Wendell Bryant was a star defensive lineman for the Wisconsin Badgers, selected 12th overall in the 2002 NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He received a $5.5 million signing bonus. In 2005 Bryant was banned of the NFL after breaking the league’s substance-abuse policy for the third time.
Getting booted from the NFL served as a wake-up call, but not a big enough one to stop Bryant from using. By that point, Ecstasy had joined beer and marijuana on the list of Bryant’s vices. A typical day for Bryant was getting stoned during the day and drinking heavily at night. He was a fixture on his couch at home in Phoenix, much to the chagrin of the woman who is now his fiancée and the mother of his child.
“The one thing I always wanted was that cohesive family unit: mother, father, kid, and the house and the car and the dog and all of that,” he said. “I looked and I realized that I still had a chance at that. With everything else that I had screwed up — my career and blowing so much money — I realized that I still have a chance for this.” It took about four more months, but Bryant finally checked himself into Chandler Valley Hope, a treatment center in the Phoenix area.
Bryant realizes the temptation to return to his vices may never go away. So far, he’s resisted those urges. His mother is confident Bryant will continue to do so.
“He’s my hero,” Wells said. “For him to go through the deepest, darkest tunnel — and it’s ugly down there — and to come out of it and be the person that he is now, I’m so proud of him.”