Considering that he didn't even have a job when training camp began two months ago in Oxnard, Calif., George Selvie has come a long way in a short period of time. And, the Cowboys couldn't be happier.
Signed as a free agent three days after camp started, the fourth-year defensive end out of the University of South Florida picked up the Dallas defense quickly and enjoyed a stellar preseason, earning a roster spot.
In fact, with Anthony Spencer out due to injury, Selvie got the start at left end in the season opener on Sept. 8 and had an immediate impact in the Cowboys' 36-31 victory over the Giants. In addition to sacking Eli Manning late in the first quarter on a second-and-goal play that pushed them back from the 1-yard line to the 11 and helped limit New York to just a field goal, Selvie recovered a fumble and added another tackle.
He's been a starter ever since.
It's all part of the process for a guy who was forced into action in the Hall of Fame Game, a 24-20 win over Miami, on Aug. 4 after just 10 days with the organization. He caught the attention of the Cowboys coaching staff with an outstanding effort that night, generating two sacks and three quarterback pressures.
After getting an unwelcome glimpse of life outside of football, Selvie was determined to make the most of his chance with Dallas.
"I came right in, they threw me right in there, but I was grateful for that, that somebody gave me an opportunity," he said. "So I went out there and tried to make the most of it."
Following a year and a half in Jacksonville, Selvie signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay on April 2, but less than two weeks after the draft, on May 6, he was released. He then had to endure being unemployed for the next two-plus months, waiting for the phone to ring while players around the league were participating in offseason workouts.
"That was tough for me because I decided to go play there, that's where I played college ball, but it didn't work out," Selvie says of being let go by Tampa Bay. "They drafted some younger players. So I continued to work out, continued to try to brush up, continued to try to work on some of the defensive line stuff with what I had, just trying to keep in shape, and I finally got my opportunity."
It was particularly difficult when training camps opened around the NFL and Selvie was still sitting at home.
"I was talking to my mom like, 'People are going back this week and I've heard nothing.' She was like, 'Just keep the faith.' And that's what I did," says Selvie, who compiled 15 tackles and one sack in 15 games of limited action last season with the Jaguars. "I just kept working out, thinking, 'I'm not going to try to be a step behind, even though not going through OTAs I'm going to be a little behind, but I'm going to try to not be so behind.' And that's what I did."
When he finally did get the call from Dallas, his previous experience in a 4-3 defense enabled him to assimilate swiftly into new coordinator Monte Kiffin's scheme.
"I've been in similar defenses to this one, so it was just learning the different terminologies and stuff," says Selvie. "This is a great defensive scheme. You're attacking, you're getting out there with a little bit of movement, but it's mostly getting after the quarterback and applying pressure."
"George has done a nice job. You can tell he's played a lot of football," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett says. "He made a really positive impression right from the start, played really well in the game in Canton against Miami, was around the ball a lot. He has played a lot of football in his life, and you can see that he's a real pro. His approach every day is really good."
The 6-4, 270-pound Selvie actually began his football career playing on both the offensive and defensive lines for Pine Forest High School in Pensacola, Fla. He even continued to see some action on offense prior to his first year at South Florida, but eventually settled in at defensive end.
"I was always the bigger kid, the chubby kid, so I always had to play offensive line. I never got a chance to be that running back," laughs Selvie, a two-time first-team All-America at USF. "I always played offensive line, but I got to college and Coach Dunleavy is like, 'Hey, we need some defensive linemen; I feel like you've got it.' I worked at it and I had some great coaches to help me along the way. Coming to defensive line, I just had to work very hard."
Once he focused on one spot, Selvie thrived at South Florida, setting Bulls records for sacks in a season (14.5 in 2007 as a sophomore) and career sacks (39), while helping the Bulls to four consecutive years of at least eight wins. He recalls his college days quite fondly and is proud of helping establish a football tradition at the Tampa school.
"I had a great time at South Florida," Selvie says. "When I went there, nobody knew who we were, so as that time went on, we got better and better and it grew as a school, the fan base grew. It was a great time. You got schools with history. I had a chance to be a part of history at South Florida. They haven't been too good lately, but I think they're going to do great this year."
After he was chosen by St. Louis in the seventh round of the 2010 draft (226th overall), Selvie enjoyed a solid rookie year, registering 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks. But surprisingly, the Rams cut him at the conclusion of the next season's training camp.
He was almost immediately claimed by Carolina and played four games with the Panthers before he was released again. This time he was picked up by Jacksonville, spending the final seven games of the 2011 campaign and all of last year with the Jaguars.
Selvie's experience adjusting to new situations contributed to the value he has since brought to the Cowboys, as Garrett indicates that even after Spencer returns, Selvie will still be a part of the defensive line mix.
"Those guys who are rotational-type players, versatility and flexibility is important," Garrett says. "If we're going to keep this guy in and replace that guy, you rotate him in on the other side – you try to put guys in ideal spots. But if you're a backup guy, your versatility and position flex is important, particularly where you're rotating guys. Being able to play different spots as a defensive lineman is important."
And even though he's been in the NFL for four years, Selvie is still eager to learn, especially when one of the best pass-rushers in league history, DeMarcus Ware, is lining up a few yards away on the opposite end.
"It's been great. D-Ware's a great teacher, he holds nothing back," Selvie says. "Sometimes you get guys that are on their pedestal, they may teach you a few things, but he gets very involved. He helps everyone out. Having a vet like that who's willing to teach you his moves, teach you what you need to do better is a huge help. And he'll even take some pointers from you, too. It's great to have a guy like that. That's what he loves to do, play football, and he wants you to love it and play it at the same level as him."
Ware himself has been impressed with how smoothly Selvie has integrated himself into the Cowboys' defensive game plan.
"We call him the brick layer," Ware says. "He comes in and it's a brick at a time, being effective. He's built a pretty nice little house over there at left end."
The Cowboys are happy with Selvie's handiwork, and he's just as glad to have the opportunity to contribute.
"Just go out there and help the team, try to make plays," he says of his mindset. "That's it."