Today, at this time of year, no matter what you might be going through, we all take the time to pause and reflect upon the things in our lives for which we are thankful. We all face hardships of some kind—absent loved ones are an especially difficult burden to bear around the holidays.
These days, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant is very thankful for the fact that his mother, Roberta, is an everyday presence in his life. Crushed upon hearing the news about his suspension in August for failed drug tests, Roberta has moved in across the road from her 23-year-old son, and is committed to being there for him until she is sure he is back on the right track.
Bryant’s mother tells that her son has for much of his life spent his time “being around the wrong crowds”, allowing those negative influences to chip away at his ability to reach his full potential in life, both on and off the football field.
These negative influences already led him to be suspended for a bowl game in college after falling behind academically. That suspension put his mother in tears, and Bryant at the time told the local Clemson paper that he “can’t accept going through that again”.
It was for perhaps that reason more than any other that the second-year wide receiver found himself a humbled man in the wake of his four-game suspension to start the 2015 NFL season. He had let his mother down again. But she would not let him down.
Roberta is a regular presence in her son’s life, coming over almost every night to cook for him and to talk to him, to keep him grounded as he journeys through a pivotal moment in his young adult life, helping to steer him clear of the hazards he faces.
She knows that her son is much more than just a drug user, and does not want him to let that define him by throwing away his professional career. “He worked hard to get where he’s at”, she said. “It’s not worth giving up for drugs”.
And neither are his two children—Brooke, 5, and London, 3, both living in South Carolina—for whom he is determined to be a better father than his own was for him. “He wants to be a better man than his father was”, Roberta said. “His father was never there. He wants to be that guy”.
It is clear that Bryant’s path to the NFL, and to a successful and happy life, was not an easy one. It’s an all too familiar story of talented young men plagued with hardships, obstacles, and temptations, often with little to no guide to navigate that path of young adulthood.
His father may not have been there for him, but he is fortunate to have Roberta in his life today. She is determined to ensure that her only child keeps on going down the right path, in the best way that she knows how—simply being there.