LOS ANGELES – Two preseason games. Two touchdowns.
Rico Gathers seems to be getting the hang of this football thing again.
Gathers had a team-high four catches in Saturday's 13-10 loss to the L.A. Rams, including a 25-yard touchdown – his second of the preseason – that tied the score late in the third quarter.
It was an encouraging encore to Gathers' eye-opening preseason opener nine days earlier against the Arizona Cardinals. He had three catches for 59 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown from Kellen Moore, in nearly 60 snaps – by far the most work he's gotten in a game since the Cowboys drafted him in the seventh round in 2016.
"Rico is someone who's demonstrated the ability to run routes and catch the football. It's good to see him do that in game action," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said after Saturday's game at the L.A. Coliseum. "That's something that Rico does fairly well naturally and he's improving on his ability to run routes and get away from people in addition to the way that he catches the ball. He's working on the other parts of his game as well. The game experience that he's got is really, really valuable."
Gathers isn't a basketball player anymore. He's a tight end. And although he admits he's not a finished product, he's clearly making strides in his first extensive game snaps since eighth grade, when he gave up football for a decade.
"The biggest thing coming off the last game was to finish plays," Gathers said. "Even if I might've felt like I was out of position with a block, the biggest thing for me was to finish plays."
He did that with four minutes left in the third quarter, when he hustled to scoop up a fumble by teammate Brian Brown that kept the drive going at the Rams' 27-yard line.
Two plays later, rookie quarterback Cooper Rush found Gathers in the end zone for the score.
"We talked about it before the game and we already knew if that play came up, what to look for," Gathers said. "My job was to get open and his job was just to put it up there."
Sort of like an alley-oop to the former Baylor power forward. Or simply grabbing a basketball off the glass.
"It's my ball," he said. "It's like a rebound."[embeddedad0]
What's next in Gathers' development? "The little things," he says his coaches tell him, including becoming a more consistent blocker in the running game.
"The flash plays, they stand out," he said. "But it's all about the little things. The little things is what is going to make you elite."