David Terrell has a cautionary tale he’d like to share.

Michael Crabtree, first-round draft picks and top college prospects should listen to his message. But Terrell is most concerned that it rings home with his 11-year-old son David Terrell Jr., the boy he has sole custody of in Southern California. He wants his son to learn about the paths to avoid when blessed with a tremendous opportunity. He wants him to learn to listen to those around him. He wants him to maximize his gifts, whatever they may be. Most of all, he wants him to never give up, and that may be the one mistake David Terrell has not made himself.

The former first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, selected eighth overall in 2001, is fighting for a shot to get back in the league. Just one chance. Terrell almost landed that opportunity last month when Todd Haley, his wide receivers coach for the first three years of his career, brought him to Kansas City for a second workout with the Chiefs. Had the Minnesota Vikings not cut Bobby Wade, Terrell probably would have been signed. The Chiefs had a greater need for a slot receiver, Wade’s strength, and they passed on Terrell. A source said he looked good, and obviously there was legitimate interest as the team brought him in twice in about a month’s span.

“I ran good routes, I was fast and I was quick,’’ Terrell said from Pelican Hill Golf Course in Newport Coast, Calif., while he followed his son around. “I did what I needed to do. They needed something different than what I was. I’ve talked to a few other teams.’’

As a free agent sitting on the street, however, Terrell knows what that talk is -- cheap. It doesn’t mean he’s got a job. It doesn’t mean his boy, whom he took in during his final season with the Bears in 2004, will get to see Dad put on shoulder pads on Sundays. But he’s hopeful. At 30, Terrell hasn’t played in a game since he was with the Bears. He spent two seasons with the Denver Broncos, eventually found out he had a torn patella tendon in his right knee and underwent microfracture surgery.

Who ran routes and hills with New England quarterback Tom Brady during the spring when Brady worked his way back from knee reconstruction? Terrell, his teammate at Michigan. Regulars also included Matt Cassel, who must have vouched for Terrell to the Chiefs, Reggie Bush, Justin Fargas, Matt Hasselbeck and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

“When I got with Tom and really honed in, we started going hard every day and it hit me,’’ Terrell said. “My son is with me, and everybody is looking me and those guys are like, `Damn, DT! You need to be playing. Where the hell are you at?’’’

Where he’s at is playing 24/7 dad while hoping he can redeem himself. Terrell’s best season came in ’04 when he caught 42 passes and averaged 16.1 yards per reception playing with quarterbacks Chad Hutchinson, Jonathan Quinn and Craig Krenzel. As a wide receiver, he managed to lead the team in penalties, proof his focus wasn’t what it needed to be. He was well liked in the locker room, but too often was a nuisance for a front office that had not drafted him. The Bears pulled the plug on him after 53 games, 128 catches and nine touchdowns.

“I just wish the attitude I have now is the one I would have come into Chicago with,” he said. “I was always a guy that really understood the game, I was always wanted to win and was always about my teammates. But I had the whole mentality that the Bears were against me. The Bears were against David Terrell from succeeding, instead of me realizing what Jerry (Angelo) and coach (Lovie) Smith and even before him with what coach (Dick) Jauron was trying to explain to me that you can get consumed in yourself and consumed in that whole lifestyle and Chicago is an awesome ass city and the city takes care of the players. And I’m thinking I was doing everything right when in reality I was doing everything wrong.

“I really understand what guys like Brian Urlacher and Ted Washington and Jerry were saying, focus on your craft and make your craft everything to you. It’s one of those things now where I realize what the truth is. I wasn’t taking care of football. They did what they had to do, which brought me to this point, and it was cool. When I got full custody of my son, it slowed me down. I have to do something to show him the way. I can’t be a (jerk). I can’t be just a party animal because I’ve got a son now. He’s important to me. I am totally different person than I was. I don’t live the same.’’

Terrell understands football might not ever call him again. But he’s learned from his experiences, and ultimately his failures as a player have made him a better person. If that’s what it took, he’ll live with it.

“It kind of breaks my heart because I know the type of man I could have been when I was there,’’ Terrell said. “I know I could have really helped the community a little bit more. I could have been a part of something special in that city. God willing, I get a shot and I can get out there and show my worth. I definitely can do it. I’ve been working hard.

“I’ve been with the right people. I’m listening now. Like I said, it’s just been an eye-opener for me. People care. I never gave up on myself. I really can’t because every time I wake up, I see my son, and I’ve got to wake him up and say, `Let’s get up, let’s go to school.’’’

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