For the first time, in an hour-long interview with The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith opened up to share his cautionary tale about how money changes people and how greed can run rampant around NFL players who become instant millionaires. Smith’s story is a must-read for any college football player drafted last month. Here are some of the more stunning revelations from Smith’s interview with DMN Cowboys beat writer Brandon George.
MORE, MORE, MORE
Smith, the first offensive lineman selected in 2011 when the Cowboys drafted him ninth overall out of USC, signed a four-year, $12.5 million contract. He gave his family a substantial amount of money, agreeing to pay his parents in four installments. But Smith’s stepfather, Roy Pinkney, his mother, Frankie Pinkney, and some of his siblings kept coming back for more.
“There was a certain amount I agreed to give them, but it went way beyond that and I was just like, ‘I’m done,’” Smith said. “I feel like I shouldn’t have given them so much. There was nothing wrong with helping them out and making sure they were taken care of, but not something to where they live the same lifestyle as you.”
HARRASSMENT PROMPTS 911 CALL
On the final weekend of October last year, while Smith was at the Cowboys’ team hotel preparing for a Sunday afternoon home game against the Giants, two of Smith’s sisters showed up from California unannounced at his North Dallas home, leading his girlfriend Leigh Costa to dial 911. According to a Dallas police report, the sisters were there to “harass and torment” him “in the pursuit of collecting financial gain.”
And it wasn’t the first time some of Smith’s family had shown up in Dallas and left in fury.
PHYSICAL THREATS RESULT IN RESTRAINING ORDER
Last October, John Schorsch — Smith’s Dallas-based attorney at the time — said Smith’s “mom and/or the stepdad threatened the physical well-being of Tyron and the life of his girlfriend.” Smith filed a protective order against his parents last summer to keep them from having any contact with him. The order also prohibits contact from Smith’s parents through his siblings.
During training camp last year in Oxnard, Calif., one of Smith’s brothers whom he said he hadn’t talked to “in a long time” showed up and had to be removed from the facility.
MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
Six months ago, Schorsch said Smith’s family had not only continually demanded money from Smith but also took more than $1 million from him.
During a phone interview with The News last October, Frankie Pinkney strongly denied the family took any of Smith’s money without his authorization or harassed or threatened him in any way.
Smith said that when the money went missing, he was using a financial adviser his parents had recommended before the draft.
“There was money missing, but I just don’t know where it went,” Smith said. “There were times I would check my statements and it wouldn’t make sense and I hadn’t authorized it at all. I just felt betrayed and I was like, ‘Who can I trust?’”
VEXED BY A TEXT
Early last year, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told Smith he would be moving to left tackle. Smith sent a text message to his parents to share his good news.
The text Smith received back didn’t offer congratulations or say anything about how proud they were of him.
“They were already looking forward to the next contract, talking about things they wanted to get already,” Smith said. “I was like I haven’t even got there and there’s not even a sure thing that I will. And that was all that was coming out of their mouth.”
STILL OPEN TO RECONCILIATION
Many who meet Smith describe him as a “good guy.” He’s soft-spoken and considerate. Just a few weeks ago, Smith drove to West and helped serve food to many of the emergency workers who had responded to the fertilizer plant explosion. Smith also has a heart for animals. He has four dogs — three rescued from shelters — that he often plays with in his pool.
He said he’s open to reconciling with his family when the timing is right.
“If all the incidents stop,” Smith said, “and they just give me the space that I’ve asked for. The takeaway from this is don’t let people take advantage of you. And it’s all right to say no to certain people.”
EYE ON THE BALL
Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith hasn’t let his off-the-field obstacles distract him from working to improve this off-season.
Smith gets to the Cowboys’ practice facility in Valley Ranch at about 6:30 a.m. to work out before he attends “teaching sessions” with coaches.
Smith said there’s a comfort level now under second-year offensive line coach Bill Callahan, and the offensive linemen have used the position meetings to review and improve this off-season instead of adapting to a new style.
“We’re steps ahead of where we were last year,” Smith said. “We can make a huge step forward.”
Following in the footsteps of two former Cowboys Hall of Famers — linebacker Randy White and offensive lineman Larry Allen — Smith started individual karate lessons about two months ago and trains two to three times a week.
“They did karate to get their hands quicker and smoother,” Smith said. “It’s more about hand-eye coordination. Right now, I’m trying to get our offensive line into it.”
Like last year, Smith also attends yoga once a week in the off-season to help him with flexibility, balance and hip movement.
Smith said he didn’t get comfortable playing left tackle until about midway through last season. Nine of his 11 penalties came in the first eight games.
Smith said he plans to gain 10 pounds so he can play at 315.
“I just want to be a better run blocker and be stronger and more physical,” Smith said. “There were times last year where I felt like I was too fast and I was a little off-balanced. I just basically want to add a little weight and stay there, be fast and strong at the same time.”
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Tyron Smith showed improvement in his second season despite moving from right tackle to left tackle, a more demanding position:
2011: 9 1/2 sacks allowed; 7 penalties against (Four false starts, three holds)
2012: 3 sacks allowed; 11 penalties against (Seven false starts, three holds and one touchdown-saving horse collar penalty)
Source: STATS LLC