CANTON, Ohio – George Selvie has had two run-ins with Emmitt Smith in the past month – one of them assuredly more memorable than the other.
The first meeting came at a banquet in Pensacola, Fla. -- the hometown of both Selvie and Smith – while the fourth-year defensive end was unsigned and waiting on work.
The second came Sunday night on the field of Fawcett Stadium, with the eyes of the football world watching.
"I saw him on the field, and he was like 'They called you?' I was like 'Yeah,'" Selvie said. "So he was like, 'Man, you've got to go out there and do your thing.'"
It's safe to say Selvie did just that.
In true preseason football fashion, Selvie -- the guy the Cowboys signed off the street to help replace injured defensive end Tyrone Crawford – shined during Sunday night's win against Miami.
The fourth-year journeyman mauled the Dolphins' offense to the tune of four tackles, two sacks and three quarterback hurries. In a game that featured just about every Cowboys reserve, Selvie stole the show from the team's sitting starters.
"It's great to get out on the field and show your talent, so that's what I did. I just went out there and played and had fun," he said.
It's the type of story meant for the headlines. Just two short weeks ago, Selvie was at home in Florida waiting for a phone call after being released by Jacksonville in May. The Cowboys called him right after Crawford went down with a torn ACL on Sunday, and he was practicing by Wednesday.
"It's gone real fast. Getting the call at six o'clock in the morning, flying out to California, and getting there it was like, 'Ok, nice to meet you – we're going to need you to practice at 4 o'clock,'" Selvie said. "I'm like 'Uh, alright.' But I'm just grateful for the opportunity; I thank God every day for the opportunity."
To say he's making the most of that opportunity seems like an understatement at this point. Selvie did enough in his two weeks of practice to merit first-team practice reps in place of injured starter Anthony Spencer, and his performance against the Dolphins speaks for itself.
"He's a good football player, he's a hungry football player. He works very hard in practice, and you saw him show up again in the game tonight," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "It didn't surprise us that he was going to do that based on the way he's been practicing."
That production came against plenty of different personnel types, as well. Selvie registered a sack and a hurry against primary Dolphins' quarterback Matt Moor before halftime. He carried that into the third quarter as he blew past the Dolphins reserves for a sack of third-string quarterback Pat Devlin.
"It always helps to go out there and get sacks," he said. "As a defensive end, that's what they want you to do. So you know it always helps the cause."
It was a chance Selvie admitted he was unsure he'd get. As an All-American in college at South Florida, he fell to the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He compiled 21 tackles as a rookie and has 42 stops in his three-year career.
"He's done a nice job – really from the first practice that he was with us. You can tell he's played a lot in this league," Garrett said.
But Selvie couldn't catch on in St. Louis, Carolina or Jacksonville. When the Jaguars parted ways with him in May, Selvie waited almost three months for his return to action.
"You try not to think about it, but in the back of your mind you're like, 'Man, people are in OTA's, people are about to start camp,' and I'm sitting at home still working out, playing with my son," he said. "But I finally got that call, and when I got the call I was ready. That's all about being prepared."
Of course, as a veteran player, Selvie is prepared for the next part – maintaining it. The Cowboys return to practice Tuesday, and there's another game Friday. It would be wise to keep making plays as the team prepares to cut its roster nearly in half in the next few weeks.
Even as he basked in his big night, Selvie sounded like a man who knew the secret to earning a roster spot.
"Going out there, playing hard, making plays," he said. "It's a producing league. You produce, that's the way you stay in."