FRISCO, Texas — When Brandon Aubrey stepped in front of the cameras on Saturday night after cementing his spot as the starting kicker, you could feel the sense of relief in his presence.
A 59-yard miss in the first half was quickly shaken off and followed up with a make from the same distance in the fourth quarter, giving him the opportunity to board the flight to New York in week one.
If you're not familiar with Aubrey's journey, it's a story that documentaries get made about, books get written about.
Initially a first-round pick in the Major League Soccer Draft in 2017 out of Notre Dame, Aubrey's professional soccer career phased out rather quickly in just two years. Years later, he decided to pick up placekicking and earned an opportunity to kick in the USFL for the Birmingham Stallions. After two seasons in the semi-pro league in which he proved to be reliable from short and long range, the Cowboys gave him an opportunity in training camp to win the starting job, and he did just that.
After that moment was realized on Saturday night, Aubrey gave an inspiring quote on how he got through his journey.
"Just stick with it and believe in yourself," Aubrey said. "Every end is the start of a new beginning."
With cut day having come and gone, a new season on the horizon and new faces walking in the building, that quote rings true in a lot of places right now.
Over 30 players saw Tuesday be their last day in the building as the preseason officially comes to a close and the regular season rears around the corner. Of note, Jabril Cox's departure comes as a bit of a surprise as well as Sean McKeon's exit – not to mention the trading of Kelvin Joseph. Even though they are three players who will almost certainly see a new beginning, the end coming at this point sees that reality becoming a necessity.
Another necessity is the cutting of quarterback Will Grier, who despite having a preseason performance for the ages, will most likely see himself heading to a new destination in the next 24 hours. With the addition of Trey Lance (more on him in a second), Grier's writing was on the wall going into Saturday, but with the caveat of having one last opportunity to write the end of his story in Dallas.
The conclusion to that story left fans anticipating the sequel wherever that may be for the 28-year-old gunslinger out of West Virginia.
"I think my play speaks for itself for what I can do on the field," Grier said about his message to the other 31 teams. "I'm a team-first guy, and I'd say to them to ask the people around me."
With the next step in that story still pending, its ending in Dallas welcomed in a new beginning for former No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance.
Lance is coming off an ending in San Francisco that wasn't the kindest to him: pressure to perform, adversity with injury and failing to win either of the top two slots on the quarterback depth chart. When Lance learned the news that his time as a 49er was most likely coming to an end, it took some time to take in.
"I'm kinda really trying to move on, but it definitely took some time," Lance said on Tuesday. "That conversation obviously wasn't something I wanted to hear, but that's the reality of the situation. Nothing but respect and gratitude for everyone there."
Now, Lance arrives in a situation where the pressure has evaporated and time is back on his side. At just 23, he can focus on his development with coaches and front office personnel that will give him the time and patience to do that. In fact, it's probably encouraged with Dak Prescott still moving around just fine.
Lance's new beginning has given him clarity, and you can sense it in his emotions around the facility and within the team, even if he's been a Cowboy for just under four days.
"Very excited to be here, very excited to continue to get to know the guys, the coaching staff," he said. "This fresh start feels great."
A fresh start works well in a lot of ways. You could say the freshest start happened right back in San Francisco on Jan. 22 when the Cowboys' season ended in a playoff loss. For the team, it was a reason to reload and come back stronger in 2023.
Seven months later, acquisitions for Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore stand tall, steps forward from Rico Dowdle and Jalen Tolbert ring excitement, and the somehow improved defense looks ready to wreak generational havoc – at least for this franchise.
It all led to what sits in front of this team in just 12 days: a chance to do it again and to do it right.
For Dak Prescott, it's an opportunity to write his own narrative and to quiet those who say his story has already ended.
"Damn sure excited," Prescott said. "I'm ready to kick this thing off the right way. A lot of excitement, a lot of anticipation. We got a great team that's going into New York."
A great team, indeed. But can it be a conquering team? A Super Bowl team? The end will tell.