IRVING, Texas – The idea behind the one-day youth camp known as "Cowboys U" stretches far beyond just getting teenagers into Valley Ranch to compete on the same fields as America's Team.
While the high school players are divided into eight team with each headed by a prominent Cowboys player-captain, the rest of the squad is filled with about 10 other coaches from the Cowboys roster.
For instance, Tony Romo's Blue squad had about 15 players with 11 coaches as well.
The captains were Romo, Jason Witten, Tyron Smith, Brandon Carr, Doug Free, Dez Bryant, Barry Church and Sean Lee, who had to miss the event because he underwent knee surgery. Orlando Scandrick filled in for Lee.
On Thursday morning, the captains then picked their teams – sandlot style. Standing in the middle of the locker room, each captain picked a teammate to be his fellow coach. Just like they did a year ago, playing a trick on Jason Hatcher to make sure he was picked dead last, the Cowboys did the same with George Selvie.
"I have a lot of fun (picking teams)," Carr said. "I looked last night, I'm at the house trying to think, 'Who is my coaching staff? Who should I pick first?' You get to pick the coaching staff, so I'm running down my little mock draft in my head."
The Dallas Cowboys hosted the 3rd annual Dallas Cowboys U high school football camp for 160 underserved student-athletes.
However, Witten's first pick actually stemmed from an ongoing battle that had been brewing the last few days at practice. Witten and safety J.J. Wilcox had been jawing back and forth all week during OTAs. Wilcox and the defense stopped the offense during team drills on Monday and Tuesday. Wilcox wasn't shy about letting Witten and the rest of the skill players hear about it. On Wednesday, Witten barked back, especially after he scored three straight touchdowns in the team period. Most of them were against Wilcox. Witten made sure he spiked the ball close to Wilcox's feet, which of course led to more jawing back and forth.
The competitive juices were basically left on the field, but when Witten made his first pick on Thursday, he scooped up Wilcox, letting everyone in the locker room know his feelings about the second-year safety.
"He's a great guy," Wilcox said of Witten. "Why not try to go against the best and learn the game from him? I wouldn't have done that (last year as a rookie.) You have to know what you're limited on. I do a little barking just to get better. The better I can get, the better I can help this team."
As for the competition on the field, Witten and Wilcox only finished 1-2 in the three-game tournament and didn't advance to the championship game. Romo and Tyron Smith squared off in the finals, which had to be cut short because of lightning. Smith's group had a touchdown and a then two-point conversion to win the game for the Maroon group.
"We had some great kids out there," Smith said walking off the field. "They did all the work. But, it was a lot of fun."
The fun part was the ultimate goal. But the competition goes with the territory, whether or not the pads are on or off.