Brandon Joiner’s job was to turn cans and jars so their labels faced forward.
It wasn’t exciting, not at all the dream occupation of someone like Joiner, who had already signed a contract to play in the NFL.
“It taught me to put pride in the things that I really didn’t care about doing,” Joiner said. “I wanted to play football, I wanted to go out on the football field, but I was at work turning cans and I had to take pride in it.
“It was God’s way of showing me, ‘Hey, I need to take pride in everything I do 100 percent,’ because I’m not always going to be doing things I want to do. But, regardless of what it is, I need to do it with all my heart and all my spirit because in the essence of it, I was doing it for Him.”
Joiner, who was released from prison on Jan. 15 after serving nearly eight months of a three-year prison term. has bided time since his release by working out, spending lost time with his mother, fishing and working part-time at IGA Foodliner. And, recently, waiting on paperwork that will allow him to transfer his parole and probation obligations from Texas to Ohio.
When he received the paperwork Thursday, Joiner immediately left for Cincinnati, driving the 16-hour trek in two days, to participate in the Bengals’ voluntary offseason workouts, which open Monday, April 15.
“The day I used to dream about is right here, now ... when it used to be light-years away, it felt like. And just all the training I’ve been going through and just working at IGA and all those things that are part of it, the preparation that I put into it, (spending time) with my mom. Now, it’s like it’s finally here and I just can’t wait,” Joiner said.
Back and forth
Joiner signed an undrafted rookie free agent deal with the Bengals last year, just before being sentenced to serve two, concurrent 3-year prison sentences for a robbery he committed as an 18-year-old freshman football player at Texas A&M.
Joiner, a former standout defensive lineman at Shoemaker, lost his scholarship to A&M, but went on to star at Navarro College and Arkansas State. He was the Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the year as a senior in 2011, ranking fourth nationally in sacks and leading the conference in sacks (12). He recorded at least a partial sack in 10 of 12 games as a senior when the Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference and reached the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
After signing with Cincinnati, Joiner participated in the Bengals’ rookie mini-camps for a short while before he was sentenced last May.
“It was strange because I’d be in the locker room and I’d be talking to all the other guys and the recruits and the coaches, but I didn’t really think they understood the pain I was going through because I was smiling and everybody was saying, ‘I can’t wait to go to practice, today,’ but in the back of my mind, I’m like, ‘Seven days from now, I’m possibly going to be in the penitentiary,’” Joiner said.
Sticking to it
The Bengals stuck by Joiner, even after he was sentenced to prison, by putting him on the reserve/did not report list for the 2012 season. And, more for the Bengals, Joiner is anxious to get into camp this year to prove their continued interest and committal was not done in vane.
“I feel like this is my right, this is my duty to give them (the Bengals) everything I have,” Joiner said. “I just pray it’s enough. I know it’s enough because God wouldn’t bring me this far for nothing. ... I’ve been working hard here. When I get up there, I’m going to work even harder, I’m going to study even harder, I’m going to do what they need me to do and more. Whatever they ask, I’m going to give them, and more.”
Part of his work here, at home in Killeen, is working part-time at IGA. It’s also including getting himself back into football shape.
As a senior at Arkansas State, a 255-pound Joiner benched 225 pounds 23 times. When he was released from prison in January, Joiner lifted the same amount 17 times. Now, Joiner is about 242 pounds and can lift 225 pounds 26 times.
“I have nothing standing in my way of accomplishing what God has laid out in front of me,” Joiner said. “I can actually play with that same edge I have of knowing what it feels like to have everything taken from me, I still have that same edge, ... but I have nothing but the sunrise ahead of me. I know that I don’t have to go back to that place and I can train and I can work and I can put all my extra time into it and I can do everything I need to do; and I don’t have to worry about that stress of what is going to happen to me.”