New TE Took An Unconventional Road To The NFL

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Editor’s Note: With training camp just around the corner, let’s get to know 30 Cowboys players – from rookies to established veterans – who are new to the current 90-man roster. Today we continue the series with first-year tight end Codey McElroy.)

How He Got Here: How much time you got? Here’s the Cliffs Notes version: He played three years of baseball in college, got drafted by the Atlanta Braves, played two years in the minor leagues, retired, went back to Oklahoma State to graduate and play basketball. Then came football. “I went to go get another degree at another school (Southeastern Oklahoma State) and was on campus and didn’t have anything to do,” he said. “I was in intro classes that semester. So I decided to play football.” Now, a little like fellow Cowboys tight end Rico Gathers, the 26-year-old McElroy is learning the intricacies of the position without a lot of time on task: nine games at Southeastern Oklahoma in 2017. The Rams signed him last year and took him to training camp as an undrafted rookie. The Cowboys signed him this past March as a free agent.

Bet You Didn’t Know: McElroy started his baseball career in high school (Chattanooga, Okla.) because it didn’t have enough students to field a football team.

Quotable: “His experience and the challenge of coming to this level, it’s a different learning curve than the other guys have right now. It’s a measure, day-to-day progress, the focus on every day getting better. He’s a phenomenal athlete. He’s got great desire. He’s studied hard and working hard at it. He doesn’t have the background to draw off of. He’s a big athletic guy who can run and catch. We’re working on the whole blocking thing, that’s something he hasn’t done a lot of. But I love the way he’s dialed into it and he’s worked hard every day.” – Cowboys tight ends coach Doug Nussmeier

Bryan Broaddus’ Take: If there was a category for the best athlete on the squad, Codey McElroy might take that award home with him. He is in a similar spot as Rico Gathers when he was first drafted several years ago. McElroy hasn’t played much football in his career, so he’s behind the others in the tight end group -- including Gathers. Because of this, he doesn’t get many opportunities during practice to get actual snaps. When he does get those reps, he’s generally a tick late reacting off the ball. It’s the same situation that we noticed from Gathers. The body is willing but the mind isn’t quite sure at this point. He works hard, and as mentioned the athletic ability is there. I would consider him a long shot as a practice squad player, and he will have to improve a great deal in his overall game to even get to that point.

Role/Roster Chances: As the only eligible tight end at the Cowboys’ rookie minicamp in May, McElroy got one-on-one instruction from Nussmeier during the jog-through practice sessions. That’s exactly what he needs as a developmental player, but in training camp he’ll be competing with the four veteran tight ends on the roster. Three return from last season (Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz and Rico Gathers) and Jason Witten is back from a one-year retirement. It’s obviously an uphill climb for McElroy, but the focus will be day-to-day growth given the amount of football he’s missed.

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