ORLANDO - The Pro Bowl is anything but attack-mode, and Leighton Vander Esch is certainly enjoying himself this week in Orlando.
The rookie linebacker isn't just having fun running around during these very light walk-throughs, but he keeps running into some of his biggest idols and role models.
Not only is he playing alongside Seattle's Bobby Wagner, one of his favorite players growing up, but Vander Esch also got to meet one of the NFC Hall of Fame captains in Brian Urlacher, a player LVE has been compared to often since being drafted.
"I got talk to talk to him to him (Wednesday) night. It's cool having him out here, talking about plays and everything," Vander Esch said of Urlacher. "He is another great guy. So the amount of resources that you have around yourself that you have looked to since you were a little kid here. It's amazing."
And while Vander Esch also called it an honor to replace Carolina's Luke Kuechly in the Pro Bowl this year, making it to this game is a spot he always thought he would be.
"It's a pretty crazy journey huh. I don't know if I expected it to come this fast," Vander Esch said. "I always expected myself to be in the shoes that I am now. One way or another, I knew I was going to get here. I wasn't going to let anybody tell me that I couldn't do it. I have been battling my entire life proving people wrong. You know how people are. They are negative in life. They don't want to see you succeed. There are some that do. But there are a whole bunch of people against you. So you got to take that to heart. If you have a goal you are not going to let anybody tell you you can't do it."
Vander Esch is most certainly doing it, becoming one of just three defensive rookies in Cowboys history to make the Pro Bowl. He was also named a second-team All-Pro linebacker from The Associated Press after recording 176 tackles in 2018, a Cowboys' rookie record.
This week, is all about having some fun for Vander Esch, but he's not exactly over the playoff loss to the Rams, especially considering the way Los Angeles ran through the defense for 273 yards.
What happened in that game? Vander Esch said the Cowboys didn't respond the way they should've when the Rams started having success.
"I feel like we had the right energy the entire week. But we have to be in attack mode the whole time," Vander Esch said. "I feel like we got back on our heels a little bit in that game. We got to settle in. We are a young team. (But) we've got experience now. We can't use that as an excuse."
Vander Esch, just the third defensive rookie in Cowboys history to make the Pro Bowl, said he plans to be in attack-mode all season in 2019.
"We have to stay in the fight every single play," Vander Esch said. "We've got to keep battling, hold ourselves accountable and go out there and get it done. No excuses."
And for sure, Vander Esch plans to have continue his no-excuses, no-nonsense attitude into next year.
But don't expect that to start until next week.