FRISCO, Texas — Quiet as it might be kept, the Dallas Cowboys aren't only arguably the best in the league at draft success, but also in their ability to find muddied diamonds in undrafted free agency. From Terence Steele to Peyton Hendershot and others in-between, the club's hit rate on Day 4 is by far better than most, and they're hoping Isaiah Land can add to that tally.
Land hails from Florida A&M University, a school that's beginning to win the eye of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and the Cowboys' scouting department as of late — safety Markquese Bell having made his way to Dallas in 2022 by way of FAMU.
As a matter of fact, it was Quinn's interest in Bell that led him to Land in the first place.
"Well, a lot of things, and I've had my eye on Zay for some time," Quinn said during 2023 rookie minicamp. "I first saw him [as I was] looking at [Markquese] Bell from a year ago, and he had a fantastic junior year — Zay did. He had over 20 sacks and really lit it up. Who is this guy?
"So, I kept up with him … I remember telling Markquese at the combine, 'Hey, Zay ran well. He did really good.' He said, 'He's a dog.' So, from that time, I've always had my vision on him: the size, the length, could this defensive end play linebacker, could he go down? I know he can rush. Just trying to add — is it one of the examples of what else can they do?"
He'll find out soon enough, with training camp in late July rapidly approaching following the conclusion of minicamp in June.
It's not difficult to ascertain exactly why Quinn's eyes turned to hearts when looking at Land's body of work. In 2021, he racked up 19 sacks en route to winning the Buck Buchanan Award that season, an honor bestowed upon the best FCS defensive player of the year.
That same season, the 6-foot-4, 236-pound pass rusher was named First-Team FCS All-American and SWAC Defensive Player of the Year, also a two-time First-Team All-SWAC talent.
His breakout season in 2021 led to offers from Power Five schools to enter the transfer portal, but he returned to Tallahassee instead, and Quinn's adoration paid off in a call to Land's line (landline, get it?) from the Cowboys front office immediately following the conclusion of the 2023 NFL Draft.
That said, he also joins an already loaded Cowboys pass rush and will need to find a way to carve his way onto the roster, but the potential is there, and Quinn knows it; and he's willing to allow some time for it to flesh itself out in Land.
"He's somebody that I'm excited to see, and there is no timeline on that," said Quinn of Land's ceiling. "Development takes time. You're not going to get there in one or two days. We're going to be in this for the long haul and see what they can do. And not every person that you train at two spots works out that way.
"It's okay [if] that didn't work. Let's go back and get good at something. I'm pretty cognizant of that. I don't want a player to play slowly because they're overthinking. My job is to make them play fast and clean and where they can go and they can go hit."
In other words, Quinn is ready to get started so that he can get a better lay of the Land.