A stolen credit card. Stolen shoes. A shooting.
A person in an absolute free fall.
What happened to Ira Denson?
Denson signed on at Florida State as one of its prized recruits. According to Rivals.com, he was the second highest rated offensive guard in his class. He was a consensus 4-star recruit.
And then, idle hands and the devil finally met and in the process, Mario Pender almost lost his life. We have seen some absurd "scandals" at FSU, some involving shoes, others involving checks and gambling, but never quite this; never quite one player almost causing another to be killed.
Earlier this week, we saw some of the footage of Denson using Pender's debit card at Champs Sports (hey, by the end of this off-season, we will all be experts in surveillance footage analysis).
What are the takeaways from this situation?
First, recruit character. Peter Schutz coined the famous phrase "hire character, train skill." This phrase isn't quite appropriate for football, but if you hire someone with the right attitude and character, you can work on improving their skill level. The issue is that, even in Jimbo Fisher's program, a program in which integrity and family are the primary pillars, someone like Denson can't be saved. And in the process, he almost caused a tragedy.
Second, Jimbo Fisher did a masterful job of managing this situation. Not only did he not allow this to become an issue in the locker room, but he didn't let it out of the locker room. This is the type of story that ESPN would have drooled over, endlessly grinding it until its viewers were convinced that FSU was a haven for convicts. But that never happened.
Instead, Fisher kept the issue brushed under the rug. When Jimbo Fisher was asked to comment about it long ago, you almost knew that Denson's future with FSU was already foreclosed:
"He hasn't been with us since December. Hasn't been with us. I'm hoping he does well in school for whatever his future holds, but he hasn't been with us and I hate it for him. Hope everything comes the right way. Hate to see anybody do that, but you can't make mistakes."
Not even a program like FSU could save the likes of Ira Denson. And that's actually quite sad. It makes you wonder how he could fall through the cracks. Is it because of his injury, which in all likelihood took him away from the team, away from the film room, away from the weight room? Maybe things would have turned out a little different if he didn't suffer the injury and was able to stay engaged within the program. We'll never know.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that he's not anywhere near being on the roster of a Division-I program and probably never will be. At this point, he's damaged goods. Not only did he suffer a significant injury, but he's not in playing shape. Good players can overcome bad deeds; Denson's not proving to be a good player worth overlooking his bad deeds.
And finally, Denson's downfall is rather unfortunate given that he could have been a star at FSU. He had the size and the makings of a mauler. It's not likely that he would have had much competition, either; in 2013, FSU only signed Wilson Bell and Ryan Hoefield. In 2012, FSU signed Daniel Glausner and Menelik Watson. Denson effectively leaves us with two offensive lineman from those classes. It doesn't get much worse than that.