As much as possible, I’ve steered clear of my usual NFL news sources to avoid any outside opinions corrupting mine. Because Stevens’ story, over most or all other Seattle Seahawks players, is one that I’ve related to the easiest.
Although much of my life, I have been mistaken as a 6’7”, African-American, world-class athlete - that’s not why I relate to him.
As much as I figured it would be so, I wasn’t a highly coveted football player coming out high school, so that’s not it.
Even though after a few days without sleep, I’d often recreate Rose and Holiday Bowls using leftover Boba Fett, Megatron and Man-E-Faces dolls left from my youth, I never played in one. So again, there’s no relation there.
So what was it that nurtured the odd bond between #86 and myself? What in the world would link a NFL Tight End to a balding, pasty, mush-bodied, drug-abused, hacky, ex-professional like myself? Simply, the idea that both Stevens and I hold the potential within us to be great at a certain thing but our own self-destructing demons stand in the way.
Being all too aware of my own arrogance and exaggerated idea of self-importance, I know to some this may be easily viewed as a delusional reach. Even with that, I don’t believe that I’m too far out in left field on this one.
While the settings, motives and tone were undoubtedly different, it’s not a reach to assume that Stevens has been told many times in his life “you have so much potential, why are you squandering it?” And I’m sure that whoever said that, be it a teacher, coach, parent, advisor, boss, spouse or relative, undoubtedly put their chalupas on the line for that potential – only to be left frustrated and disappointed.
And while one rarely asks for such endorsements, when it’s placed upon you, there’s an inherent sense of responsibility the bearers carry upon themselves. Whether the bearer admits it or not, it’s there and it’s heavy.
With that unasked weight on your shoulders, one of lofty expectations, expectations that dwarf your own, the failure becomes even harder to bear. Your own self-loathing, internal critic takes note and adds to the anguish. It’s one thing to let yourself down, an entirely a different thing to let others whom believe in you down. In fact, one can only stomach that internalized questioning so many times before it begins to change their personality.
Seeing the disappointed faces of those who believed in you the most, time and time again, only leaves you one choice: carry that bad boy image with you in all walks of life as a false way of saying “f*ck it, I don’t care anyways”.
When truth be told, the images of those left in the wake of your own self-destruction never goes away. It’s always there, always pressing down mightily on your shoulders, and only further feeds the succumbing to your own demons.
And that’s exactly what I’ve recognized in Stevens, at least so I think.
A man that’s been told his whole life that he’s special, different, and unlimited in his potential. But the failure to maximize what’s been given him, especially in the eyes of the ones who cared the most, has allowed said demons to overtake his own personality. The demons quickly become the thing that separates him from the rest. And if true, which obviously I think it is, then he and I do have a lot in common.
That’s why my reaction to Stevens’ garnering of his second DUI charge last week is one of disappointment over disgust. It marked an official goodbye to the player I often saw pieces of within me.
I understood why heading into the NFL draft, Seattle was the one team he didn’t want to play for. That meant he’d have the reminders of his high school and collegiate indiscretions forever within presence. Sometimes, you need a fresh start.
I imagined the embarrassment-laden thoughts of facing Mike Holmgren and his teammates after his first DUI charge in 2003. I know all to well what its like to face such music. The legal system pales in comparison to the judgment of those around you, who had assumed such mistakes were a thing of the past.
I remember the high I felt the week leading up to SBXL, when Stevens became the lightning rod for the Pittsburgh Steelers and more specifically, Joey Porter. As soon as I heard that, I had no doubt in my mind #86 would finally arrive and show the nation the potential he’s always held within. I couldn’t help put an additional emotional stake into that belief, given the context of my life at that time.
I can only partially imagine the guilt Stevens’ carried after that SBXL “defeat”, as he himself held much of the responsibility. The man, who had rightly or wrongly become the storyline of the pre-Super Bowl media blitz, soon became the buffoon.
I don’t recall the exact number of drops Stevens had that Sunday, but there were a lot. He was dropping passes that could’ve easily made him the MVP of that game. But, more importantly, in someway that would’ve have finally signaled that Stevens had arrived and was no longer going to fall victim to his self-destructive ways. And in an even odder way, would’ve given me some strength and reassurance that I would eventually outgrow my own internal pitfalls.
When the final gun sounded that Super Bowl Sunday, I think it sounded on Stevens’ career in Seattle as well. I just couldn’t imagine how he felt the weeks after that loss, knowing he was mostly responsible. It’s painful to envision the half-cocked reassurances he may have received from some bitter teammates.
With that, it’s no surprise that in 2006 Stevens’ production, health and image all took a giant leap backwards. Like I said, letting yourself down is one thing. Letting the others around you down, is entirely different.
I’m not sure how this article will be viewed. I’m sure some will label my assumptions and leaps a symptom of years of narcotic and substance abuse. Others may point to Stevens’ actions as one of just stupidity and laziness, over anything else. And some just won’t know what to think.
But, in the end it doesn’t really matter whether the abovementioned rambling is accurate or not. All that matters is that it’s accurate to me.
So with that I sadly bid farewell to Jerramy Stevens and what he meant to me personally.
I hope for both your and my sake Jerramy, you find that success.
Ryan Davis is a frequent contributor to Seahawks.NET. If he’s not out back catching balls from the JUGS machine, he’ll happily respond to the e-mails you send here.