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Noah Igbinoghene ready for NFL reset: 'I need this'


FRISCO, Texas — Sometimes all it takes is opening a window to realize exactly how stale the air inside of your living room has truly become. This could very well be the situation with Noah Igbinoghene (pronounced "ig-bih-nah-guh-knee"), a former first-round cornerback who arrives to the Dallas Cowboys by way of a trade that sent former second-round pick Kelvin Joseph to South Florida.

Igbinoghene, 23, is a former track athlete (100-meter dash) who not only has the speed to compete at the NFL level, but who also equates his time doing field events (long jump) with the mental aspect of being on an island as a cornerback.

It's a mindset that helped make the Trussville, Alabama native a standout at Auburn, having given up his days as both track [and field] and as a soccer player to pursue football full-time — culminating in a call from the Dolphins as the 30th-overall selection in 2020.

After a rough first three seasons as a pro, Igbinoghene looks renewed mentally following his arrival in the Cowboys' locker room. 

"Definitely," he said. "I feel like I honestly needed it. I can say my career hasn't gone up to my expectations, but I'm still young. I'm 23 years old. When I came in, I was 20 years old. There's a lot of stuff I went through, but it made me the man I am today. I get a new, fresh start with a new opportunity and new, fresh faces. 

"I get to gain my respect again on a new team and show them what I can do."

And, as far as pedigree goes, Igbinoghene's parents were both Olympic athletes in track and field, lending to his abilities and skill set. 

With his role yet to be determined in Dallas, taking the practice field for the first time only 24 hours ago, the expectation is Igbinoghene will step in as a rotational CB5 who plays a large part in how John "Bones" Fassel executes the team's special teams plan.

One of the more willing tacklers you'll see, he is champing at the bit to contribute on special teams, defense and in any other way the Cowboys ask him to.

In viewing how Dan Quinn schemes the defensive unit, he sees a strong opportunity for his Auburn swagger to be regained. 

"[Dan Quinn] would let out my game," explained Igbinoghene. "When I first moved to college, it was more of a man system — press corner, man system. They do a lot of that here. I get to really go back to what I was doing. … Sometimes you'd play off [in Miami] and you could press as well but, now, [I'm in] a really aggressive defense that I get to really show what I can do when it comes to that aspect of the game."

He exits a cornerbacks room that starred Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey, though he didn't get to spend much time with the latter this offseason, and enters one headlined by Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore, but also DaRon Bland and a now-healthy Jourdan Lewis. 

That's a lot of firepower for him to both learn from and potentially contribute to — he and rookie sixth-round pick Eric Scott. 

"I relate it to when I got drafted — it was Byron Jones and Xavien Howard," said Igbinoghene. "With Diggs and Gilmore, guys who have experience in this league and played at a high level, I get to learn [from] and [be groomed by], and really develop; and steal some things from them as well. … It's a team and an amazing corner group. 

"I'm getting coached as well and whatever they need from me, I'm going to do it."

As for his trade destination being "the most popular team in the country" goes, let's just say he isn't exactly disappointed in where the Dolphins sent him. 

"It's a blessing," he said. "I'm excited to get to work and to be a part of this team. … It's an amazing opportunity to be here and play for this team. I'm hoping to thrive here. I'm going to put the work in and see how it goes. 

"… Whatever they want me to do, I'm going to do it. Whether that's special teams, defense, it doesn't matter. I'm going to do it. … I just want to help and serve this team as best I can."

It's all a part of the bigger journey for Igbinoghene.

"You know my story: I went to Miami and it didn't really go how I planned for it to go," he explained. "But God has blessed me with a new opportunity and a fresh start. I get to start over, start new, and I get to show this coaching staff and my new teammates what I can do so they can respect and trust me, more importantly, when I get on the field."

Not lacking for confidence, the hurdle now in his mental reset is simply that: to reset.

Having been effectively humbled by his experience with the Dolphins, he enters the 2023 season with the chance to prove he was worthy of a first-round pick, and with a coaching staff that has developed the aforementioned Diggs, Bland and Lewis — evidence toward believing they can help Igbinoghene take the next step in his professional football career.

He'll be a sponge in Dallas.

"I'm ready for it," he said. "The stuff that I went through in Miami, it built me, it built my character. I needed to go through that, honestly. There was a certain standard of life I was living [at Auburn] that I thought was going to transfer to the league and, obviously, it didn't. 

"There's a lot of things that, as a man, I needed to learn. I said it in the press conference in Miami: crisis really grows you. That crisis really developed the character that I needed. And now God has blessed me — I didn't even know this was going to happen two days ago. 

"But it's something that I've been praying about, and maybe I was praying about this and for this. God really blessed me and sent me over here. I feel like my past is done away with. I get to start a new future and a new present, and just be in the present versus, in Miami, I was constantly thinking about the past. I think that messed [me] up when I got into the game and I was afraid to make mistakes."

And so it goes, if Igbinoghene can contribute in any meaningful way, as both he and the Cowboys front office and coaching staff believe he can and will, it would make what is already the best rotation of cornerbacks in the league that much better.

For his part, it's not about the sky being the limit.

It's about not having any limits at all.

"The vision, the dream and the goals I have for my life and career, I feel like it can take place here with the Cowboys," he said.

With that, the young Nigerian turns the page of his NFL story to what could truly be deemed as Chapter 1 — refusing to be defined by how unsettled the prologue turned out to be.

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