An interesting topic of conversation recently popped up over on Reddit asking if a fans perception of a player changes based on their NFL career. While many felt that it shouldn’t, that might not actually be the case - especially when it comes to NFL Draft busts. Recently, former Oklahoma Sooners defensive end Ronnell Lewis was arrested when he returned to Norman for his role in a bar fight.
Lewis tweeted his apology for the incident and took responsibility for letting the fans down, but does something like this suddenly overshadow a solid career at OU? What will be interesting is to see how a player like Ronnell Lewis – who is not in the best position right now with Detroit after an event like this – is seen now, even by fans in Norman.
I went to school at OU in the late ’90s. I was there through all of John Blake’s tenure and graduated when Stoops led the team to the 2000 national championship. One of the best players at OU when I was in school was De’Mond Parker. I was covering the game in the press box when Parker and Ricky Williams went back and forth, both rushing for over 200 yards each, in the Red River Rivalry game.
De’Mond Parker was a hero in Norman to Sooners’ fans. He left school after his junior year to try his hand in the NFL. His reasoning was good – he had a family to support. He made it to the NFL, was ineffective in his short time with the Green Bay Packers, was suspended for failing a marijuana drug test, and was out of football in a snap.
No one in Norman talks about De’Mond Parker anymore.
When Quentin Griffin was at OU, he was one of the most explosive players on the Sooners’ team. He scored five rushing touchdowns against the Texas Longhorns in one game, a record at the time. Everyone loved “Q.”
Griffin was undersized and had no change in the NFL. Adrian Peterson took his place and no one talks about Quentin Griffin anymore – unless they are comparing someone else to him. One of Roy Finch’s comparisons when he entered Norman was that he looked like a quicker Quentin Griffin.
It almost seems like – unless a player does great in the NFL, fans of the Oklahoma Sooners seem to forget about their old heroes.
Let’s look at one other Oklahoma Sooners’ legend named Brian Bosworth.
Sure, Bosworth left Norman with a sick feeling in their stomach’s when his failed drug test and National Communists Against Athletes (NCAA) shirt got him kicked off the team. But, before that he was the best linebacker this school had ever seen. He was a star and one of the best college football players in the nation.
In the NFL, Bo Jackson ran over Bosworth for a touchdown on Monday Night Football. Just so you know, Bo Jackson ran over a lot of people in his NFL career, but because of Boz’s mouth and the Monday night stage, it was a huge moment for people who hated Bosworth.
Whenever anyone talks about Brian Bosworth now, they don’t talk about his amazing college career, his big sacks and his thunderous tackles. They talk about Bo Jackson running over him in the NFL. When people talk about Adrian Peterson, they don’t talk about him overcoming his injuries at OU to return stronger than ever, they talk about him overcoming his injuries in the NFL and almost breaking the rushing record.
Look at Tim Tebow, Tony Mandarich, Heath Shuler, Ki-Jana Carter and many more. They are all called NFL Draft busts – but at one time they were college football stars. Why should their NFL failures change how they are viewed when it comes to the game of college football?
Does a player’s success or failure in the NFL completely change how college football fans view the players? When a college football legend is only referred to as an NFL Draft bust because they did not make it in the NFL, that pretty much proves it to be a fact.