CANTON, Ohio – Rico Gathers last scored a touchdown in his eighth grade championship game. Four of them. In the first half.
He got one in Thursday night's Hall of Fame Game, by far the most playing time he's received since dropping football and pursuing basketball in high school and college.
In the first quarter, the Cowboys' power-forward-turned-tight-end grabbed a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kellen Moore like he was scooping a rebound off the glass for Baylor University.
"It's what you've got to do when you're working with a basketball player," the 6-foot-6 Gathers said after the team's 20-18 preseason win over the Arizona Cardinals. "Put it up high where nobody else but him can get it."
Gathers finished with three catches for 59 yards. He said he learned Tuesday that he would start with veterans Jason Witten, James Hanna and Geoff Swaim being held out.
"(Coach Jason Garrett) told me to just go out there and play fast, and don't think as much," he said. "I was really just focused on the next play. If something went bad, just focus on the next play. With that mindset it just helped me play fast, make plays when necessary."
A seventh-round pick last year, Gathers played sparingly in preseason and spent his first year on the practice squad, clearly in developmental mode after a decade away from the game.
Thursday, he estimated that he played 57 snaps – two to three times his entire preseason workload last summer.
"That was another big confidence builder, just getting in my mind that I can do this," he said.