MOBILE, Ala. – High school stars from Texas that shined at Oklahoma State and now headed to the NFL?
While Dez Bryant has certainly been in the news lately as the Cowboys try to figure out his future, they've likely noticed a pair of Oklahoma State standouts at the Senior Bowl, adding them to the list of possible candidates for a position that needs an upgrade.
Two receivers from the South squad this week are James Washington and Marcell Ateman, teammates from OSU that played their college ball in Texas, as did Bryant, a standout from Lufkin, Texas.
Washington, the 2017 Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top wide receiver, is a potential first-round pick and someone who could be in that range for the Cowboys at No. 19 if that's the route they choose to go.
The Cowboys haven't drafted a wide receiver in the first round since 2010, which happened to be Bryant, a player Washington knows plenty about.
"Being from Texas and Oklahoma State and playing receiver, I've tried to pattern my game after Dez," Washington said. "He's big, fast, strong and made plays. That's what I've tried to do."
While his size (6-0, 205) isn't exactly the prototype for receivers, Washington knows he makes up for that in other areas.
"I've never really worried about my height because I know I've got a good vertical and can go get the ball. I've got strength to break tackles and I think I'm a pretty good blocker, but it's an area I can improve."
Washington actually looks more like a running back, a position he played at times during his days at Stamford High School, a small town just north of Abilene. Washington was a do-it-all star, catching passes, running the ball, playing safety and linebacker and even kicking at times for a Bulldogs team that advanced to three straight Class 1A State Championship games at AT&T Stadium.
"We didn't win that first game, but it taught us how to win and we were able to win it all the last two years," Washington said. "It was a great experience to play there at 'Jerry World.' I would love to play there all the time."
Washington enjoyed a stellar four-year career at OSU, as did Ateman, who is from Wylie, just north of Dallas.
"It would be a dream to play for the Cowboys one day," said Ateman, who had a breakout senior year with 59 catches for 1,156 yards in 2017. "Right now, I'm just enjoying all the coaching I'm getting here at the Senior Bowl. One thing teams keep telling me is that it's one thing to be big, but I need to play big."
Ateman (6-4, 220) said he wants to be a red-zone threat just like the player he's idolized for so long.
"I love Dez's game and the type of beast that he is," Ateman said. "When that ball is in there, he goes to get it. That's what I try to do, and I want to be that kind of player at the next level."
Ateman found ways to put up big numbers at OSU despite playing alongside of Washington, who had three straight years of more than 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns.
Washington leaves Oklahoma State as the school's all-time leading receiver with 4,472 yards and a staggering 19.8 yards-per-catch average, which is also the best in OSU school history.
"I think I'm a big-play guy," said Washington, who had 21 games of at least 100 yards receiving. "But I'm trying to become a more complete receiver. I want to expand my route tree and try to be a more polished player. I think whatever team I go to is going to get a really good player."