As stand up guys go, it’s hard to beat Davone Bess.
A week ago the Cleveland Browns veteran receiver had what he now admits was “probably on all levels of my career — high school, college and the NFL — my worst game ever.”
He dropped three passes against the Kansas City, including a fourth-down catch late in the fourth quarter as the Browns were trying to rally. He also fumbled the ball away on a fourth-quarter punt return.
Pretty much single-handedly, he managed to seal the Browns’ 23-17 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
In the tough days that followed back in Cleveland, Bess didn’t turn into a no comment Sphinx or try to hide out in the training room to avoid the media and the questions that followed.
He faced the music with his teammates, as well.
“He came in Monday and said, ‘Jay, I’m gonna be there for you this weekend,’ ” said quarterback Jason Campbell. “I told him. ‘I believe you. You haven’t played this long in the league to go into the tank now.’ ”
So why was Bess so sure of himself?
“I mean that’s life man — it’s a journey,” he explained Sunday, after catching two touchdown passes in Cleveland’s 24-18 win over the Ravens. “Me personally, I had a journey a long time ago. I been through a lot worse than a bad game.”
His mom was 15 when he was born. His grandma was pregnant at the very same time. As for his dad, he was nowhere to be found. As he has said before, his only male role model was his dad’s brother who was a drug dealer and spent life in and out of prison.
At age 10, he saw his uncle murdered while they were at a birthday party.
When he graduated from Skyline High, he said he became the first person — ever — from his dad’s family to complete high school. But he quickly lost his football scholarship to Oregon State when he allowed friends to put stolen property into a car he was driving and they were pulled over by police. That got him sentenced to 21 months in a California juvenile detention center.
That’s where he was spotted playing 7-on-7 football, got a scholarship to Hawaii and then in 2008 was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Miami Dolphins, where he played five seasons before getting traded to the Browns early this year.
He came in with the Mr. Reliable reputation, but early on this year hadn’t lived up to the billing.
Coming into Sunday’s game against Baltimore — a team to whom the Browns had lost 11 straight — Bess led the NFL in dropped passes with eight.
“Life’s about bouncing back,” he said with a shrug. “I just had to own up to some things — to hold myself accountable — and then just stay the course and start making the plays.”
And that’s just what he did Sunday.
In the first quarter, he made a leaping 1-yard touchdown catch while being hit by Ravens cornerbacks Corey Graham and Lardarius Webb.
In the second quarter, he gathered in another Campbell pass and this time juked the waiting Webb, who ended up sprawled on the ground as the Browns receiver scooted by for what would be a 20-yard TD reception.
Then late in the fourth quarter came the play that showed exactly what Bess was made of.
The Browns — trying to protect a three point lead — were facing a fourth-and-1 situation at the Baltimore 43-yard line with just over three minutes left.
Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski — as is becoming his gusty trademark — decided to go for the first down.
As the play unfolded — and Campbell was scrambling frantically away from a Ravens defender — Bess found himself in a déjà vu moment.
“I looked back and I saw Jason scrambling,” he said. “He gave me eye contact and I came over and it definitely went through my head. This was exactly like last week. But I didn’t want to make the same mistake again. I wasn’t going to drop the ball. I just looked it in, got my hands under it and made the catch.”
Campbell called it “the biggest play of the game.”
The Browns were able to run off most of the clock and kick a field goal with 14 seconds left to wrap up the victory.
Afterward, one player after another — as well as team owner Jimmy Haslam — came over to Bess’s locker to congratulate him.
Privately, he shrugged off the praise: “I just needed to look into the mirror and live up to what I saw.”
When he does that this week — he’s going to like the reflection.