New Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant may not start a game as a rookie in 2014. There are questions about his game, most immediately his ability to digest a new offense right away. Others have more concerns about his hands than I do.
When it comes to motivation, on the other hand, I think he has all that the motivation that he needs, and they go by the names of Brooke and London—his daughters.
Brooke, his older daughter, turned three years old in September, while London was born December 17, 2012. Bryant was a senior in high school when Brooke was conceived.
Fathering two children with two different women before he could legally drink makes some question Bryant’s maturity and sense of responsibility, but it seems it’s his children that have helped him mature over the past year and a half.
“I think about them 24/7, really, to be honest to you. That’s who I do it for. They’re always on my mind”. That is what Bryant told Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courierback in September. “My kids. My family. Just gotta take care of them. Can’t let them down. That’s the only thing that makes me happy, and keeps me going”.
Just a week before London was born came one of the lowest points in Bryant’s life, when he was suspended from playing in Clemson’s bowl game. Coach Dabo Swinney said that he was “defiant about going to study hall”, which led to the university determining that he was academically ineligible to play.
This came after Bryant was suspended for a game earlier in the season for making a throat-slashing gesture on the field. Whether or not that’s a worthy offense, it’s against the rules, and it was a foolish act that hurt his team.
But the Chick-fil-A Bowl suspension was a reality check for Bryant, who said that it put his mother in tears. “I can’t accept going through that again”, he said about how his actions affected his family.
His mother, Roberta, “demanded to know whether Martavis still wanted to be at Clemson, where he’d dreamed of playing since he was a freshman in high school”.
“You’ve got two kids you’ve got to take care of”, she said to him. “Right now, I’m the one that’s supporting you and your two kids, and somewhere down the line, you’ve got to take responsibility”.
He did, and although he admits that he’s struggled with fatherhood at such a young age, it’s become the driving force in his life. He told the paper that he wasn’t close to his father as a child, and he wanted to be there for his own.
Part of that is pursuing his NFL career so that he can provide for them, and those around him have seen a change in focus since that December 2012 suspension. Said his former coach, “since January—and I was the biggest skeptic of all—I’m a believer, because he’s been completely consistent in everything”.
Going to the team he was hoping to should only help keep him focused.
During his post-draft conference call, he relayed that he told his mother that he wanted to be a Steeler, saying that Pittsburgh is “just a great city”, and that he had “a great talk” with wide receivers coach Richard Mann. In the right environment, with the motivation of providing for others, I think I like Bryant’s chances of succeeding.