Respectful Of Rich Running Back History, Elliott's Embracing Expectations

IRVING, Texas – A week after visiting Valley Ranch for the first time as a Dallas Cowboy, Ezekiel Elliott spent part of the noon hour Friday surrounded by cameras on the first day of rookie minicamp.

"Something I've got to get used to," the Cowboys' fourth overall draft pick said in front of the locker he's sharing with undrafted rookie cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon.

Elliott faced a bright spotlight for three years on an Ohio State team that won a national championship in his sophomore season. Now, on his first day of NFL practice, the 20-year-old running back now represents the world's most visible sports franchise.

"I understand what's expected of me," he said. "I understand the lineage of the running back position for the Dallas Cowboys. I'm ready to attack this playbook, attack the field and hold up to the expectations."

The expectations couldn't be higher.

Drafted No. 4 overall eight days ago, Elliott became the earliest draft selection made by the Cowboys since defensive lineman Russell Maryland went No. 1 in 1991. The franchise has drafted only three other running backs in the first round since 1977. Two of them, Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith, have Ring of Honor plaques at AT&T Stadium and Pro Football Hall of Fame busts in Canton, Ohio.

Elliott will wear No. 21. A reporter asked him Friday if No. 22, worn by Smith during his storied career as the league's all-time leading rusher, was ever a consideration.

The answer: Never.

"I think that's just something you don't do," Elliott said. "That's a guy who worked so hard and accomplished so much in this organization it would've been kind of disrespectful just to try to wear his number."

It's only fair for Elliott to find his own path, his own identity. The Cowboys will give him every opportunity.

They see him as a dynamic addition on offense with a complete skill set – running, catching, blocking – that allows him to play all three downs. They think he's talented enough to help the offense and the defense by controlling the pace of the game.

He's not alone at the running back position. The Cowboys have three accomplished veterans – Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris and Lance Dunbar – all with the ability to make plays behind an offensive line featuring three Pro Bowlers. But it's safe to say Elliott should get plenty of touches on offense.

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He's looking forward to learning from the veterans. This particular weekend, he and the other rookies are easing into the Cowboys' program at the three-day rookie minicamp. The biggest transition, he said, will be receiving play calls from the sideline after running a no-huddle offense at Ohio State.

And, of course, an even brighter spotlight than one of the nation's premier college programs.

"There's pressure, but we're athletes," he said. "That's what we play for. That's why we play the game. Pressure is what we want and I feel like I thrive in those situations when there is a lot of pressure on me.

"Yeah, there's pressure. Am I afraid of it? No. I'm just ready to prove myself."

Take a look at a few images from Friday workouts with the 2016 rookies. 

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