FRISCO - Even with one game still to play during this month, rookie Leighton Vander Esch has already wrapped up a prestigious, and rather rare defensive honor.
The Cowboys’ ball-hawking linebacker has been named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month for his four games in November.
Vander Esch becomes the first Cowboys player since DeMarcus Ware in 2005 to win this defensive award, and just the third overall, joining Dexter Coakley (1997).
In November, Vander Esch had four of his best games of his young career - each totaling double-digit tackle numbers.
After recording 12 tackles on Monday Night Football against Tennessee, Vander Esch registered a Cowboys-rookie record 19 tackles in a road win over the Eagles. The rookie earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for that game, which also included his first career interception.
The next week in Atlanta, Vander Esch picked off another pass, deflected away a ball at the goal line to save a touchdown and racked up 12 more tackles.
And then last week, he had 11 tackles in the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day win over Washington.
With five games to play, Vander Esch has a team-high 119 tackles, closing in on the Cowboys’ single-season records for rookies. Currently, he trails only Dexter Coakley (136) and Roy Williams (127).
Vander Esch also needs one more interception to tie Lee Roy Jordan (1963) for most picks by a Cowboys rookie linebacker.
Vander Esch becomes just the seventh Cowboys player at any position to win a Rookie of the Month award.
In 2016, both Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott both won in consecutive months. DeMarco Murray (2011) and Julius Jones (2004) also have won the award on offense, joining Ware and Coakley on the defensive side.