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Training Camp | 2023

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Gilmore, Cooks deliver early in Cowboys camp battle


OXNARD, Calif. — It's nearly time for the rubber to meet the road for Stephon Gilmore in his journey toward debuting for the Dallas Cowboys. The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year completed his first-ever training camp practice in Oxnard, and it was headlined by an intriguing battle with fellow newly-acquired talent Brandin Cooks.

After practice, Gilmore was all smiles as he can literally smell the football in the air.

"It's time to play some real football, and it's exciting," he said.

Having spent his illustrious NFL career with the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, the obvious thread lies in the fact he's mostly operated on the eastern half of the country. That's all changed now, however, as he suits up for a four-week stay in Southern California.

"It's far, I've never really been on the West Coast, but this is a good setup," he said. "Everything is right here, the weather is good so no complaints."

And speaking of his aforementioned camp matchup with Cooks, well, let's just say it was one to watch on Day 1. 

Early in practice, Gilmore won the battle with a pass break up on a hook route wherein he stayed glued to Cooks' hip. Later in the session, though, Cooks repaid him after a catch in space, followed by a juke being used on Gilmore that left him in a bit of a blender. 

It's the beginning of what should be an electric head-to-head between two of the best players in the league at their respective position, and the Cowboys will ultimately be the beneficiary of it.

The two have a longstanding friendship from their time spent together with the Patriots in 2017, and their reunion in Dallas is off to a great start. 

"It was fun, I've been competing with him for years," said Gilmore of Cooks. "Anytime you can have good competition across the ball from you, it brings out the best of you. I think we're gonna have a lot of battles throughout training camp."

Speaking of friendships, Gilmore and Trevon Diggs have a budding one of their own. 

It goes back to the latter sending the former game film with the aim of receiving feedback that could improve Diggs' game; so when the two became teammates, it teetered on the fulcrum of destiny, and now that Diggs has secured a five-year extension worth upwards of $100 million, Gilmore (having been the beneficiary of a five-year extension of his own (in 2017 with the Patriots).

"I just told him congrats and he can take a deep breath now, but I told him to just stay focused," said Gilmore. "Try to build off of that and have a great year. It's always good to get that extension but you gotta play good ball and keep it going. They pay you because you've been playing good football, so just keep doing what you're doing."

All in all, the battle in camp against Cooks and the complementary relationship with Diggs can only help elevate the Cowboys on all fronts, and especially in the secondary.

"It's gonna be fun," Gilmore said while wearing his signature smile. "They gotta throw it somewhere. One of us is gonna get tested. We just have to be ready for wherever they throw it. 

"I'm looking forward to it. We have to be ready for each and every snap because, at the end of the day, they're gonna throw the ball and somebody's gotta make the play." 

Based upon recent evidence, somebody likely will.

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