DESOTO, Texas -- Dez Bryant sat on the floor of a tiny workout room in the palatial Dallas-area home where he hoped to celebrate a first-round spot in the NFL draft. The cell phone beside him was dark and silent.
When the phone finally lit up after an agonizing two-hour wait Thursday night, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was on the other end. Not only did the free fall through the first round end at the 24th pick for the Oklahoma State wide receiver, but Bryant was headed to the team he idolized growing up two hours east of Dallas.
Bryant didn't even care that he wasn't the first receiver taken. He expected his stock to fall amid questions about his character after he was suspended for all but three games in his final college season when he lied to the NCAA about his relationship with former NFL star and current NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders.
"I was praying that Dallas would trade up to get me," Bryant said. "I couldn't believe it really happened."
Bryant was considered one of the top receivers in the draft after piling up 2,425 yards and 29 touchdowns in 28 games at Oklahoma State.
It just took a while for Bryant to get his wish.
Bryant happily sat with a toddler in a crowded living room for the first few minutes of the draft, but he soon said he needed to go outside. He isolated himself further as the minutes and picks piled up, finally holing up in the workout room with his girlfriend, watching the draft on TV.
"I just felt like I just needed to be by myself for a little bit," Bryant said. "I was expecting anything because of the fact that the media hurt me. But I really didn't care because I know I'm not that guy they try to make me out to be."
After his NCAA suspension, Bryant was dogged by observers who questioned why he skipped the NFL Scouting Combine and held a private workout in the small East Texas town of Lufkin, more than 100 miles from a major airport.
Those issues seemed more pertinent than ever when Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was taken 22nd by the Denver Broncos. That slot was popular for Bryant in mock drafts when the Patriots had the pick, but the Broncos just dumped wide receiver Brandon Marshall in a trade.
Two picks later, everything changed.
"I couldn't believe that I was being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys," Bryant said. "It was just unreal. I've said that word a million times. But that's the feeling. It's just unreal."
Bryant burned some nervous energy before the draft with a game of one-on-one against the younger brother of Michael Crabtree, the former Texas Tech receiver taken 10th by the San Francisco 49ers last year. Bryant still appeared relaxed as the draft started, sitting by himself. He smiled while watching Oklahoma State highlights when former teammate Russell Okung was taken by the Seattle Seahawks with the sixth pick.
While the crowd grew, the smile didn't. But it returned in a hurry when Bryant put on a Cowboys hat, posed for countless pictures and did several live TV interviews.
Bryant's mother, Angela Bryant, tried to keep her son's spirits up during the draft while he paced the driveway in front of the home and leaned against cars with his head down. She had no idea how true her prediction of "it's coming" would be.
"To see him smile, to see him happy, to see that Dallas Cowboy cap on his head, words can't describe the way I'm feeling right now," she said.
Although it appeared otherwise, Bryant said the wait wasn't that difficult.
"My whole deal was just being in the NFL," Bryant said. "I never really thought about the rounds."
But he did think about the Cowboys.
"Me and my best friend used to talk about it all the time: 'You get drafted by the Cowboys. It's going to be great. I don't want you going anywhere else,'" Bryant said. "That's what he told me all the time. Now that it's actually happened, it's just unreal."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press