defensive end at the University of Nebraska. He showed up at the NFL combine, knowing full well he would be drug tested. You would think he would have stayed away from bad choices around drugs. He tested positive for marijuana. This is the equivalent of weaving into your final practical exam of your 6-year surgical residency falling-down drunk.

They say he failed the idiot test; that you would have to be an idiot to not know that traces of weed would get picked up in your bloodstream. OK, I get it. He made a dumb choice. For the record, he did not come to the combine after robbing a bank, assaulting a woman, stealing a car, beating a kid, killing a pitbull or shooting himself in the leg in a nightclub. He probably deserved to slip in the draft, but 50 places?

As they say in those cheesy infomercials – wait, there’s more.

The word on Randy Gregory is that he has “mental problems.” They are undisclosed. They are hinted at; they are whispered as only the arrogant who have never dealt with mental health problems can whisper. The kid has problems handling stress.

The last frontier

We want our players big and strong and athletic. Fans and even the media are willing to overlook petty crimes and DUI’s; domestic violence and who-knows-what-else. However, when it comes to mental health, the room goes silent.

It is no wonder.

Our society doesn’t know how to deal with mental health issues. It never has. Those who must live with depression or paranoia or an entire plethora of diseases are shunted away from the mainstream. They are “different.” We know how to deal with a fool who works his wife over in an elevator, but “we” seem clueless to work with a kid who has problems in stressful situations.

The fear is that Randy Gregory won’t be able to handle football’s bright spotlight, there was fear among many teams that he would somehow crack. It was theorized he was smoking weed in an attempt to self-medicate – and maybe he was.

Randy Gregory doesn’t have a rap sheet. He is not under suspicion for anything; he is not wanted for questioning; he is not a person of interest. He is a young man who may or may not have difficulty in coping with professional football life.

So my question this fine day is this: Is mental health more a problem for Randy Gregory or for the NFL collective? Is it more of a challenge for Randy Gregory or for the sports media?

What does his emotional challenge say about the collective “us?”

We are a nation – and rightly so – that is dealing with issues such as racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, gender assignment and sexism. When will we deal with the stigma of mental illness?

They say that Dallas will assign someone to Randy Gregory to keep him on the straight and narrow and that he will have a support team in place. I have heard snide comments that this is like coddling a guy who “should be NFL tough.” What is it then, I ask, when a guy with a messed up knee gets physical therapy, massage therapy, an orthopedic surgeon, a trainer and extra coaching?

I’m curious, please explain the difference.

I believe in Randy Gregory and I believe in giving him a shot.




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