IRVING, Texas – There was one place Ezekiel Elliott wanted to play. One offensive line he wanted to run behind.
Turned out the feeling was mutual.
The Cowboys ranked the Ohio State star running back No. 1 on their draft board entering Round 1 on Thursday night, and the organization came to a "real consensus" on Elliott as the fourth overall pick, Jason Garrett said.
The call from his new head coach admittedly made him emotional.
"He said, 'Zeke, you're going to be a Cowboy,'" Elliott said. "When they first told me on the first phone call I just, I kind of lost it and I dropped my phone and almost burst into tears, but I ended up holding it together, went around the table and hugged my family."
For Elliott, Dallas was the "number one place" on his pre-draft wish list. A primary reason? A decorated offensive line with three All-Pro selections (Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick).
"The Cowboys have the best offensive line in the league, and that's a running back's dream," he said.
The Cowboys have a vision, too: a prospect of Elliott's caliber setting the same type of physical tone and foundation for the offense that defined their 12-4 season two years ago, when the offense finished second in rushing.
At Ohio State, he topped 100 rushing yards in 22 of 39 games over three seasons. He scored 23 rushing touchdowns as a junior in 2015. He's a complete back who can stay on the field for all three downs, boasting a blend of power, speed, patience and vision as a runner; sure hands as a receiver; and solid technique as a pass blocker.
"A player like this allows you to play a certain style," Garrett said. "That can have a positive impact on the other players on the offense. A great runner, a great running game, that helps the quarterback, it helps the receivers because you get a lot of run defenses where you get favorable looks outside. And hopefully you possess the ball more; you get more plays on offense and fewer plays on defense and that allows your defense to play at a higher level.
"It's similar to how we played a couple years ago when we ran the ball so effectively and thought it just had a positive impact on everybody throughout our team. We believe Zeke gives us a chance to do that."
Darren McFadden played admirably as the featured back over the final 11 games last season, finishing with over 1,000 yards for the second time in his career. The Cowboys signed veteran Alfred Morris as a complementary back, and although he might begin the season on the physically unable to perform list Lance Dunbar can be a versatile receiving threat out of the backfield once he fully recovers from last October's knee injury.
All those players can have roles on offense, but clearly the Cowboys view Elliott as a special talent whose skills can impact the offense as well as take pressure off the defense.
He looks forward to the challenge.
"I think I can be a bell-cow running back," he said. "I think late in the fourth quarter or on third down you know no one's going to have anything to worry about when you run that clock out."
Elliott did just that for the Buckeyes as a sophomore in the 2014-15 National Championship game in North Texas. He rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-20 blowout victory over Oregon.
AT&T Stadium is his home now.
"It's really crazy how things work," he said. "I'm very familiar with Jerry-land, and I think I have a pretty good track record there. I'm excited to get back to Jerry-land and put on a show."
The Dallas Cowboys selected Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott at number four in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.