Josh Brent’s arrest and brief incarceration on charges of driving under the influence and intoxication manslaughter has not inspired any sympathy among football fans or members of the sports media.
Brent’s involvement in the Dallas Cowboys tragedy, which saw friend and teammate Jerry Brown Jr. die in a one-car accident Saturday because Brent was allegedly driving under the influence, could have easily been avoided.
The NFL announced the game between the Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals would go on as scheduled Sunday, but that, along with all the finger-pointing, did not seem to lessen the shocking news for the team's members.
Brent's and Brown’s friendship began when the two played football together at the University of Illinois. Brown broke into the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent, before landing on the Cowboys’ practice squad this season. Brent was in the midst of his first season as a starter, filling in for injured nose tackle Jay Ratliff and attracting praise from head coach Jason Garrett after helping seal a victory in September: “He’s gotten an opportunity to play, and he’s shown up.
The coach reiterated his encouragement in the days before the fatal accident, according to the Dallas Morning News.
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“He’s really matured as a player,” Garrett said. “He’s been a spot player for us in the past, a handful of snaps here and there in each of the ballgames, but because Ratliff has been out for a large part of the season, he’s played a lot more. He’s matured a lot.”
Brent almost didn't had the chance to improve, though, after pleading guilty to a charge of driving under the influence jeopardized his football career while he was attending the University of Illinois in 2009, according to Deadspin. He was sentenced to 60 days behind bars and two years of probation, ESPN.com reported. After Brent paid his debt to society in that case, he gave an interview and mentioned how much he learned from the tough experience.
“You get a new outlook on life and some of the mistakes I've made,” Brent told the Philadelphia Daily News. “You realize a lot of things [while in jail]; how naive and dumb you can be sometimes.”
That’s all over now, and the kind words have been replaced with messages of grief from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and later from Brent himself.
“I am devastated and filled with grief, filled with grief for the loss of my close friend and teammate, Jerry Brown,” Brent said in a statement through his agent that was published by multiple media outlets. “I am also grief-stricken for his family, friends and all who were blessed enough to have known him. I will live with this horrific and tragic loss every day for the rest of my life. My prayers are with his family, our teammates and his friends at this time.”
The Dallas Morning News reported the two players had been partying into Saturday’s early-morning hours before Brent's 2007 Mercedes clipped a curb and flipped over, traveling 900 feet down the road.
Garrett informed the rest of the Cowboys of the news as they sat in the team jet before taking the charter flight to Cincinnati. The trip was a somber affair, and the normally jovial voices were silent as the team checked into a hotel.
“It is a shock and it is a tragedy that two lives have been interrupted the way that they have,” Illinois defensive line coach Keith Gilmore told the Dallas Morning News. “You just wish more for both of those young men.”