FRISCO, TX — It's a different type of homecoming on tap for the Dallas Cowboys, one week removed from welcoming Ezekiel Elliott back to AT&T Stadium. This time around, it's DaRon Bland who is looking to become homecoming king when he takes on Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers in an all-important primetime matchup for Week 5.
Bland is going back to Cali, LL Cool J style.
He's already gotten more ticket requests from friends and family than he can keep track of.
"A lot," said Bland with a huge smile. "I can't even count [them]."
A native of Modesto, California, Bland honed his football skills at Central Catholic High School — where he earned honors as Valley Oak League Defensive Player of the Year as a senior — before going on to enroll in Sacramento State in 2017.
He'd go on to be labeled a First-Team All-Big Sky talent in 2019 before transferring to Fresno State, where he spent the 2021 season en route to getting the nod as one of the Cowboys' fifth-round picks the following spring.
When he touches down in Santa Clara on Sunday, a town that's less two hours from where he attended high school and college[s], everything from the grass to the air to the California sunshine will feel familiar to him.
He's looking forward to it, as well as the added electricity he'll feel playing in front of his family and everyone else who watched him grow from a promising young boy to one of the best cornerbacks in the entire NFL — one with eight interceptions and two pick-sixes in only 10 career starts for the Cowboys.
"Definitely," he said. "I was away from home for a lot of years, so I'm [heading] back home now and it'll be comfortable being [there]. … It's definitely [an added emotional charge]. It's the one time when everybody can come out to see me play in the games."
He and the Cowboys are working feverishly to make sure the homecoming is a pleasant one for everyone except the 49ers and their faithful, especially considering the outcome of the previous two matchups.
"The motivation [is always here]," Bland said. "These last two years with them beating us in the playoffs, so there's always motivation."
Add to that the emotional push of performing on the biggest stage for his loved ones in the backyard of where he once ran drills as a high schooler, dreaming of this type of moment and opportunity, and it makes for a potent mix that will likely serve the Cowboys well.
When he left home in 2021, he was on a mission to continue proving himself. He's done exactly that, and now he's going back to Cali — styling, profiling.
And with a chance to help Dallas move to 4-1 on the season with a huge statement win.