FRISCO, Texas – This isn't meant as a knock on Lewis Neal, there just isn't a way around it – he simply doesn't look like an NFL defensive tackle.
In a world that is typically inhabited by hulking monsters like 6-7, 273-pound David Irving or 6-2, 303-pound Maliek Collins, Neal stands out for the opposite reason. The rookie pass rusher weighs in at about 280 pounds, and he might be 6-0 – maybe.
If his recent promotion to the Cowboys' active roster says anything, though, it's that you should bet against him at your own risk.
"I've been through adversity all my life, man, dealing with being called undersized – I've been dealing with that all my life," Neal said Wednesday. "I've overcome it at every level of the game, so it's nothing new to me. Just keep working."
The Cowboys officially moved Neal to the 53-man roster Wednesday morning, after they designated Brian Price for injured reserve. Despite that, Neal has known since Monday he'd be making the jump. And truth be told, the writing has been on the wall for a bit longer than that.
Neal was in consideration for a promotion several weeks ago, after the Cowboys released Damontre' Moore – but the Cowboys ultimately decided to go with the heftier Richard Ash, who can play nose tackle.
When Price's season was ended by a knee injury against Kansas City, the decision seemed like a no-brainer.
"He's one of those guys on your team when you bring in and you don't necessarily know a lot about him as a coach when you sign him as a free agent," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "But you really let his work speak for itself and he's one of those guys who's earned his stripes along the way."
The Cowboys saw that play out first-hand over the course of training camp. Neal signed in Dallas undrafted after tallying 15 total sacks in his final two seasons at LSU. If the size limitations kept him off the draft board, they certainly didn't keep him from showing up on tape from the all-important under-tackle position.
"There's only one thing I can control and that's how I play," Neal said. "So that's one thing I always try to control, is what I do on the field."
He might not have made the active roster in September, but it was a strong enough performance to land him on the practice squad – ahead of draft picks like Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell, for that matter.
Now, 10 weeks into the season, he has the chance to take the next step – further proving the mantra that helped him get to this point.
"Just keep fighting and good things will come out in the end if you keep doing your job and doing it well," he said.