FRISCO, Texas – T.J. Vasher was born to be an athlete.
Some people are gifted from an early age with athletic ability. It is apparent from the time they first begin competing in athletics that they are different than everyone else on the field or court.
What separates those with talent and those with the ability to harness it is strictly in between the ears.
One quick look into Vasher's athletic career and there is no question the athletic ability jumps out at you. The nephew of former NFL Pro Bowl cornerback Nathan Vasher and an accomplished athlete in his own right at S.H. Rider High School in Wichita Falls, sports ran through Vasher's veins from the very beginning.
"I think it was obvious I was going to be an athlete," Vasher said. "My dad was athlete and so were my uncles. So just naturally I was wanting to do it."
But like anything else in sports, even for those with the best of athletic ability, nothing came with complete ease for Vasher.
"Football I think came naturally, very natural, but basketball was something I think at the beginning I maybe struggled with a little bit," Vasher said. "But I'm such a persistent person it ended up being something that I was actually pretty good at, and a lot of people probably expected that I was going to play basketball coming out of high school. But football was it for me."
After racking up over 2,500 yards and 150 receptions to go with 29 touchdowns, including a monster 1,000-yard senior season with nine touchdowns, Vasher was ranked as the nation's No. 58 overall recruit and No. 51 recruit in Texas by 247Sports, making him one of the most sought-after prospects in the country.
Despite having multiple Division I offers from the likes of Ohio State, Texas, Texas A&M, and countless others, Vasher chose to head west to Lubbock and continue his football career at Texas Tech while also receiving offers to play Division I basketball.
From there, Vasher went on to make just one appearance for the Red Raiders in 2016 during his freshman year, making two catches against Stephen F. Austin before missing the remainder of the year with injury.
However, during his redshirt freshman season during 2017 Vasher exploded for 545 yards and six touchdowns. In turn, he followed up during his sophomore campaign with 687 yards and seven touchdowns.
By the end of his time in Lubbock, Vasher had moved into the Top 10 for all-time touchdown receptions with 21, tying him for ninth with notable Red Raider alum and Super Bowl champion Wes Welker.
Vasher elected to forego his senior year at Tech, instead opting to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft where he was ranked on PFF's Big Board at No. 305. After going undrafted, the Cowboys signed the local two-sport star as a UDFA before missing his entire rookie campaign.
For a guy that was used to dominating in not just one sport, but in two sports, missing his entire first season due to an injury and subsequently being placed on the injured reserve list proved to be a challenge for Vasher.
Now, it is all about getting acclimated and adjusted to his first normal NFL season. Luckily for him, Dallas has plenty of need for the second-year player with Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson gone, while Michael Gallup, James Washington and Jalen Tolbert recover from injury.
"I am just trying to get back to being comfortable back in the swing of being with the guys," Vasher said. "Last year I was here but wasn't just necessarily in everything with everyone else. So this year, especially right now, just getting in the groove, make sure I'm up to speed with the rest of the guys and just getting back to feeling normal."
Much like Simi Fehoko, Vasher has quickly dialed in on ensuring he gets to know his teammates on and off the field to build those relationships that could prove to be invaluable down the line. While the repetition and chemistry on the field is crucial, so is the chemistry in the locker room.
"You have a lot of guys hanging out with you," Vasher said. "But there's something different about the things that you do here that build a lot of that stuff that you're going to go out and perform with. I think the relationship building off the field is of course always important. But the detail and going through the day-to-day with the rest of the guys I think is bigger."
Vasher is not in unfamiliar territory, though. Players like Dontario Drummond, Jarquarii Robinson, Ty Fryfogle and Dennis Houston are all either in their first and second year in the NFL. All of them are competing to prove that they can be valuable assets for a Cowboys team that may need them during the early portion of the schedule.
"Of course, I would love to be in and out the huddle with the guys and dialing up plays and scoring systems," Vasher said. "I think that's why any of us want to do what we do but honestly, I would like to contribute in whatever way possible. I love football to the truest extent. So, any way that I can get out there and play and strap my stuff up and be with my teammates."
So, while racking up numerous accolades and offers during his decorated high school and collegiate career, Vasher still finds himself fighting to make his name on the biggest stage with the biggest brand in the NFL.
Two-sport athletes with immense talent don't grow on trees. But those that can overcome adversity and still possess the grit and determination to succeed are rare.
That is what Vasher and the Cowboys are banking on this season.