FRISCO, Texas– When Vince Mayle arrived at Shasta Community College as a freshman he soon realized that he wasn't quite tall enough to play power forward at the college basketball level.
But as a wide receiver, you won't find anyone claiming that Mayle (6-2, 228) has a size disadvantage. In fact, Mayle, who was called up to the 53-man roster from the practice squad this week, is now the largest receiver on the Cowboys' active roster.
Geoff Swaim's move to the injured reserve after surgery on his pectoral muscle made room on the roster for Mayle who is one of the most physically imposing receivers you'll see. He weighs in at 228 pounds of muscle. Despite being the same height as Dez Bryant he's just as close in weight to linebacker Sean Lee.
Mayle has spent the past two seasons on the Cowboys' practice squad after being drafted by the Browns in 2015 and subsequently released after training camp. That adds up to quite a few practices before getting his shot this week. "It means a lot," Mayle said. "I've been working hard for it. I'm glad it's finally here."
Head coach Jason Garrett said Swaim's injury opened the door for Mayle, a player they had been trying to get on the roster for a while.
"Oftentimes you have discussions and staff meetings about the guys. Who would you like to get up," Garrett said. "He has been one of those guys. So we saw this as an opportunity to do that. He has been excellent on special teams. And we see him contributing on offense as well. We will have to tweak some things around. Cause we won't have the third tight end on the roster. We will have the sixth receiver on the roster. But he has done an excellent job."
The Browns used a fourth-round draft pick on Mayle in 2015 and it was far from unwarranted. He at times looked dominant as a senior at Washington State. In 2014 he was the only player in the country with two 250-yard receiving games.
A year and a half of time on the practice squad meant a year and a half of watching Bryant, Terrence Williams, and Brice Butler day in and day out, and he credits being around them as a key to his perseverance.
[embeddedad0]"Watching guys like that. We have all those good guys in a room and I want to compete, so I wanted to keep getting better. I just kept looking at them like, 'that's who I got to beat out.'"
Even if he was looking at them like competition, he has two fans in Bryant and Butler. "Vince Mayle is going to give you everything he's got," Bryant said. "He does it each and every day in practice. He's a hard worker."
Butler made a point of mentoring the young receiver. "He's one of those guys that I took under my wing as far as trying to show him the ropes of the NFL last year and this year."
Butler preached to him that the NFL is a business, and how he reacted to setbacks like being cut or failing to make the active roster, would ultimately determine if he had an NFL career.
"Look they'll kick you out of here at the drop of a dime if you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing," Butler told Mayle. "Even though you're mad, go turn that anger into production. You pissed off? Show them that they made a mistake and show them why they made a mistake. Don't go out there and pout. At this level it doesn't matter. Nobody cares. That's just one thing I've told him and he's just been continuously working."
Those practices were his only opportunities to make a splash. Mayle on all accounts delivered. "That's one thing I got to say about him," Butler said. "He never quit working. He felt like he should have made the active roster initially because he played well enough to. But he didn't quit or anything. He kept working hard."
Bryant relayed almost identical sentiments and added a prediction. "He [doesn't] complain about anything. He just waits for the opportunity. I think it's time. He's about to get his opportunity and make the most of it."
Now, Mayle says the attitude he's carried with him at practice has been validated. "These guys, they see me practice every day and they see how hard I practice so they know I'm going to come in and continue to fight for them."
Mayle's stature drew a flattering comparison from Butler who has watched him perform in countless practices. "I'd consider him a bully-type player," Butler said. "Kind of like a young Brandon Marshall, catching the ball and stiff arming dudes, making dudes miss."
The Cowboys haven't exactly been lacking from a production standpoint at receiver. But a strong and enormous receiver could certainly make an impact without catching balls. The Cowboys have a run heavy offense that also likes running reverses to Lucky Whitehead and Bryant. Mayle didn't mince words when asked if he'd be willing to embrace the role of a blocking wide receiver.
"Yeah, look at my body," Mayle said. "I don't mind doing that. It's fun to me."
Mayle has the size to make a difference and Bryant thinks he'd be a handful for whoever has to deal with him.
"He blocks like [a beast]. He catches like one. I love Vince. Vince is a damn good football player."