Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon caught 87 passes for a team-best and league-leading 1,646 yards, along with nine touchdowns in 14 games during the 2013 regular season, his second in the NFL.
However, Gordon's second season in the NFL got off to a late start, as he missed the first two games of the year while serving a league-mandated suspension for a failed drug test in the 2013 offseason.
As Gordon heads into his second offseason as a professional, Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, who struggled with off-the-field issues during his career with the Dallas Cowboys, believes the key for success is not to "be distracted by the naysayers."
"When you have a tough journey like Josh, and I believe all men have journeys, most people are not in this thinking and hoping for your success," Irvin said. "As sad as it is, it's a reality. This is why we slow down and look at crashes because we look at another person's misfortune and say, 'Hmm, I'm just glad it's not me.' It makes us somehow feel better about our own issues in life.
"All you can do is keep distancing yourself by keep doing well and keep doing right. That's it. That's all. Nothing else. Don't feel like you've got to get everybody on your side. It's never going to happen. That's why it's important to have certain people on your side, encouraging you to move forward, to keep going.
"I like to say it's best to have somebody that lived like I did. The person that reads it in a book, and I'm glad he took the information in, but if you've never experienced it, you don't know. You don't know the lows of it. You don't know the danger areas of it. You don't know what it's like to fight your way back from something and then, have a slip up and all of a sudden, everybody wants to turn."
In watching Gordon develop into an impact player for the Browns' offense, Irvin recognized a familiar scenario. When Irvin began with the Cowboys, who were a losing team when he was selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 1988 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami, he was paid a high compliment from former Dallas general manager Tex Schramm.
Irvin, in turn, paid the same compliment to Gordon.
"Right now, Josh knows that he's important to more people than just the family," Irvin said. "The city of Cleveland, they have a vested interest in (him) now. They know that kid can help us.
"I'll never forget the quote that was in the paper when I got drafted. All of the people were talking and laughing about it, and Tex Schramm said, 'Michael Irvin will accelerate our return to the living after a down year.' I will use that comment and say this, 'Josh Gordon, in the right way and given the right people, will accelerate the Cleveland Browns' return to the living among the better teams in this league.'"
By talking to him during training camp and watching him from his current position as an analyst for NFL Network, Irvin believes Gordon will continue to be an impact player for the Browns for years to come.
"I said, 'Josh, look up man! What do you see?' He says, 'The sky,'" Irvin recalled of the training-camp meeting with Gordon. "I said, 'Man, with what God has given you, you can touch it. You can grab it.' Josh is going to be good. We've just got to stay with him, give him the support he needs.
"Josh wants to be in Cleveland. He wants to play there. That's what he wants, and for Cleveland to have a star like that, that wants to be there, that says something. I like that. There's a loyalty there. He can be as good as he wants to be, as good as the people give him an opportunity to be."