ARLINGTON, TX — The debate for NFL voters to put DaRon Bland in the conversation for First-Team All-Pro and Defensive Player of the Year is not only at fever pitch after Thanksgiving, but it's changed to making him a frontrunner for the award. Bland delivered his record-setting fifth pick-six when Sam Howell and the Washington Commanders came to town, etching his name in the history books forever.
And there are still six regular season games to be played, mind you.
It was a special day for the man who was once a kid in Modesto, California dreaming of such a day, to carve his path through two unheralded universities to earn a nod as a fifth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2022. One season later, he's made himself an immortal, and it's a story he hopes resonates for every kid who is dreaming beyond the imagination of those around them.
"That was one of my biggest things, to show the kids back home that you can do it," said Bland following the special day. "Whatever you put your mind to, you can do it. … It's another thing to be thankful for."
It might all be a bit surreal for Bland, but what he's doing is very real. And all he could think of at that moment, when he saw an opportunity to jump the route on a pass intended for wide receiver Jahan Dotson in the fourth quarter, was to change the sport of football forever.
And so, he did.
"Just go, just go." he said with a smile. "It actually was a perfect time for me to show my teammates my return [skills], because they've seen all the pick-sixes but they hadn't seen one with return skills. Hopefully, I've shown them."
That's saying the least, because it turned out to be the best pick-six of them all as it relates to Bland putting his entire skill set on full display, and that included causing Howell to miss the would-be touchdown-saving tackle and then embarrassing two receivers who had eyes on taking him down.
"I had to get into the end zone," said Bland. "I wasn't gonna be denied on that one."
For perspective, Deion Sanders had only two pick-sixes in his five-year career in Dallas, and only nine in his Hall of Fame career.
Bland had two before Week 5.
It's a testament to Bland's abilities but, additionally, to his willingness to be coached; surrounded by elite minds that include Al Harris, Joe Whitt, Dan Quinn, Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore — his success being of no surprise to anyone in the organization but, nonetheless, being awe-inspiring in its execution.
"[It] just speaks to who he is and the resilience alone to know he had history in front of him and to say, 'I'm not gonna let this quarterback tackle me,' said Dak Prescott. " … He broke Sam [Howell] down and then, Michael Vick-style, made the [wide receivers] collide and then went into the end zone. Hell of a player, and we've got a lot of games left to play too, so no telling how far he's gonna extend this record.
"… It's incredible to watch him go and get these touchdowns — hungry to get into the end zone."
And, according to Prescott, the show isn't over for the 24-year-old.
"I can promise you he's not satisfied with the five [pick-sixes] he has now," said the two-time Pro Bowler. "He's a hell of a competitor and he's gonna extend this thing one way or another."
It's impossible to doubt that as anything but true, considering what we're all witnessing.
Up next comes Geno Smith and the Seattle Seahawks at AT&T Stadium, and Bland is going to enjoy what happened on Thanksgiving with his family before, undoubtedly turning the page quickly to next Thursday.
As he exited the locker room on turkey day, a massive smile on his face and the record-setting football clutched and cradled firmly under his right arm, he understands that what's done is done; and history can never be changed once it's made.
"It felt great to break the record with them watching," he said.
All the football world was as well, and much because its realizing what those back home have long known about Bland: when it comes to breaking through barriers at every stage of his life, Bland continues to prove he will never be denied.
And that's a lesson we can all intercept.