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Rookie Mini Camp | 2022

Spagnola: Kicking Around Bunch Of Impressions


FRISCO, Texas – Ah, another rookie minicamp. Or as Mike McCarthy has renamed this three-day gathering of draft choices, undrafted free agents, first-year players and tryout guys to "rookie orientation camp."

So, time for some first impressions.

The Cowboys didn't waste any time with first-round pick Tyler Smith. Not only getting him signed to his contract Friday, but during some semblance of a non-padded team drill – helmets, jerseys, shorts – the offensive tackle from Tulsa was right there at left guard.

"Day One, wanted to get his feet underneath him," said offensive line coach Joe Philbin. "He looked quick today."

McCarthy said, "You can see the twitch."

Could also see how big the first of four fifth-round picks Matt Waletzko is. The 6-8, 312-pound offensive tackle towers above all the rest while in a group setting. And he lined up first at left tackle, the Cowboys projecting him initially as the top swing tackle candidate.

Speaking of huge. Man, this Damone Clark is a big man for a linebacker. Says the third of four fifth-round picks is 6-2, 239. And to think he ran a 4.57-second 40 at the Scouting Combine. Once fully healthy following rehab from neck vertebra-fusion surgery, this guy has MLB written all over him. Middle Linebacker.

As could be expected, knowing he's about to dish out millions to sign these nine draft choices, along with the undrafted free agents, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones strolled out to watch the Friday proceedings here at The Star, to be followed by another practice session on Saturday.

Even Ezekiel Elliott stopped in for a look-see, and by all accounts from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and McCarthy, the guy who managed to still rush for 1,022 yards despite playing through a sprained posterior cruciate knee ligament is full-go.

Oh boy, while you can read Sam Williams is 6-4, 261, but runs a ridiculous 4.46 in the 40, man, does this guy look the part of a pass-rushing defensive end. And to think, he's just 23 years old, so no hyperbole when McCarthy said, "I think we'd all agree, Sam Williams was born to play football."

No kidding, and as for Sam, who once thought he was a basketball player before discovering football – said he tore up Ole Miss intramurals when COVID interrupted football – the guy is pretty pragmatic, saying of basketball, "I play it, but football is my profession," and for obvious reasons at first glance.

And as for this knock about an inability to play the run, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn would beg to differ, pointing out they played a lot of techniques at Ole Miss, but that "I evaluate him at what we would ask him to do – what would he do here."

See some Micah Parsons pass-rush potential here, but as a pure defensive end.

Then there is another guy who looks the part: wide receiver Jalen Tolbert. Looks good at 6-1, 194. Runs well. Gets open, at least in these non-contact drills. Catches effortlessly. Sounds good. And says he patterns himself after Julio Jones, Davante Adams and "actually watched CeeDee."

"One of the things he made a big point of during our initial conversation – you know he's pretty young, didn't play a lot of football," McCarthy said, knowing he didn't start in high school until his senior season. "These were his words. 'I don't know how high my ceiling is, but I think it's going to be pretty darn high.'"

Oh, and this tight end, Jake Ferguson, no pads remember, but at 6-5, 245, he just might be the perfect complement to Dalton Schultz. Moves well. Appears to have the physique to block at the second tight end spot in a two-tight end formation.

And … finally, after writing about him Wednesday in _Mick Shots_, met Mr. TrackMan, kicker Simon Mathiesen, the guy here on a tryout basis. Didn't get to watch him kick, the Cowboys did that indoors at Ford Center before coming outside for the minicamp practice. Says he hit the ball well, making 20 of his 21 kicks, warmups and 12 scripted kicks, saying one of his kicks would have been good from 60.

Remember, after kicking four seasons at Northwest Missouri State, the Division II school winning three national championships during his four years, he began working for TrackMan – a Danish company initially developing ball flight radar tracking in golf for TV broadcasts, having known the owner – the Danish-raised soccer player helping to develop and sell the football technology portion of the company four or five months after graduation.

So Mathiesen put his kicking career way back on the back burner. But he'd still dabble in kicking three or four times a week while helping to advance TrackMan into football and then testing out the system setups.

"And now I have a much better understanding of what I'm doing," he says from using the radar tracking system. "I know what I do when I hit the ball well, and when I don't hit the ball well, I know what I did."

Even though he had been a highly successful kicker at Northwest Missouri State, the NFL never came calling. Not even a tryout. But since he last kicked in the 2016 season national championship game, Friday was his first time to kick under the watchful eye of an NFL team.

As he termed it, this was his "first official tryout," pointing out though, "I'm older now and more prepared."

As luck would have it, Cowboys pro scout Henry Sroka hooked him up with the workout. And Mathiesen didn't just come for the tryout. He brought along his TrackMan equipment NBC has been using for _Sunday Night Football_ broadcasts and for the first time in this past season's Super Bowl in Los Angeles.

"I've known the Cowboys for a while. They've been interested and now they need a kicker," Mathiesen said.

Even displayed his iPad illustrating the TrackMan results from his kicks on Friday, with another round to come on Saturday.

Hey, who knows?

As of today, the Cowboys aren't even close to being sure who will be handling kicks come 7:20 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at AT&T Stadium in the season opener against Tampa Bay … again. Currently, officially on the roster are first-year kicker Chris Naggar, with one field goal of NFL experience this past season with Cleveland, and now undrafted free-agent Jonathan Garibay from Texas Tech, where after junior college kicked in only three games his junior year and the entirety this past season at Tech.

Maybe Mathiesen joins the fray.

And if not, maybe he sells the Cowboys a TrackMan radar technology system.

All this, too, without witnessing any of the kicks, making a huge impression on me.

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