Maturity is not something that you can simply teach somebody. Maturity is a state of being that one acquires over a period of time in response to a variety of experiences, and often stems from dealing with the repercussions of one’s own behavior and choices.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has been forced to undergo quite a bit of growing up over the course of the past year after he was arrested last August for possession of marijuana and DUI.
A 22-year-old young man at the time, with only a year in the NFL, Bell and former teammate LeGarrette Blount—27 at the time, and already with a history of off-field issues—mutually reached the poor decision to operate a vehicle, with Bell behind the wheel, while under the influence.
As we have seen in recent months, Bell has since that time taken full responsibility for his actions and acknowledged having taken steps toward personal growth, consciously making the decision, for example, to abstain from marijuana during his playing career, leaving that as a decision to revisit later in life.
The young running back has, through trial and error, come out the other side better for his mistakes, having made the choice to use his circumstances as an opportunity for growth, rather than tossing it to the side as something of trivial concern.
This is a decision that he had to come to on his own. Nobody else could have made the decision for him. Sure, he no doubt has received ample guidance. The majority of us have had the privilege of having parents as role models to help guide us into maturity. But it ultimately comes down to personal responsibility, and that is a process.
It’s a process that for many is still ongoing as they graduate from the collegiate ranks and are drafted into the NFL. Bell was just such a player, as we later learned. So was his teammate, center Maurkice Pouncey, who was the Steelers’ first-round draft pick at just 20 years old back in 2010.
Five years later, Pouncey has established himself both on and off the football field, a four-time All-Pro and a leader in the locker room who uses the Team Pouncey Foundation to give back to the community in which he was raised, and which sparked the football career that put him in the position to be able to give back in the first place.
Still a young man himself—he will turn 26 in just over a month—Pouncey has had a couple of obstacles along the way off the field. Some of them date back to his college days, while others have been more recent.
He still leaves a sour taste in the mouths of some, for example, following an incident in which he and his brother were photographed wearing hats emblazoned with the slogan “Free Hernandez”, referencing former college teammate Aaron Hernandez, who was arrested and later found guilty of murder.
But he has grown from the decisions that he has made in the past. His year out of football in 2013 due to an ACL injury also no doubt provided greater perspective. And so perhaps there is no better person on the team to comment on Bell and his progress toward personal growth.
“As the years come on, everybody is going to learn and grow”, he told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. “You come into this league as a kid, you’re going to understand that. They expect as soon as you get drafted that you have to act like you’re 40-year-old person and that doesn’t happen”.
A vaunted underclassman who found instant success in the league, yet who was still maturing off the field—that is a familiar narrative that both Pouncey and Bell have shared in the early stages of their careers. While nothing can excuse the poor decisions that they may have made in the past, the only way forward is to watch how they grow from their experiences.