FRISCO, Texas – Jayron Kearse is anonymous no more.
It's a silly statement without context. Kearse has been a name to know for quite some time, as far back as Week 2 of last season, when he assumed a prominent role in Dan Quinn's defense and went on to lead the Cowboys in tackles.
Anyone who watched Kearse's fiery play style last fall, or heard about the $10 million contract he signed this spring knows exactly who he is. But as Kearse works through his second offseason program in Dallas, it's hard not to notice just how far he's come.
"It's very different than it was last year – especially around this time," Kearse said Wednesday. "Around this time last year, I was coming in and competing, just trying to get my feet wet and earn my way here."
Given everything he's earned in the past calendar year, it's easy to forget how quietly it started. A longtime special teamer in Minnesota and a spot starter during one season in Detroit, Kearse signed on with the Cowboys last year to very little fanfare.
His $1.1 million contract didn't guarantee him a roster spot. He didn't even have his choice of number, as he wouldn't change into his current No. 27 until after he made the final roster, sporting No. 32 throughout the spring and summer, instead.
"Considering the trajectory of my career, to be at this point that I'm at now, it's a huge accomplishment for me," Kearse said. "But I'm still with the same mindset that there's more out there for me, and I'm working to go get that."
Fortunately for the Cowboys, Kearse seems to thrive with that mindset. He made his first start in that Week 2 win against the Chargers, and he took over as the Cowboys' defensive play caller at mid-season. It was evident then that Kearse provided a spark in that regard, and that's something he has no intention of changing now.
"I love being a guy that everybody looks at like 'Ok, he's doing this, so we have to do that' – being an example," he said. "Because I know I can do it, so if you're following me then the sky is the limit."
That will be the hope in Quinn's second year as defensive coordinator. It seems strange to think of a Cowboys secondary as a team strength, but this is a group that returns four of its five regular starters from last year, not to mention Malik Hooker's 475 snaps as a contributor.
Highlighted by Trevon Diggs' 11 picks, it's a group that managed 20 of the Cowboys' 26 interceptions last season, with two of those coming from Kearse. If they can even come close to replicating that type of production, it'll mean big things.
"I'm looking forward to everything that we have ahead of us, our goals – whether it's individual or team goals," Kearse said. "Just the things we can go out and do as a group. We're just gelling together, becoming that tight-knight group that you need to get you through those long seasons."
Considering the goals Kearse has accomplished in just the past 12 months, there's no telling what another year could bring.