How Plaxico Burress Turned Into a Criminal

David GellerAnalyst IDecember 2, 2008

In one hand, Plaxico Burress held a $35-million deal and a loving family.

In the other, he held New York City.

And like the gun that accidentally discharged and took out a piece of his leg, he dropped them both.

Plaxico Burress was a made man in today’s world, but his compulsive need to ignore proper advice coupled with born ignorance washed all of that away. And now he’s in the midst of a fall that is comparable to the likes of O.J. Simpson and Michael Vick.

For these reasons, Plaxico Burress is labeled as stupid. Appropriately. People around the world would do anything for his God-given ability. Yet, Plaxico Burress has done everything to make all that talent irrelevant.

However, talking heads and armchair quarterbacks around the world base their opinions on Plaxico solely from what their eyes and ears show them. When people see fines, suspensions, and disrespect to the authorities, they immediately come to the conclusion that Burress is a waste of skin and has no right to play in the NFL.

This is where people just don’t get Plax. They see immaturity, stupidity, and cockiness but neglect his past and all the factors that made Plaxico turn into what he is at this moment: a criminal.

He grew up without a father in the streets of Virginia Beach. It's a place where no one gets out. Plax was your proverbial “bad boy,” skipping practice often (who knew?), disobeying Mama Burress by staying out past his curfew, and sold drugs in order to make some coin.

And there was no one to reprimand him, pull him aside and say “Plaxico, what your doing isn’t good. It could get you in big trouble one day.”

Like the night in which he accidentally shot himself, he walked around with a gun daily. In the world in which Plaxico Burress lived in, there was nothing wrong with that. It was the survival of the fittest, and without a gun, he wouldn’t be fit.

Burress appeared on the verge of making his way out of Virginia Beach solely based on athletic ability. However, his dismal grades prevented him from accepting a scholarship, and his only shot of eventually playing ball at college was becoming a student at Fork Union Military Academy. And he thought playing for Tom Coughlin was bad.

After contemplating dropping out numerous times, he eventually graduated and earned a scholarship to play football at Michigan State University. In his book Giant: The Road to the Super Bowl, he explained the culture shock he went through on campus.

He wasn’t used to living in the world outside the ghetto, and as a result isolated himself for his two-year stay on campus. He was never criticized for his eccentric fashions and received constant praise for his ability to make big plays on the field.

No one at Michigan State cared about character when he was torching the likes of Florida and Michigan regularly.

When he entered the NFL draft, the red flags began to waver for Burress. During the Scouting Combine, a time period in which prospects display their skills and show the coaches why they have the ability to dominate the league, Burress displayed some of the problems that would haunt him throughout his career.

The night before he was supposed to visit the Pittsburgh Steelers, Burress attended a hotel party in which he admitted that he partied too hard. As a result he missed his scheduled meeting with the Steelers coaching staff. Oops.

But instead of facing the consequences and watching his draft stock plummet, the Steelers actually drafted him eighth overall. Once again, Plax’s talent outweighed the clear issues he had mentally in the business world.

Burress regularly displayed those bewildering moments with the inability to get along with teammates and issues with the law. A couple of months ago, it was reported that Burress failed to pay for damages that he put on a rented car during the summer.

Then, after he gets caught, he tells the car rental service that his insurance was Allstate when that wasn’t the case. The consequences? Nothing.

During an interview with Pam Oliver in October, Burress was asked if he thinks that he is his own worst enemy:

“Yes. And no.” He goes on to explain that the mistakes are mostly his doing but “That’s what makes Plaxico Burress Plaxico Burress.”

This statement raises major questions about his mental state. If he recognizes that his personality is hurting him, why is he not trying to change in order to save himself? Instead, he sheds light on it and essentially says his problems make him one of the best receivers in the league.

The only punishments Burress has received from his teams are four- or five-digit fines, which at worst is a slight slap on the wrist for Plax. Money has been the only non-issue for Plax throughout his career; snatching a small fee from him isn’t going to teach him anything.

Now we take you up to the scene on the fateful night of November 28. Reportedly, fellow Giants receiver Steve Smith had been robbed at gunpoint a week before.

Can you blame Burress for being even more paranoid after that? He grew up with encouragement to walk around with a gun, and now he sees fellow players being murdered and teammates being robbed.

How could Plax know any better but to pull out a pistol from his drawer? He isn’t the most intellectual guy, and has never had a fatherly figure to direct him how to handle himself.

Plaxico Burress is a dumb man. A dumb, talented man.

Its just time to stop generalizing about the guy when no one truly knows his background. It’s easy for pundits to criticize his actions and call him a loser or a punk or a thug but in reality, they haven’t walked one minute in this guy’s shoes.

He hasn’t benefited from a relatively normal upbringing and hasn’t experienced one major consequence to make him leery of the things he continues to do. Hopefully this is the one that makes him understand, for his sake.


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