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Rookie Mini Camp | 2024

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Kneeland on No. 94 jersey, Cowboys' expectations


FRISCO, Texas — One of the sneakiest needs for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2024 NFL Draft was at defensive end, and largely due to who they lost in free agency over the weeks preceding the event — namely both Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler to Dan Quinn and the Washington Commanders.

Enter Marshawn Kneeland, the team’s rookie second-round pick expected to help bolster the rotation behind Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence and third-year pass rusher Sam Williams.

As Kneeland walked through the team's headquarters on Thursday, going from station to station in preparation for the start of rookie minicamp on Friday, the exceedingly athletic tight end turned linebacker turned defensive end was soaking it all in.

"Just being here, my first day in the facility, it's starting to hit a little bit," he said with a smile that hinted heavily at exactly how surreal this moment is for him.

And to really drive home the level of surrealism he's experiencing, the former Second-team All-MAC (2023) out of Western Michigan detailed his emotional ride when the Cowboys went on the clock with the 56th-overall pick.

He thought Dallas passed on him, until his phone rang with a 972 area code.

"I was looking at [the TV] and there were two minutes and 30 seconds left on the clock, and they said there's a delay so I said to myself, 'Ah, there's no way they'll get me. They're probably already speaking to their guy,'" he explained. "Then I'm looking at the next [teams on the clock] and I see it get down to two minutes, and my phone rings with a Texas number. I'm like, 'Wait a minute! There must not be a delay, or we're high-speed streaming or something.'

"I answered the call and then seeing my name across the [broadcast] was crazy.'

Reality will set in quickly now, however, and especially when veterans join rookies in two weeks for Organized Team Activities (OTAs) — beginning May 21.

"I'm just ready to be able to learn from the older guys and take in a lot, and be able to produce as much as possible."

The last part of that statement is all but required when donning the jersey assigned to Wheeland — the heralded No. 94. It's one that has recently been worn by Randy Gregory but is more famously known because of the Hall of Fame dominance put on display by Demarcus Ware and Charles Haley when the fabric decorated their shoulder pads and chestplate.

Kneeland doesn't view that as an added pressure, though. Instead, he wants to make sure that, after him, the Cowboys never allow anyone else to wear it ever again.

"I just want to add on to the legacy of the number," said Kneeland. "I wanna get the number retired. It's been some greats that have had it."

And while the Cowboys don't officially retire numbers, they do want their rookie second-round pick to keep that energy for his entire career in Dallas.

It all begins this week, with Kneeland taking the first step on his journey of a thousand miles.

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