* (Editor's Note: Dan Turner, a journalist from England, has come across the pond for the second straight training camp, to get a closer look at America's Team. Throughout camp, Dan (@dtsturner) will provide some insight on several rookies, continuing today with undrafted receiver Lucky Whitehead.)*
With his red-tipped dreadlocks, and the explosive plays he brings to offense and special teams, Lucky Whitehead is one of the most noticeable and talked about Cowboys rookies of this year, despite not even being drafted.
Whitehead has firmly entrenched himself as a fan favorite already. Before training camp started, most had him in the lead to take the fifth wide receiver spot on the roster, ahead of bigger draft names such as George Farmer, Antwan Goodley, and Deontay Greenberry, as well as veterans such as Reggie Dunn and AJ Jenkins.
The greatest compliment I can give to Lucky is how comfortable he looks out here. Not just as a player, but his body language and general demeanour make him look more like one of the experienced veterans out here rather than a rookie. He doesn't back away from challenges, bringing the same confidence to facing Orlando Scandrick in one-on-ones, as he does to interviewing, or even appearing on Talkin' Cowboys on Thursday.
On the field, Lucky seems to play without fear. If he's thrown the ball across the middle, he isn't afraid to make the catch and accept the subsequent spine-crunching hit from whichever safety or linebacker can get to him first. Then he'll bounce back up, run that same route again, and accept the same punishment. Bravery is perhaps the most underrated characteristic for NFL players in general, and Lucky has it in abundance.
Whitehead's biggest issue is one that he can't control, and that's size. At only 5'9", he will likely be limited to a slot receiver and special teams roles in the NFL. You need to find ways to get him open, because if he can't, he isn't a guy who you can force the ball to. His size means that he struggles to beat defenders at catch point, whether by outmuscling or going up to get it. Cole Beasley has overcome this issue by his superhuman ability of constantly getting open, and Whitehead should really try to hang on Beasley's coattails as a guy to model his game on.
As someone competing for the fifth receiver spot though, it's special teams where Lucky will need to excel. He's been given chances at kick returner, punt returner, and gunner throughout camp, and this should extend into preseason. It's hard to fully judge how good he's been here at that when the coaches are trying to limit contact on special teams as much as possible, but the enthusiasm he brings to the unit might be what gets him on the final 53 man roster.
Whitehead already looks like a steal from the undrafted world, so I guess you could say, the Cowboys got Lucky.
I was able to speak to the ex-Florida Atlantic Owl after practice this week.
On being given the number 13 with the name 'Lucky':
"It was just in my locker when I got there. We had a chance to change our numbers, but there was no point. A lot of reporters think I just have that sense of humour so that's fun, and I enjoy it."
On his most memorable moment since joining the Cowboys:
"When I first went in with Tony (Romo), and it was a new install, and they gave me a bubble route. That was when I first felt, this is real. You gotta pick up fast because they can just throw you in with the first team."
Off-the-field responsibilities as a rookie, and whether rookies are treated differently to veterans:
"No, as a rookie, they (the veterans) just expect you to come out here and know your stuff. Every time you come out on the field, in practice or a walkthrough, you put your work in and come back. As a rookie when you come out on the field, they just expect you to know what you're doing."
On his daily routine away from the field:
"Playbook. Constantly learning, because you never know when your number is gonna get called. As a rookie, when it does get called, you gotta know what you're doing. I'm constantly in the playbook, in the playbook, in the playbook, just learning constantly."