FRISCO, Texas - CeeDee Lamb has been playing against wide receivers he grew up emulating all season. But Monday's opponent is different. He'll face off against a guy whose Dallas Cowboy lineage he is now a part of.
It seemed like the impossible was asked of Dez Bryant in 2010 when he was allowed to wear Michael Irvin's number 88 jersey for the Cowboys, but Bryant lived up to the standard Irvin set--some might even argue surpassed it. So when Lamb slipped all the way to the Dallas Cowboys' 17th pick in last April's draft, Dallas showed their excitement by more than just selecting him. They allowed him to wear that same jersey number.
"It's a very prestigious number," Lamb said Wednesday. "I'm grateful that I get to wear that number on my back every Sunday and every day in practice."
Bryant is the Cowboys' all-time leader in touchdown receptions and is adored by Cowboy fans everywhere. He was a midseason addition to the Baltimore Ravens, who face the Cowboys next Tuesday in a game that will feature two guys that represent countless past Cowboy highlights and, presumably, countless future highlights.
"For me to go up against a guy that I actually watched growing up excel in that jersey number---to have the opportunity to play against him is definitely a huge honor on my end and speaks volumes on his part," Lamb said. "He definitely did a great job here."
Lamb has run many routes from the slot as a rookie, but what he remembers about seeing Bryant with a star on his helmet was the physicality and versatility he brought to the position.
"He's a ball player," Lamb said. "You can't point out just one thing that he did throughout his whole career. He's aggressive at the catch. He had long runs after the catch. When I was younger I definitely was a fan of him."
Bryant might not be the player he was five seasons ago, but Lamb knows a playmaker with that much talent can't be taken for granted. "Dez was that receiver," he said.
Bryant brought a certain natural flair to the game that did justice to Irvin's legacy. Lamb certainly seems to have a bit of that same quality, waiting to be let out, but it's not the characteristic he's looking to emulate from Bryant.
"Definitely seeing how he was consistent throughout his career," Lamb noted. "You could tell every year he got better. That's definitely what I'm trying to do; every game get better, every year get better."
You watch Lamb's highlights from his time at the University of Oklahoma and you could probably pick any number of reasons to trust him to wear number 88 on his back. But the reason they gave it to Lamb might be pretty obvious: They think he can handle it.
"I'm looking to continue the legacy," Lamb said.