IRVING, Texas - Former Baylor standout Josh Gordon could have been a Cowboy.
The rookie wide receiver came with his share of baggage and risk for an NFL team, but Dallas still had interest in him before the 2012 Supplemental Draft because of his playmaking abilities and huge upside.
Instead, the Cleveland Browns gave up a second round draft pick in order to select the Houston native. The Cleveland fans have seen Gordon as a promising deep threat who has already made an impact on the field.
However, he had not always been seen in such a positive light.
In his second year at Baylor, Gordon emerged as a game-changing receiver as he caught seven touchdowns in 2010. However, in October of that year, Gordon and a teammate were involved an incident with a police officer. Marijuana was found in the car of the teammate he was with, but Gordon was able to avoid suspension.
But Gordon could not avoid the same mistakes in the off-season. In July of 2011 he failed a drug test by testing positive for marijuana. Baylor head coach Art Briles chose to suspend him indefinitely.
Gordon transferred to Utah, but sat out the entire 2011 season. This year he admitted that he failed a drug test at Utah as well. After a year out of college football, Gordon declared for the 2012 Supplemental Draft hoping a team would be able to see past his mistakes.
Even with all of the controversy, the Cowboys were still intrigued by the raw talent of Gordon who has great speed for 225 pounds. To learn more about Gordon, Jason Garrett and the Cowboys staff reached out to Briles, with help from his daughter Jancy, a public relations assistant with the Cowboys.
Despite the fact that Gordon let his teammates and coaches down at Baylor, Briles did not hesitate to defend the character of his former receiver.
“He had talked about Josh a lot and the kind of young man he is,” Garrett said. “He said he can do a couple different things, but he really vouched for him as a person.”
Looking back now, Gordon claims that he is happy to say he has left those issues in the past.
“(I’m) just happy to be back in football. I’m doing a lot more constructive things in my life.”
Garrett went on to speak about their assessment of Gordon as an NFL prospect.
“Physically he’s just really an outstanding talent,” Garrett said. “He’s big, he’s long, he’s fast, he can catch. He’s very natural.”
Sources claim that the Cowboys had put in a claim to use a fourth round pick on Gordon. But as it turned out, the Browns never gave them the opportunity.
“We were certainly well in tune to what his situation was leading up to that supplemental draft and we were on top of it,” Garrett said. “Cleveland stepped up and was aggressive picking him and he’s certainly done a lot of good things for them.”
The “good things” that the Browns are getting from him are deep catches for long yardage. Gordon has only caught 19 passes through nine games, but he is averaging an amazing 21.9 yards per catch, the highest average in the NFL. He has totaled 417 yards off of his 19 catches and has scored four touchdowns. In only nine games, Gordon already has seven catches for over 20 yards.
Gordon still has a lot to learn as a young receiver, but he talked about how his ability to rack up a lot of yardage with just a few catches gives him confidence moving forward.
“When you’re making big plays like that you gain a lot of confidence,” Gordon said. “It’s given me a big boost going into each week. I’m feeling more confident in my athleticism and ability to make plays no matter who it is or how long the defender’s been in the league. I can still have a competitive edge and make a play.
Browns head coach Pat Shurmur says that Gordon is one of a number of players that will be anxious to try to make a name for themselves in Cowboy Stadium.
“Guys from Texas are very proud of their home state, so I’m sure all our Texans are looking forward to getting home.”
But Gordon says he was never one to idolize America’s Team.
“Being from Houston, we never really liked the Cowboys too much,” Gordon said. “I would say there is somewhat, a little bit of a rivalry for me going out there to play against them, especially for the first time. But being back in Texas, yeah, that’s a big deal to me.”
It is probably fair to say that the Dallas Cowboys have a more talented team than the Cleveland Browns and are favored to win this Sunday when the two teams face off.
But underdogs tend to pull of upsets when they can make big game-changing plays - exactly the type of plays that Gordon specializes in.