Brent gets another chance
It's not the draft-day process Josh Brent dreamt of as a child, but it doesn't really matter.
Instead of sitting in front of the television in late April, waiting for the commissioner or another NFL representative to call his name, Brent spent Thursday sitting at home with family and friends, clutching a cell phone and waiting for it to ring during the non- televised NFL supplemental draft.
It eventually rang, and the Dallas Cowboys were on the other end to inform the former Illinois defensive tackle that he was their seventh-round pick.
"I'm trying to calm down," Brent said from his Bloomington home shortly after he got the news. "I really almost didn't believe it. I was just in shock that it was actually happening. A lot of people don't get this opportunity to see their dream come true."
Because of some off-the-field troubles at Illinois, it's a dream that almost didn't materialize. Brent was suspended last summer after being arrested for driving under the influence. He spent some time in jail before being reinstated. He spent the spring semester at Parkland College to improve his academic standing in an effort to re-enroll at Illinois and play his senior season but didn't do well enough to be admitted.
"To have this opportunity is a weight lifted off my chest. It's a little bit of breathing room," Brent said. "I have the chance to go and show people who I truly am as a person and to not just represent the Dallas Cowboys but to represent the University of Illinois and my family."
Brent and BYU running back Harvey Unga (seventh round to the Chicago Bears) were the only two players selected Thursday. As a result, Dallas and Chicago will forfeit their seventh-round picks in next April's draft.
Peter Schaffer, Brent's agent, said he is working with the Cowboys on a contract for his client and would only say that Brent will report to training camp on time.
"We don't negotiate in public, but we've already had some great conversations with the Cowboys," Schaffer said. "Josh is incredibly blessed to have been selected to play for one of the great organizations in the history of sports."
Brent was a two-year starter for the Illini and had 71 tackles, five sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss in three seasons. He was expected to be a force on the Illinois defensive line this season alongside Corey Liuget and Clay Nurse. The academic trouble prevented that from happening, and for a time Brent thought his playing days might be done.
"It's always a possibility when you make mistakes like I have that football can be taken away from you. I just kept my faith in God, and everything happens for a reason," Brent said. "It was just a stage of maturity that I had to go through. Some people learn quicker than others. I had to learn the hard way, but with my faith in God I never had any doubt in me being successful as a person. I knew that the possibility of football could be taken away. I knew in the end I would get the opportunity to prove who I really am, whether that was in football or in life in general."
Brent won't have much time to celebrate his NFL selection. He'll fly to Dallas on Sunday to meet with Cowboys representatives and return home Monday before reporting to training camp July 23 in San Antonio.
"It gets going pretty quick, so I'm getting real excited," Brent said.