There was no wow moment for Brandon Joiner.
It was a collection of events in his life that led him to this point — all set in motion by one monumental mistake that sent everything spiraling out of control.
Joiner and a Texas A&M teammate broke into a College Station apartment, bound the wrists of two men and stole cash, drugs, keys and cellphones.
After he was initially arrested in 2007 while a freshman at A&M, he sat in his cold, dank, concrete prison contemplating life. What he had done with it. How he let everything get away.
An interesting plea deal gave him new life. He stopped working at a call center in Killeen awaiting his fate. He was going to get an education. He went to Navarro College.
A year later, he was sacking Sun Belt Conference quarterbacks at a prolific rate.
He found out his mom had cancer. Then discovered she was miraculously cured.
He was signed as an NFL free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals, only to see it stripped away a month later; sent back to prison — longer than anyone expected because of a technicality with his probation.
He had not graduated soon enough. That one mistake kept multiplying.
At each turn, he contemplated. Where he had been, what he had done, how God had played a role in it all.
How he had lost faith in football, the life he thought he would have and in himself. He devoured his two peanut butter sandwiches. He stayed to himself, trying to make sure he stayed away from trouble.
Joiner had gotten in with the wrong crowd before. In prison, he knew everyone is the wrong crowd.
He tried to stay in shape. And then he contemplated some more.
How one mistake could ruin his life. How one mistake is all it took to topple almost everything he believed.
But not his faith in God. It kept him going. Joiner still believed God had a plan for him.
He just was not sure what it was anymore.
Joiner missed the NFL training camp, then the season. He missed Thanksgiving and then Christmas.
Joiner was eligible for early parole, but was left to sit longer, contemplating his life.
Finally, he got his release. A start at a new life.
A chance to put the past behind him. The Bengals stayed with him the entire time. Unlike Joiner himself, they believed in him and, of course, his talent.
On April 15, he will attend Cincinnati’s offseason training sessions. He will have achieved the dream he thought he had lost.
And he will have learned that one mistake never makes a man.
Nor does one moment. It takes a lifetime and sometimes even a bit more.
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569