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Timeout For A Smile

tackles and finish with nine from linebacker. Now, along with James and Ryan Fowler, is the only other true inside linebacker on the team, and forced the club to eat the $1 million signing bonus given to Rocky Boiman. 

Come on now, not making this stuff up. 

Then there's Lousaka Polite. OK, you know him. He was on the team last year after spending the majority of the 2004 season on the practice squad. But he was a fullback, and when the head coach says you're running a two-tight end, one-back offense, the fullback becomes extinct. So Polite had to learn the H-back position. He had to learn the one-back plays just in case Parcells wanted to power up the middle with a 246-pounder in short-yardage situations. Lou, as Parcells likes to call him, did, forcing himself onto this roster a second year. 

To a certain extent, you can smile, too, over that eight-year veteran defensive end, Greg Ellis, seemingly making the transition to outside linebacker. Now he hasn't played a down of linebacker in a real game, but he's going to be the starter on the left side at Jacksonville. You know, no one took fifth-round pick Pat Watkins too seriously as someone who could start at free safety as a rookie. Yeah, well, the 6-5 safety from Florida State might get the last laugh, since Parcells didn't commit on Monday to a starting free safety. And same goes for seventh-round draft choice Pat McQuistan, who played all of two years of college ball, and at no more than Weber State, but finds himself as Adams' main backup. 

Now Shaun Suisham comes with an asterisk. If not for Vanderjagt's ongoing groin problems preventing him from kicking off - and possibly kicking field goals accurately - he wouldn't be here. But you know what, the 24-year-old kicker from Bowling Green, by way of Wallaceburg, Ontario - Can the Cowboys not get a specialist on this team born in the U.S.? - was a hit kicking off this preseason. Of his 16 kickoffs, three were touchbacks, five were run out of the end zone and five more landed inside the five. Depending on the toss, the season just might begin off his toe. 

And finally, there is Jamaica Rector. You know, the 5-10, 186-pound receiver from tiny Celeste, Texas. Practice squad guy last year. Too small. Northwest Missouri State. Undrafted. Just a camp guy with a big smile. Yeah, right. Try 20 preseason catches for 245 yards to lead the team. Try capable of returning punts. Try fast enough to back up Terry Glenn. Try fourth receiver on this team and going to the game on Sunday. Try as the Cowboys might have wanted to keep fourth-round pick Skyler Green, Rector wouldn't let them. Didn't need to be Big Bill to see this one coming. 

So here you are, the Monday of the season opener, and the Cowboys have six rookie or first-year free agents on the 53-man roster, pushing the number to 16 total guys who never were drafted. All guys with a story of humble beginnings. 

For as Austin appropriately said Monday, "This is a big step where I came from." 

"Big" does stepping over the Grand Canyon no justice. 

But funny thing about the playing field. It gives no quarter to where you came from or how you got there. Only performance counts. 

Enjoy these Papales of 2006 today. Good stuff. 

Back to reality tomorrow.               

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