IRVING, Texas – DeMarcus Lawrence may well remember this week as the best of his life – and for more reasons than just football.
Last Friday Lawrence began his NFL career when the Dallas Cowboys, his favorite team as a child, traded up 13 spots to draft him 34th overall in the NFL draft. This Friday, he will miss his first day of NFL practice to fly back to Boise, Idaho, to be with his first child – his son, Damari, who was born Thursday.
"It's just blessings on top of blessings, and the only thing I can do is sit back and thank God, because none of this would have been possible without him," Lawrence said Thursday.
As far as whirlwind weeks go, that one probably takes the cake – especially since Lawrence will be back at Valley Ranch on Saturday morning to participate in the remainder of Cowboys' rookie minicamp.
"I'll be back first thing Saturday morning, ready to work – I just want to make sure everything is okay," he said.
No one could blame Lawrence for that in another chapter of a memorable few days. After going early in the second round last week, he said he was ready to hit the ground running – but those are some understandable priorities. The rookie minicamp, which was pushed up by the late date of the draft, will afford him the opportunity to focus on football when he gets back to Dallas.
"It was real tough, because after the draft party I really was ready to come in and start working," Lawrence said. "That's what I was expecting the whole time, after I heard everything was going to move up anyway. That's what I was ready for, but I had sit back and let it settle in a couple more days."
Lawrence and his family did have time to take in their surroundings, however. Thursday was his first day at Valley Ranch – a dizzying string of tours and handshakes with the likes of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. But he did arrive in town with his parents on Tuesday, giving him time to acclimate.
"It was a good experience for them – my dad has been a Cowboy fan for a long, long time," Lawrence said. "Me and him were just sitting back, talking like 'This ain't no game no more. You can't just talk about being a Cowboy fan – you are a Cowboy.'"
Being drafted to generate pressure for a defensive line that lost its top two sack leaders – one of them a Cowboys icon – comes with its share of scrutiny. Lawrence said he's aware of that, and he's ready to get down to business.
"There's a lot of expectations, and there's a lot of things I've got to do to make this fit the right way," he said. "But I'm willing to work and I'm really ready to go."
In the meantime, the Cowboys have plenty of other new players to work with. Aside from Lawrence, the team met with its other two late-arriving draft picks in Anthony Hitchens and Terrance Mitchell on Thursday. [embedded_ad]
Hitchens arrived Thursday morning, fresh off a pair of finals that will allow him to graduate from Iowa. Taking tests on Monday and Tuesday after being drafted on Saturday makes for quite a juxtaposition, but Hitchens managed it despite the difficulty he had staying focused.
"Oh yeah, definitely. It was, but I said a long time ago I was going to graduate, so I stuck with it," he said.
He might have been the Cowboys' final pick, and the third-to-last pick in the entire draft, but no new player had as wide a smile as Terrance Mitchell. The Oregon cornerback, fresh in from his hometown of Sacramento, California, has plenty to adjust to – including a two-hour time change – but none of that lessened his enthusiasm.
"I guess it'll probably hit me tomorrow morning when it's time to practice," Mitchell said. "I'm really just ready to practice and get out here, but I'm excited."
The work begins in earnest Friday at 10:45 a.m., with eight of the nine draft picks and more than 30 undrafted free agents and tryout invitees on hand.