The most important part of each season may be the daily practice grind in July and August, when a team is truly built. As a countdown to this year's training camp, we celebrate the 53rd year of Cowboys football by constructing the team's all-time 53-man roster, picking one player for each season.
Not so much the 53 best players in club history, DallasCowboys.com has constructed the ultimate team, filling out the depth chart and making room for contributors at every position, including special teams, while at the same time looking ahead to how this year's 53-man roster might shake out.
The series continues today with 2009 and wide receiver Miles Austin
Name: Miles Austin
Position: Wide receiver
Height/Weight: 6-2 / 215
Cowboys Tenure: 2006-present
Why Him? Every team needs young receivers, especially ones that flash some promise and playmaking ability. That's why the Cowboys kept Austin on the team in 2006 as an undrafted rookie and it's one of the reasons he continued to stay on the roster for the next three years – the Cowboys were simply waiting for him to bust out. He finally did in 2009, on one cold afternoon in Kansas City when he replaced an injured Roy Williams in the lineup. A club-record 250 receiving yards and a game-winning touchdown in overtime later, Austin had arrived as one of the NFL's most dangerous receivers. Austin exploded in 2009 with 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns, which tied him for the NFL lead that season. Austin made his first Pro Bowl in 2009 and returned to the game in 2010 after a 1,041-yard receiving season with seven more touchdowns. Last season, Austin missed six games with two separate hamstring injuries, but still managed 43 catches for 579 yards and seven touchdowns, including three in a wild win in San Francisco.
The Role: Austin is the fifth and final wide receiver on this Ultimate 53 man roster, but he's probably the second-fastest on the team, next to former Olympic gold medalist "Bullet" Bob Hayes. That kind of speed is important for any team and one of the reasons the Cowboys coveted Austin for so long into his career. Austin will be the No. 5 receiver, but also a backup kickoff returner as well. Austin has the only postseason kickoff return for a touchdown in Cowboys history, which occurred his rookie season in 2006 against Seattle.
Back To The Future: It seems like every time a rookie free agent is mentioned, references to both Austin and Tony Romo are used. And why not? They are the extreme when it comes to success stories from out of nowhere. Every undrafted receiver with the Cowboys is trying to become the next Austin, and for this team there are several candidates standing in the line, including Raymond Radway, a speedster from tiny Abilene Christian. Radway was set to make the team last year before an unfortunate broken leg injury on the final snap of the preseason caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. Now Radway is fighting his way back. Not only is a he a raw receiver trying to learn the position, but now must overcome last year's injury as well. While Austin didn't have to overcome a season-ending injury, his journey from small-school project to the NFL is one Radway is trying to duplicate.