IRVINE, Calif. – Dak Prescott's Hail Mary ball sailed some 50 yards across the practice field and into the end zone.
"I told myself, 'I've got to go get it,'" Dennis Houston said.
The rookie Cowboys wide receiver was explaining his walk-off touchdown catch at the end of Thursday's joint practice against the LA Chargers, but he easily could've been referencing his push for a roster spot.
The Cowboys have been shorthanded at wide receiver for most of training camp, but Thursday's practice presented yet another challenge at the position.
Or opportunity, depending on how you view it.
CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown have been the top two receivers in camp with Michael Gallup still rehabbing from February knee surgery and James Washington recently undergoing surgery for a foot fracture. On Thursday, Lamb missed a second straight practice with a minor foot injury, and Brown joined him on the sidelines with what's also considered a minor toe issue.
That meant the most experienced receiver at practice was Simi Fehoko, last year's fifth-round draft pick who played all of seven offensive snaps as a rookie.
Challenge? That's not how quarterback Dak Prescott views it.
"Nothing but opportunity, honestly," he said after practice.
Houston, an undrafted rookie out of Western Illinois, seized it Thursday. He has impressed coaches, Prescott and other teammates with his consistency and attention to detail. That's a big reason he's gotten a large amount of first-team reps in camp.
"We all need to chip in and help Dak, whatever situation it is," Houston said moments after his touchdown grab.
That's been the approach for all the young receivers on the roster: Houston, Fehoko (who scored the Cowboys' only touchdown in the preseason opener at Denver), third-round draft pick Jalen Tolbert, ex-USFL star KaVonte Turpin and first-year wideouts Brandon Smith and T.J. Vasher.
The Cowboys' front office has resisted signing a veteran receiver this early in preseason. Time, they believe, is on their side. Lamb is expected back next week. Brown shouldn't be sidelined long. It's possible that Gallup and Washington both return sometime in the first month of the regular season.
In the meantime, the injuries present a valuable evaluation period for the club.
For that reason, Prescott says the current situation doesn't frustrate him, either.
"This is exactly about that time to work and make other guys step up, take advantage of their opportunity," he said. "Who knows, hopefully not, but there may be times that those guys aren't available and we've got to know what we're working with. Those guys have got to know what I expect of them and how they expect me to throw the ball. So that's all good things to be worked on."
"I talked about it Monday, just those guys being able to step into an opportunity, make some plays, do something maybe that they haven't done and not turn back and leave a good taste in their mouth leaving this practice."
Next up: another opportunity for the young guys in Saturday's preseason game against the Chargers.