ARLINGTON, Texas – It was nearly nine months ago to the day that Michael Gallup tore his ACL in Week 17 last season against the Arizona Cardinals. Gallup went up for a touchdown in the endzone at AT&T, and never returned to the field.
But the long winding road back finally reached its' final destination on Sunday in the Cowboys' 25-10 win over the Commanders, where Gallup returned to action ... and returned to the end zone as well, catching the first touchdown of the game.
"I've been envisioning it," Gallup said. "Ever since I got hurt it's like, 'When I come back, I need to make a statement.' That means I've actually done the work. It's a good feeling."
There were good feelings all around for Gallup, starting before the opening kick was ever made by Washington. The receiver was showered with cheers when his name was announced during pregame introductions.
"That's definitely something that everybody wants when you come into a team," Gallup said. "You just want to be loved out there and make sure you give that back. So, for me going out there and doing what I'm supposed to do and giving back, I appreciate all of our fans."
Give back, he did indeed. Gallup stepped up when the Cowboys looked like they were back on their heels as the first half winded down. After a stale quarter and a half from the offense with just two field goals, the Commanders drove down to take the lead on a Jahan Dotson 10-yard touchdown.
Then, Gallup and Cooper Rush went to work.
On 3rd and 8 inside their own territory, Rush worked to find Gallup for a 15-yard completion to get the Cowboys to midfield, his first catch since last season. A handful of plays later the two got together again.
Rush escaped pressure and moved to his right, again on third down. Gallup moved along with him at the back of the endzone, making himself available for the 9-yard touchdown as the first half ended.
"It finally happened," Gallup said of the touchdown. "I've been saying it for eight months now and when I come back that's what I'm trying to do, get in the end zone."
When asked if he could have imagined a better return than a touchdown, Gallup gave the best answer of the day.
"No. I could've gotten two."
Rush and Gallup had never started a game together during their time together in Dallas before Sunday. In Rush's only start last season in Minnesota, Gallup was not available to play due to injury.
But the two appeared to have chemistry today in just a small sample size, and Gallup spoke highly of the first quarterback in franchise history to win each of his first four starts.
"[Cooper] does what he's supposed to do, and he's been that way ever since I've known him," Gallup said. "It's come in and do your job. That's what he tells us in all of our team meetings."
While he might've only had just two catches for 24 yards on only three targets, Gallup did nab the touchdown of course. But more importantly than that, he did the one thing the Cowboys have been missing in his absence: the ability to stretch the field.
The caveat in today's game? He did it by drawing penalties. Multiple times Gallup was able to lure Commanders' defensive backs into committing pass interference and extend drives, an uncanny trait for one to possess.
"You can either hold me or I'm going to catch it," Gallup said. "I enjoy it, putting ourselves in a better field position. Let's everybody else score and do what they're supposed to do."
With Gallup now back in the fold and CeeDee Lamb beginning to get hot after recording six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, the Cowboys' receiving corps is beginning to round into form.
"He went for 97 [yards]" Gallup said of Lamb. "Should have gone for 130 [yards], but now somebody's going to get doubled. Somebody else is going to catch the ball, it is what it is. We know that."