FRISCO, Texas – Getting drafted in the first round to the most recognizable franchise in professional sports isn't an easy situation to walk into. Luckily for former Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton, he prefers to play on the big stage and he has a track record for delivering on those stages.
In a showdown with rival Ohio State with huge national implications last season, Charlton wreaked havoc on the Buckeyes offensive line and finished with 2.5 sacks. In the Orange Bowl against Florida State he had two tackles for losses, five tackles in total, and batted down a pass.
"Big players make big plays in big games," Charlton said in a conference call after the Cowboys selected him in the first round (No. 28 overall). "I've always been taught that. It always matter what you do in games, but when the game is on the line big players step up."
The Cowboys need immediate contributions from their rookie pass rusher and it certainly helps that Charlton comes from a program like Michigan where he had to compete against top-level competition not only in his conference but also on his own team's depth chart.
"When you come from a big school, especially a school like Michigan with Coach (Jim) Harbaugh, you get coached by some of the best coaches and the competition is the best that you can ask for," Charlton said. "The NFL's a jump, but when you're going against the best guys in college you kind of know what it feels like to go against the best in the NFL."
Beyond just the competition, he thinks Harbaugh, who coached the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013, prepared him to play in the NFL.
"He kind of ran everything like an NFL-type team the way we did it in college," Charlton said. "All the practices and the intensity behind everything. He's an intense coach and he definitely brought that atmosphere and definitely prepared us for what we're going to get at the next level."
Charlton is excited to work with his new coaches. He said he's excited to learn from defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who coached Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, one of Charlton's favorite players growing up, along with former Cowboy DeMarcus Ware.
"They were able to be in the league for 10-plus years and do it at a high level," he said of Peppers and Ware. "That's something I aspire to be and aspire to do.
"I feel like I was a top-10, top-15 player, but I'm happy to be here in Dallas with a team and coaches that believe in me."
He mentioned numerous times in the conference call that he believes footage of his senior year performances should prove what he's capable of as a pass rusher. "I'm a guy that's very versatile," he said. "If you really watch my tape you see that I can do a lot of different moves."
The silver lining of slipping to the bottom of the first round, of course, is that he is arriving to an immediate contender.
"Dallas is right there to get to that championship, Super Bowl level," he said. "They had a great regular season, and I think I can help them get to that level in the playoffs and do some great things."