He was lounging in a hotel bed in Cincinnati when his phone rang. The Dallas Cowboys always knew they could reach him. Even at 7 a.m. on a Saturday.
This was December 2012, and a team executive was calling. He spoke fast. Two players were missing. No one had heard from them since the previous night, and neither was answering his phone.
The man in Cincinnati listened. He took notes.
This David Wells isn’t famous, but he might be the most influential behind-the-scenes figure for the NFL’s most valuable franchise. Part crisis manager, part fixer, part therapist, he’s tasked with helping public figures, not becoming one. All teams have in-house security experts and problem-solvers, employees who untangle legal problems. But this extra layer of protection may be unique to the Cowboys. Wells brings a special set of skills, so when something or someone jeopardizes the image of pro football’s signature franchise, the Cowboys know whom to deploy.
Hours before this call, there had been a drunken-driving accident. Linebacker Jerry Brown was dead, and nose tackle Josh Brent was in jail. The team’s chartered plane would be leaving soon, a game scheduled for the next day.
Stick to the schedule, Wells told the executive. He would handle it.
He’s almost always on the move, and on this Tuesday morning in July, he’s walking on the fifth floor of the Frank Crowley Courts Building in downtown Dallas.
An ex-judge calls toward Wells, and attorneys stop him to catch up or bust his chops. One gets his picture taken with Wells, a 54-year-old ex-cop and ex-con and ex-bail bondsman wearing shorts inside the courthouse.
He takes the elevator down to the fourth floor, reconnecting with a judge he hasn’t seen in months; he waves to another old friend on the escalator back up. He zigzags through hallways, into offices and open courtrooms, never knocking or asking permission. A defense attorney beams when Wells walks in; a clerk in a cramped office tells him she’s finally transferring; a security man tells him about his son.
“It ain’t about what you know,” says Wells, and most of the people here don’t just know him. They’re familiar with his intimate knowledge of the law, how he’s learned to maneuver through its systems, and how no matter his skill at fixing others’ problems, Wells has never been much good at managing his own. He almost went to prison a few years ago, his marriage fell apart and he lost his business. Now on this summer morning, there’s this: Dez Bryant, the Cowboys wide receiver, is accusing Wells and an associate of swindling him out of $200,000.
Wells is as crafty as he is charming, in the business of collecting friends and leveraging secrets. If anyone in this building is turned off by the man or his methods, they don’t show it.
A few people call him the mayor of Crowley courthouse, and he likes that okay. There’s a nickname he prefers, and when he swings open the door of Judge Dan Patterson’s courtroom, the bailiff shouts it from across the room.
“It’s . . . the . . . Wooooooolf!” she says, and Wells smiles.
He is, like the “Pulp Fiction” character Winston Wolf, a fixer who exists on the margins and functions without ceremony. He considers the angles, contemplates the ifs, solves the most complicated problems. No wonder the Cowboys, known for acquiring players on their second or third chances, have come to trust Wells implicitly with their most valuable and unpredictable assets. Whatever route a player is trying to find through the system — from simple help with a driver’s license to thorny entanglements involving criminal charges — there’s always one more option to help find a way: Call in the Wolf.
“I haven’t had a question that Dave couldn’t answer, I can tell you that,” said Adam “Pacman” Jones, the Bengals cornerback.
“Whenever something is messed up and you need to go outside the lines a little bit,” former Kaufman County, Tex., district attorney Rick Harrison said, “he’s your guy.”
“A tremendous asset to the franchise,” Jerry Jones said. “. . . I won’t get into detail of the kinds of things [Wells does], because he does everything.”
A few months ago Wells vetted the free-agent quarterback Johnny Manziel as the Cowboys considered signing him, and Wells’s latest task is transferring a rookie’s driver’s license to Texas without the player visiting the DMV. Pacman Jones and Bryant once moved in with Wells. So did former defensive back C.J. Spillman as he awaited trial earlier this year on sexual assault charges.
Because he’s at the courthouse anyway, Wells decides to dip into the Adult Probation office and check on the status of Josh Brent, who four years ago drove drunk and crashed his Mercedes in an accident that killed Brown, spurring the early-morning phone call in Cincinnati.
“I have to say, he’s a different person,” he tells the woman at the desk. “He’s adjusted to everything.”
Is he attending support groups? “Yes, ma’am.” Does he acknowledge the consequences of what he’s done? “He don’t hide it. The anniversary kind of gets to him.” Is he continuing to learn from his mistakes? “He’s in a really good place,” Wells says.
He turns back toward the hallway.
“I’ve seen it go a lot of different ways,” he says, and Spillman comes to mind. In July the former player was sentenced to five years in prison, and Wells sees one discernible reason for that: He didn’t follow instructions.
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SOURCE: Kent Babb
The Washington Post