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Offseason | 2024

Liufau has ability to 'be one of them Ones' for Dallas


FRISCO, Texas — As the calendar flips to the end of mandatory minicamp for the Dallas Cowboys, rookie additions like linebacker Marist Liufau have now complete their first-ever offseason programs at the NFL level, and up next comes their first major test: training camp.

That won't get underway until late July though, but Liufau spoke from minicamp about how things have gone thus far for him under defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

"It's been going smooth[ly] for me," said the rookie third-round pick and former Notre Dame standout. " … Really just adjusting to things."

Those adjustments involve a lot of moving pieces for young men entering the realm of professional football, and especially in joining the most visible team in the league and the one that carries the highest expectations from both within and outside of the building.

For now, it's all about shrinking it to a series of tasks to prevent being overwhelmed.

"I'd say the biggest adjustment is learning how to be a pro," said Liufau. "Just learning how to be a pro and, obviously, it's a new environment — everything's different. So [it's about] creating your new routine. As you get here, as a rookie, find a routine that works for you."

The Hawaiian-born linebacker drew the Cowboys' interest this spring for not only his ability to impact games physically, but also mentally with his exceptional football IQ.

He's going to lean heavily on the latter to help facilitate the former going forward.

"[I'm] learning my playbook," he said. "The faster I can create my routine, the faster I can get used to things and get going, and the more confident I'll feel about my contributions on the field — whether it's on special teams or defense."

His work ethic in both meetings and practice have quickly caught the eye of coaches and players alike, as third-year talent and former fourth-round pick Damone Clark pointed out after minicamp practice this week.

"He's a sponge," Clark said of Liufau. "He asks a lot of questions. He goes out there and does everything 110 percent. He gives his all on every play, and the sky's the limit for him. Marist is going to be one of them Ones."

That's precisely what the Cowboys want to hear, and see, as the 2024 season barrels toward them over the next several weeks.

The decision to grab Liufau in April followed the signing of former First-Team All-Pro linebacker Eric Kendricks in free agency — the two being looked upon, alongside the return of another former third-round pick (2023) in DeMarvion Overshown — to help Clark upgrade and rebuild a unit that was in dire straits last season.

They're off to a fast start thus far, chemistry included.

"Eric Kendricks and Damone Clark, they've been big mentors for me," said Liufau. "Our room is pretty close."

Now comes a test of his self-motivation away from the Cowboys, seeing as the team is entering its annual downtime that will stretch a little more than six weeks between the end of minicamp and the departure for Oxnard on July 22.

And how exactly will Liufau manage that time away?

"First of all, stay in shape," he said. "I'll be training back home in Hawaii. I have things set up for that. And making sure that, everyday, I'm doing something to get better. It doesn't have to be physical.

"It could just be looking at the playbook, but I wanna do something everyday to get better in some way, shape or form."

Smart plan from a smart young man.

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