than anybody we would have drafted at the point we would have taken one."
He, you bet, is Marcus Dixon, the small-college player with big-college talent who just might have transformed (remember that word) himself in a year's time from long shot to budding big shot. From a guy who could have rightfully been wallowing in self-pity and bitterness to potentially this quick-study equipped with this quick smile and genuine politeness.
See, for the last couple of months, every time Cowboys owner Jerry Jones starts talking about the defensive end position, once he moves past Olshansky, the former San Diego starter Wade Phillips knows so well, the next name out of his mouth seems to be "Dixon." That is not by accident. Jones listens acutely to his coaches and scouts. He remembers what they tell him.
You hear that same thing, Marcus?
"I had no clue; I don't get too much into that," Dixon said of reading and listening to what's going on in the media. But after a short pause, he sort of flashed that quick smile while saying, "You kind of got me hyped right now, I'm going to go work out."
He mockingly appeared ready to rush off.
"Naw, that feels good," Dixon said. "Mr. Jones, I definitely respect him. He was the first one to tell me I was going to be here last year. He came to the locker room, the Thursday after the Minnesota (preseason) game and told me I was going to be here.
"I do have expectations for myself, not just wear a jersey. I want to contribute."
Jones also can see, see what the coaches see, and even what our lay-scouting eyes can see. That's a different body Dixon owns.
Not saying he arrived, well, doughy last year. But, you know, for a guy who ran as well as he did, and had the quickness he did, he just seemed sort of soft in the mid-section, lacking the necessary muscular definition. And when a minor back ailment undercut the momentum he was building in training camp toward landing a roster spot, the Cowboys knew a year on the practice squad was just what the doctor ordered.
Again, Dixon didn't pout. He worked, and worked hard.
"He's a great example of the reason you have a practice squad," Grantham said. "Sometimes you just have to develop your body, particularly up front. He had the athletic ability but he had to just work to improve his core strength and his body control, and he did a great job of that.
"What he did, was on his own, with Joe (Juraszek, strength and conditioning coach), really worked in the program on what he needed to improve on, which was his body, getting it leaner and basically getting stronger.
"That's why to me, you identify guys like him and try to go out and get 'em and grow 'em. Because you can't coach initial quickness and athletic ability but you can improve a guy's body type through strength and conditioning and diet. You can improve that but you can't make them faster. It is what it is."
And what is it right now?
"We call him the 'Transformer,'" Juraszek says, somewhat proudly, a tribute indeed to how Dixon has rebuilt his body, and not by accident. This has been through hard work.
When the 2008 season ended, Dixon said he went home for 2½ to three weeks. Then, already re-signed to the 80-man roster, he came back, got with Juraszek and started working out, the weight coach explaining to him how he had to improve his core strength, that quickness without body control was useless in the NFL on the defensive line.
So instead of simply showing up for the start of the team's off-season strength and conditioning program the latter part of March, Dixon got himself a two-month head start. And it shows, not only under his workout clothes, but did so on Tuesday when the team gathered for the first time since the end of the season for the start of the organized team activity sessions - the third of which was completed on Thursday.
Now granted, these are just jersey, shorts and helmets workouts, but while taking the place of Hatcher on the second-team defensive line, Dixon was seen several times exhibiting his quickness off the ball, one time knifing right