OXNARD, Calif. – Like all rookies, Ezekiel Elliott doesn't have the Cowboys star on his helmet yet.
Two days into training camp this summer, he's ready to earn it – and help the team win games this fall.
"Back at Ohio State we had to do something like that," he said. "We started out camp with a black stripe on our helmet and throughout camp we had to prove ourselves. It's kind of the same type of initiation. We've got to come out and prove ourselves to the team."
Elliott doesn't have average rookie expectations. The 2016 fourth overall pick is the team's earliest draft pick since Russell Maryland went first overall in 1991.
He's viewed as a cornerstone piece who, along with the healthy returns of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant and an all-star offensive line, can restore the Cowboys' offense among the league's best again.
"I think the outside expectations, they really don't mean much to me," he said. "I don't think anyone can expect more of myself than me and my teammates and that's all that matters."
In his first media interview of camp Sunday, Elliott declined comment on a reported accusation of domestic violence by a former girlfriend. His father, Stacy, recently released a statement on his behalf vehemently denying the reported accusation, and the Cowboys have stood by him as well.
Here in Oxnard he's focused on the field, taking tips from quarterback Tony Romo on learning the system.
"It's been good – kind of a teacher-student relationship," Elliott said. "He's probably the smartest football mind on this team, and what a better guy to go to and learn the game from."
Elliott played at the highest level in college, winning a national championship as a sophomore at Ohio State. With any rookie, there's an adjustment to the NFL. For Elliott, it was the speed of the game at the first OTA workout in May.
Training camp is the next challenge.
"We certainly like the transition that Zeke has made up to this point," head coach Jason Garrett said. "He's a smart football player. He works very hard at it and everything that he does. You see his growth and development as a result of that work."[embeddedad0]
Elliott has gotten first-team reps at running back with Darren McFadden recovering from June elbow surgery. McFadden will be back, and Alfred Morris is another proven veteran on the roster. Elliott welcomes healthy competition.
"I think we have a very talented group," he said. "Every guy I think in our room can play and could be a starter and that's just great for everyone. Competition doesn't do anything but make you better. The more you compete against each other, the more we push each other, the better we're going to get."
Monday is another opportunity in the first pads practice of camp – the first for Elliott as a pro.
"I'm just excited to get out there and compete," he said.