By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
If he ever shows up wearing a red pimp suit and fedora or a full-length fur, you'll know he's gone over to the dark side. Dallas district attorneys are on standby, likely drooling over the possibility.
"People underestimate the nerve you must have, and the belief you must have in yourself, to play that position," Irvin says. "The only problem is, it's hard sometimes to leave that on the football field--it'll carry over into life. And that's where you'll get in trouble. But he needs that bravado--it's false bravery. Even if it's not there, you've got to build it up till it gets there and you can step on the field and say, 'Hey, I can do this.' You've got to think about the nature of the game of football. Your job is to build your body up with as much muscle as you can, then run as fast as you can and then run it into someone else's body. There's a mentality thing going on there, you know what I'm saying? When you think about it all, it's like, man, it takes something. That takes something. And you've got to believe in yourself. There's nothing wrong with that. Why does that rub people the wrong way, for him to say that he's good?"
Because the mix of aptitude and attitude is potentially combustible, that's why. (Refer to media guide: Irvin, Michael.) If head coach Dave Campo can somehow manage the situation, he and his Pokes will be the richer for it. In the meantime, you can see it's already begun wearing on him.
"I don't deal with numbers," Campo says tersely when asked about slapping No. 88 on Bryant's back.
There's nothing that rubs a coach more raw than the media--and the owner, for that matter--harping about what a world of potential said coach has at his disposal. (Except, that is, getting a beatdown from a first-year club.) Potential tends to get coaches fired, even loyal coaches. As it stands, he has as much riding on Bryant as anyone, at least if he's going to save the season and his job. But this isn't about him; it's about the rookie, the one with the smart hands and the smarter mouth.
The hunch here is that he'll make it big if Quincy Carter/Chad Hutchinson can stay upright long enough to deliver a quality pass in his direction. That's an enormous, Texas-sized if. If not, if he fails, they'll kick Bryant to the curb and throw some new face into that much ballyhooed jersey. That's just the way it goes.