IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys wrapped up their “Top 30” visits on Wednesday, but as they’ve always said, it’s a far from a list of the 30 best prospects on their board.
The club met with about 10 players on Wednesday, including one who is just hoping to hear his name called early on Saturday afternoon, the third and final day of the spectacle known as the NFL Draft.
Texas Tech defensive tackle Kerry Hyder might play the same position as Aaron Donald, the Pitt standout who is projected to go in the first half of the first round, but is not exactly in the same group in terms of evaluation. But just like Donald, who came in on Monday, Hyder got his chance to meet with the Cowboys’ coaching staff and scouting department.
And unlike some of the other players that came to Valley Ranch this week, Hyder doesn’t have other teams lined up. In fact, for now this is his only personal visit with an NFL club, although he said several others have contacted his agent and have expressed interest.
Still, you couldn’t thwart Hyder’s excitement if you tried.
“Being my first visit, I didn’t know what to expect,” Hyder said Wednesday. “I’m excited. Being from Texas, in Austin, I grew up watching the Cowboys. It’s crazy to actually come to Valley Ranch and take it all in.”
And Hyder certainly would love to call Valley Ranch a permanent home. And the same goes for AT&T Stadium in Arlington, where he played three games for Texas Tech against Baylor.
“It’s an honor to play in what I feel is the best stadium in the NFL,” Hyder said. “It got easier and easier each year as you got used to it. But the first time, we definitely were a little wide-eyed. You catch yourself not watching the game and watching it on TV instead of in person.”
Then again, he’s referring mostly to when the Red Raiders had the ball. Because on defense, regardless of the different schemes Texas Tech used, Hyder found himself on the field. A second-team All-Big 12 performer in 2013, Hyder had 11 tackles for loss and two sacks. He also started 41 games, including 38 straight to end his career.
Obviously, visits like the one he had Wednesday, along with the teams he met with at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, are when NFL personnel can see how he fits with their team and defense. Hyder said he’s fortunate to have played at Tech, where the scheme often fluctuated between 4-3 and 3-4 packages. That’s why Hyder doesn’t even refer to himself as a defensive tackle or defensive end.
“I always consider myself a defensive lineman. We played a lot of schemes at Tech, and I was able to play in every defense and be productive,” Hyder said. “So I feel like I can play any scheme no matter what it is. I consider myself a defensive lineman. Not a 3-technique, not a 4-technique, I play D-Line. Put me somewhere and I can play it.”
To Hyder, he said attitude is more important than scheme, in terms of being a successful lineman.
“You have to have a lot of pride and fight and come with it every play,” Hyder said. “It’s rough inside. It’s not for the weak-hearted. You can’t go in there tiptoeing around. You have to come with it every play. That’s why I love it down there. I feel like real football happens right there in the trenches.”
Part of Wednesday’s visit at Valley Ranch included a meeting with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who is still the team’s defensive line coach as well.
“We only had a short meeting with him, maybe only 30 minutes, but there was a lot of knowledge there,” Hyder said. “He told me he’s hard on his defensive linemen. He wants them to run and rush. Just rush – that’s what he keeps saying. I learned a lot about football right then. I can only imagine a whole year and career with him.”