CHICAGO - He could not hide it, sweeten it, dart from it even if he tried, but the stunning thing was how boldy Randy Gregory took the opposite track. How convincing and real he was in his spill. This guy is going to become a dynamite Dallas Cowboy - or snatch their biggest star for pulling one heck of a makeover just to get through a mess.
Gregory is the Nebraska defensive end who was supposed to rocket in the NFL Draft. The question only a few weeks ago was not if he was a first-round pick, just how high.
But as the draft unfolded on Thursday night here, word spewed that Gregory blew off meetings with teams and was late to others and that he had "personal issues" that might include "mental health issues," this on top of his failed drug test at the Combine.
Out of the first round he fell. He kept falling, tumbling all the way to pick No. 60 in the second round. On the second day. The Cowboys provided the safety net on Friday night here. Gregory said they will offer more than that.
He said he smoked marijuana for anxiety issues. He said his personal situation is "unique." He said in a 40-minute sit-down with Dallas owner Jerry Jones two weeks ago that Jones told him if he became a Cowboy they would help him find solutions. He said Jones and all of the Cowboys coaches were "real stern with me." He said former NFL head coach Herman Edwards has become a mentor.
Randy Gregory said he was up all night on Thursday. He could not sleep.
He said he would be lying if he told us he was not bitter.
But then he let loose: "I've learned a lot. This hit me and my family hard. Initially, the wait was agonizing. But I deserved it. It's very humbling. I made a real dumb decision; I'm just ready to fix it. This is the team I need. I gave them my word I'm going to work hard on the field and not be a problem off the field. I can't wait to get on that field. I can't wait to get on to the real world."
It was eloquent. It was powerful. Behind every word was a crack of emotion and realness that captured what Gregory had experienced in his plummet.
There is, however, a huge difference between intentions and actions. Gregory had showed enough NFL teams that he was untouchable through 59 picks. If not for Dallas, his wait could have been much longer.
Other NFL teams believe that despite anything Gregory says or plans that he is a ticking time bomb of trouble and headaches. That his discipline is too small and his issues possibly too deep.
But the Dallas Cowboys are there with a lasso of help and Texas-size arms of mentoring and prodding that they think can help Gregory become a dominant player and a prize Cowboys fixture.
So, Randy Gregory has just become one of the most fascinating stories of this draft class. Watching and tracking his progress or his decline will be inevitable. Listening to him share it will be, too.
The wait by two Smiths was not as dramatic as Gregory's but was just as riveting for each player.
Penn State offensive tackle Donovan Smith and Ohio State receiver Devin Smith, like Gregory, arrived here at the draft on Thursday expecting to be first-round selections. Both were selected earlier than Gregory in the second round: Donovan Smith at No. 34 to Tampa Bay and Devin Smith at No. 37 to the Jets.
"My agent and my family had told me to bring two suits," Donovan Smith said. "I kept telling myself that I might go in the third or fourth round, the latest, to not expect so much. But nothing can compare you for waiting all night and then nothing happens. My family handled it better than me. I was pissed."
At least Smith was the second pick of the second round. At least he stuck around for it. Alabama safety Landon Collins was the first pick of the second round; the Giants jumped up in the draft to grab him. But Collins, who was in Chicago on Thursday night for draft festivities, was long gone before the second round.
"You come, you go on the red carpet, you expect a great experience and it's tough," Donovan Smith said. "But things work out. I'll be blocking for Jameis Winston now. We know he's a winner. I know I'm a player."
Devin Smith said he, too, had a hard time sleeping after the devastation of waiting all night to hear his name called with no luck. Smith said he finally fell asleep around 3 a.m. He is from Akron, Ohio, and now heads to New York, a city he has never visited.
He is fast. Very fast. A stretch-the-field receiver.
"When you don't get picked in the first round, it's a surprise," Devin smith said. "And then you have to think things over, re-work your mind. You have to get control of your emotions. I think you have to do that as a player, too. And I try to be balanced like that. Because sometimes things have a way of working out."