For Marcell Dareus, it doesn’t have to end the way it did for former OT Mike Williams in the NFL. ‘Big Mike’ came to the Bills after being selected fourth overall in the first round of the 2002 draft. He was a sure thing that turned into an enormous bust.
Like OT Mike Williams, Dareus was selected as a “sure thing,” the third overall pick in the first round of the 2011 draft. There were murmurs at the time that his work ethic was a problem at Alabama, but that did not seem to inhibit the Bills from taking him. The fact that J.J. Watt was selected 11th overall in the same draft makes this situation with Dareus even more painful for Bills fans.
I’m still trying to figure out how a professional football team could continually blow draft after draft since 2000. ‘Maybust’, Big Mike, John McCargo… OK, I’ll stop here. Nothing more needs to be said about this horror show of drafting other than the fact that it would appear that until proven otherwise, the Bills have not been very good at drafting linemen early on either side of the ball for close to two decades.
Eric Wood will likely turn out to be the only exception, but he has to stay healthy. The jury is still out on him, as well as Andy Levitre, who apparently wasn’t deemed good enough to overpay to retain his services. And so it goes.
Now we are opening training camp without Marcell Dareus because he failed his conditioning test. It’s understandable that Bills fans would freak out. We have been down this road too many times in the last 20 years. For most of us, it’s hard to understand why a young man would fail to motivate himself to play a game for millions of dollars, and all the fame and glory that comes with it.
However, there are significant biases in beliefs perpetrated by our culture that most humans are motivated chiefly by money and fame. That is not the case for everyone. At times, innate personality differences and/or how a person was raised can have a tremendous effect on how they behave throughout life, or even what they value most.
It is a gross understatement to say that Dareus has faced difficulties throughout his 24 years of life. Losing parents, a sibling and friends is more than most people should ever have to face during an entire lifetime.
It would behoove all Bills fans to refresh themselves with the number of horrendous losses Marcell faced before ever reaching the NFL. Check out this article after Marcell was drafted. It outlines the struggles of his life very well. Read the last line carefully because it is important to understand how it contributes to his current mindset.
All the money in the world cannot supplant what is lost when you don’t have the guiding hand of parents to support you emotionally (and financially) along the way. You don’t have to look any further than at guys like EJ Manuel or Sammy Watkins to see what a difference it can make to be raised by loving parents who are with you all the way through your development as a human being and football player.
Dareus had none of those advantages growing up. He has faced unspeakable tragedy at an early age. He understands poverty in a way that many people thankfully cannot comprehend.
In spite of all of his challenges, he rose above it all to make it to the NFL as the third overall pick. However, early on he did have more structure in place because he was a “kid.”
Someone to had to provide for him until he reached adulthood, and his devoted mother did everything she could, despite suffering (and dying) while he was in college. Thankfully, he had some good people to help him along the way.
Sadly, even his high school mentor Scott Livingston was killed in a car crash on the afternoon that Marcell Dareus announced his intention to go to Alabama. It’s mind boggling to think about how anyone could survive so much tragedy in their youth.
Once adulthood is reached, and the cocoon of college football life is over, there is an expectation that one should just be able to slide into maturity without faltering much along the way. Teachers and coaches are there to provide external motivation.
The structure of having to take classes and play football simultaneously keeps one busy enough to stay out of trouble. IF internal motivation is a factor, there isn’t much of a chance for the problem to show itself until reaching the NFL, where you are expected to come and play without being ‘babysat.’
Now let’s go back to the last sentences of the article about Dareus’ early life struggles that I referenced earlier in this post. He was talking about the family and friends he lost along the way:
“I can feel them now,” he says. “I felt them when I got off the plane in New York. They are rejoicing in heaven. I made it.”
“I made it.” Those three words reveal a great deal about where Dareus is at emotionally these days. He. Made. It. Was making the NFL Dareus’ ultimate goal? Now that “he made it,” where would the motivation come to enlarge those goals by becoming an elite player in the NFL?
Once you hit the NFL, you are largely on your own. Other players loathe lecturing you about your personal life. They will have your back, but don’t expect them to be your “Momma”. A professional football player is expected to be emotionally stable at all times and not require any mental or emotional development at this point.
Some players have agents who will act as substitute parents, with enlightened self-interest as the primary motivation for some of them. Agents are motivated to secure a lucrative contract for a player because it enriches them to do so.
While that ‘support’ might be there while the player is making big bucks, how much is there if a player is kicked out of the league? When an agent dumps a player because they can no longer pay them, does this type of situation exacerbate feelings of abandonment?
I like what the Dougies are doing with Marcell right now. They are doing exactly what he needs. It was reported that one of them said that Marcell does better when he is with the team. That’s a no-brainer to understand. The team is providing the only structure that Marcell has in place in his life that he can trust right now.
The Dougies understand that what Marcell needs now more than anything else is for people to believe in him, to encourage him, and most of all to NOT abandon him. I’m not surprised they are sequestering him from the media, who would do well to step back and let Dareus come forward when he is ready.
Dareus needs time and patience to grow into the man he is capable of being. It would certainly be understandable for someone who grew up facing poverty and unspeakable tragedy to feel as if they could sit back and relax now that they don’t have to worry where and when their next meal will come.
Marcell needs guidance about where to go from here. His ultimate goal of making the NFL needs to be redefined. He needs to learn how to trust that he can love without fear of abandonment.
He’s already had that experience way too often for his age. The Dougies are providing a sense of security for him right now, and that is exactly the right thing to do.
I remember thinking when OT Mike Williams had all his emotional problems how frustrating it was to see what was happening, but to be in no position to offer help. As fans, we want to help.
It’s why we send out good vibes and prayers for Jim Kelly and his family during their latest battle (keep it up!). It’s what we do. We are the BillsMafia, and the rest of country is just finding out what makes us unique as a fan base.
I have a proposal to make to the rest of the BillsMafia, because I think we as a FAMbase have the ability to reach out to players in a way that is different than any other franchise in the NFL. I would like to propose that we take up the cause and show Dareus why we are the best fan base in the league.
Instead of complaining about what is going on with Marcell, why don’t we show him, BillsMafia style, how much we believe in him? If we pride ourselves as being the best fan base, and only FAMbase, in the league, then let’s step up to the plate and show it.
I believe it would be a tremendous help if the BillsMafia showed up in full force at camp when Marcell returns to the field. Bring signs and banners, wear jerseys, and most of all scream your support for him as loud as you can. Let him know that he is a part of OUR FAMILY, now and forever.
There is no other fan base with a group as devoted to supporting ‘our’ players as the BillsMafia. The mere existence of the BillsMafia is evidence in and of itself of how unique the Bills fan base is compared to the rest of the league. Let’s use BillsMafia as a vehicle to support Marcell at a time when he needs us the most.
You will all be spared the wyobabble on Saturday, as I will be busy driving 120 miles to the airport and make my way to training camp from Wyoming. Enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts because starting on Sunday, I will be tweeting and blogging until you are all sick of me.