Eatman: Best 'Comeback' Story in 2018 is Zeke


Sometimes you just feel like arguing a point, even when you know you're going to lose.

I guess here is that moment for me, and it seems a little fitting because the Cowboys are about to play the Colts, a team we see once every Olympics.

Andrew Luck is having a great season for Indianapolis, and in all likelihood will win the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year award. If he doesn't, it'll be one of those guys in Houston, either J.J. Watt or Deshaun Watson. And I've even see Odell Beckham Jr.'s name on that list before his most recent injury.

Great choices. Great players.

What about Zeke?

Seriously, if I had a vote for the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year, I would most definitely give it to Ezekiel Elliott.

And honestly, I don't even know what kind of criteria is given for this award. I know he missed six games due to a suspension and that might not be enough to even qualify him to get this.

But to me, Elliott has made one of the greatest comebacks that I've seen in covering this team for nearly 20 years.

The easy thing to do is what the sportswriters are going to do. Find a really good player who missed time last year due to injury, and reward him for coming back and playing well on the field.

And that's where Luck or Watt makes the most sense. Not saying they aren't deserving. But if you really break it down, Zeke has also had one remarkable comeback, even if he only missed six games on the field.

However, anyone that followed the Cowboys closely last year – and you didn't have to be at practice or in the locker room every day – could see that Zeke just wasn't the same. And how could he be? His name was getting dragged through the mud every day during the constant legal fight with the NFL about his off-the-field domestic violence claim that led to his suspension.

And I'm not here to argue about how that went down because not only is that all in the past, I can't say that I was privy to every bit of information for either side. We all know it dragged on and it was a constant see-saw battle of back and forth between the two sides, and that really started way back in training camp when the six-game suspension was first levied.

Even there in Oxnard, you could tell Zeke wasn't the same. He wasn't really having fun. He wasn't yelling or screaming randomly in the middle of practice with whatever came to his mind. That's the Zeke we've seen since he got here, and it just wasn't the case last year.

But I can't say that 2018 is a complete return-to-form for Zeke. Don't forget, when he got here in 2016 he was the youngest player in the NFL at one point, at just 21 years of age. Sure, 23 isn't exactly the age of maturity, but you can tell he's much different than he was just two years ago, and definitely different than last year.

The people around him in the building all point to it as well. They can see a more engaging person to talk to in the halls or in the locker room. He just seems more aware of his surrounding and more approachable.

About a month ago, Zeke was in the locker room having a long conversation with Xavier Su'a-Filo about blocking schemes and different plays. This was the week before the guard was making his start in Philadelphia. Since then, the two guys seem to have some common interests and you'll see them chatting quite a bit in the locker room.

That might seem very small to you, but Zeke wasn't doing that kind of stuff even last year. To say he was more guarded would be like saying Steph Curry is a good shooter.

But that's what is so enjoyable to see about this season. Zeke has been able to let his guard down, and still play at the highest of levels. He doesn't just lead the NFL in rushing right now, but he's been the heart and soul of the Cowboys' five-game turnaround.

However, this transformation started way before the first win in Philly. This isn't just a case of the Cowboys are now winning and so Zeke is smiling more. This was happening back in camp, and even in the first half of the year when the losses outweighed the wins.

Zeke has made quite a comeback this year, and it's definitely being seen on the field and certainly off the field as well.

Again, this isn't a disrespect to the guys who have battled back from injury. But injuries heal – at least most of them. Rehab can fix certain things and guys can even come back stronger.

But some of the stuff Zeke went through is on a different level. For many people, especially at the age of 23, it's not easy to block out all the noise being said about you, and manage to not only have a better attitude, but seemingly a better perspective as well. 

Nope, he's not going to win Comeback Player of the Year. And he might not even get a single vote.

But I'll sit here and wait for anyone to find me a player in this league who has made a better "comeback" than Ezekiel Elliott.