Faith and devotion drive people to fascinating extremes. Some spend decades building majestic, soaring cathedrals to honor their deities. Some carve unyielding rock into icons of worship that stand for centuries. And some wrap their trucks in life-size decals to honor, and protest, the greatest injustice in recent NFL history.
Ridiculous? Maybe. But friends, you have never loved anything the way that Tyler Segraves loves the art and artistry of Dez Bryant.
You might have seen Tyler’s truck, a 5-year-old Dodge Ram 1500, burble across your Twitter or Facebook feeds lately. That’s because Tyler, a 35-year-old sales broker from Yukon, Oklahoma, has created the world’s first and finest monument to Bryant’s iconic, catastrophic catch-that-wasn’t-a-catch from the 2015 NFC playoffs. A traffic-stopping combination of tailgate wrap and license plate (88COTIT), the truck’s a symbol of one man’s devotion to a player … and to the truth.
Read on, and see if Tyler’s dedication to Dez doesn’t sound a little familiar to you.
Origin of an obsession
Segraves, like most of the rest of Oklahoma, fell hard for Bryant while he was catching passes at Oklahoma State. “Watching him play there, the passion, the intensity, the love of the game caught my eye from the beginning,” Segraves recalls. “Then to watch him go into the NFL … I love his passion.”
Segraves had been a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, but switched his allegiance to the Dallas Cowboys to follow Bryant. (He’s not quite sure what he’s going to do next, particularly if Dez ends up playing against the Cowboys.) Since Bryant first suited up for the ‘Boys, Segraves has amassed quite the memorabilia arsenal: two jerseys, five jersey shirts, a Bryant Jumpman hat, a Throw-up-the-X T-shirt, a framed collection of stats from Oklahoma State and much more.
But it wasn’t until Bryant ended up in the middle of one of the most significant plays in recent NFL history that Segraves’ fandom transformed into worship.
The Catch that wasn’t a catch
By the time a certain infamous playoff game came around, Segraves was all in on Dez and Dallas. Back in 2014, the Cowboys were rolling behind Bryant, Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and Jason Witten, posting a 12-4 record to win the NFC East. Along the way, Segraves had established a superstitious routine for games – he wore the same Dez shirsey, watched every game at his mother’s house, and kept up a running stream of commentary on Twitter under the handle @osufreak82.
And then came Jan. 11, 2015: the game, and the play, that would define the next few years of Segraves’ life. That moment – which Segraves calls “The Incident” – came with Dallas down five points with less than five minutes remaining in the game. Follow his thought process here, and see if it feels familiar. Every sports fan has this one sequence, this one what-if, that they’ll remember long after they’ve forgotten the names of old friends. Let’s relive Segraves’ nightmare together:
“We haven’t utilized Dez throughout the game,” Segraves says – yes, he refers to Dallas as “we,” roll with it. “He’s only got three catches. But I know that [big] play’s coming and he’s probably getting his number called.”
The Cowboys were down to their final down on the Green Bay 32. You know what happened next: Romo arced a long pass toward Bryant along the left sideline, in the shadow of the end zone …
“I’m nervous, but it’s a 50-50 ball, so I know he’s got a good chance,” Segraves says. “I see him come down [with the ball in his hands] and make a football move, taking two steps and reaching for the pylon … ”
Bryant and Packers defender Sam Shields fought over the ball, Bryant reeled it in, hit the ground, bobbled the ball, rolled into the end zone, and held onto the ball. Best case, touchdown Dallas. Almost-best case: Dallas ball on the Green Bay 1, time to run out the clock and tighten the screws on Aaron Rodgers before scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
And then the challenge came.
“I saw they were going to review it. I had a feeling in my stomach: ‘They’re going to overturn this.’ I got on Twitter and said, ‘They’re going to screw us over.’ ”
As Segraves fretted, referee Gene Steratore took the mic and delivered a verdict that is every bit as incomprehensible and infuriating now as it was three years ago:
“Although the receiver is possessing the football, he must maintain possession of that football throughout the entire process of the catch. In our judgement, he maintained possession, but continued to fall and never had another act common to the game. We deemed that by our judgement to be the full process of the catch, and at the time he lands and the ball hits the ground, it comes loose as it hits the ground, which would make that incomplete; although he repossesses it, it does contact the ground when he reaches, so the repossession is irrelevant because it was ruled an incomplete pass when we had the ball hit the ground.”
“I threw my hands over my head, said a few curse words, and then went to Twitter and started ranting and raving.” He hasn’t stopped yet. To this day, he throws #DezCaughtIt into random conversations, and he’ll happily explain why the entire ruling was a farce.
But somewhere along the way, he decided he needed to honor #DezCaughtIt with something a little more … permanent.
“I wanted to do something over the top, because I’m a pretty over-the-top and boisterous fan,” he said. “I thought about a tattoo. But that’s kind of played out.”
Segraves settled on festooning his truck, going through the six-month waiting period to get a personalized tag and dropping $175 to get a wrap done up for his tailgate. (The license plate took so long to arrive that Segraves got hit with an expired-tag penalty, which, unlike Dez’s catch, was not overturned.)
“I told the officer that I didn’t want to put the tag on because the wrap wasn’t ready,” Segraves says. “He didn’t care.”
Since then, Segraves has drawn attention everywhere he goes. He had one fan ride his bumper to get a photo on Interstate 40, and others have honked their horn, cheered and thrown up the X to Segraves as they go by.
“I’ve had some pretty good reactions,” Segraves laughs. “Random people are always coming up to take pictures.”
To date, there’s only one piece missing from Segraves’ Dez Dedication: a connection with the man himself. Segraves has seen only one Cowboys game in person – the Lions playoff game right before the crucial Packers one back in 2015, oddly enough – and he and Dez don’t really cross paths much in Oklahoma.
Plus, Dez has been on something of a social media blackout until recently as he sorts out his free agent options, such as they are. Dozens of people have tweeted Tyler’s truck into Dez’s mentions – the Cowboys themselves even highlighted the photo, which is a bit of ironic cold comfort – but so far, radio silence from No. 88. Even so, Segraves keeps up hope, and he knows exactly what he’d say to Bryant if he had the opportunity:
“He gets such a bad rap for his emotions. I just want to tell him to keep playing with emotion the way he does,” Segraves says. “He’s emotional, but it’s not bad all the time. I’d tell him to keep his head up, keep playing with the passion, and keep balling out.”
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