FRISCO, Texas – When rookie cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was at Colorado, the team had a saying they liked to throw around in the locker room: "Knowledge equals confidence equals playing fast."
Awuzie took that emphasis on knowledge and made sure he was applying it beyond the football field. The Cowboys' second-round pick missed the first day of rookie minicamp practice on Friday so that he could attend his college graduation.
His parents bought plane tickets to Denver back in December to see their son get a diploma, so attending the ceremony was planned long before April's NFL Draft, but it led to a hectic few days for the business operations management major.
Awuzie came to The Star in Frisco on Thursday for routine medical tests, measurements and other rookie formalities. Then after his Thursday night flight was delayed, he took off for Denver, arriving there around 3 a.m. Friday so he could be ready for an 8 a.m. university graduation ceremony, but didn't actually get to walk the stage until the evening for the business school ceremony. Afterwards he went straight to bed so he could get back to Dallas by 5 a.m. and participate in Saturday's minicamp practice.
That kind of whirlwind weekend is what happens when someone accomplishes two lifelong dreams within the same month, something Awuzie wasn't always sure he'd be able to pull off.
"As a student athlete they always tell you to keep school first and athletics second, but it's always been our dream to play in the NFL so we kind of put a lot of our chips over there," Awuzie said Saturday. "So I definitely had to work a little harder in terms of school to reach that accomplishment. There were times when I didn't think I could do it, but I'm here now, so it's great."
After years of strenuously balancing school and football, no one would blame Awuzie for taking a break from hitting the books for a while, but when he wasn't trying to catch up on sleep he was back to studying. The course material was the Cowboys' playbook.
"The quicker I know my playbook the more confident I'll be and probably be able to line up different places," he said.
It goes back to the saying he brought with him from Colorado. His knowledge will give him a leg up. If he puts in enough thinking and studying in advance, then he won't need to think as much on the field. The Cowboys lost veteran depth all over their secondary in the offseason. Awuzie comes out of college with the ability to play outside cornerback, slot corner and safety.[embeddedad0]
"One of the things we liked so much about him is just the kind of kid he is," head coach Jason Garrett said. "He showed that today. Took care of his responsibilities – a great honor and a privilege to graduate from Colorado – and then back to work today and he didn't skip a beat."
Where he ends up fitting on defense won't be determined for some time, but he wants to be prepared for it all.
"That's not really up to me," Awuzie said of his position status. "It's up to the coaches. Obviously I think I can play all three at an elite level. I think one of the reasons they picked me was because of my versatility. Wherever they put me I'm going to give it my all."