IRVING, Texas – Will Allen hasn't abandoned the rookie who may one day soon be playing ahead of him.
J.J. Wilcox took some reps this week with the first-team defense at Allen's spot, but the veteran has still been there for the rookie safety the entire way and helped prepare him for life in the NFL despite the competition.
"Probably been the best mentor I've had, just playing football, period," Wilcox said. "Coming in, he took me right under his wings, no hesitation. Anything I need, advice off the field and on the field, he's there for me. He's one of the first people I call when I need something."
Allen's been the starter at safety opposite Barry Church the first two weeks, but it's possible Wilcox starts working in as well, if practice this week is any indication. Wilcox said he can't even explain how much it's meant to him that Allen's still there for him.
"He's just a great and wonderful person," Wilcox said. "I'm blessed to have somebody like Will around me 24/7 to take what he has taught me. I take it on and off the field. It's great to have a person like that." [embedded_ad]
Wilcox has stayed quiet regarding whether or not he thought he'd receive more playing time or potentially start at safety this weekend. He got in six plays defensively against the Giants, but played only on special teams last week.
With more reps this week with the starting group at safety, it seems the Cowboys are preparing Wilcox for a heavier load defensively.
"It's what you dream of, so when you get a chance to finally do it, you have to be ready," Wilcox said. "It's a dream come true, a small-town kid, a small-town school, coming to the big lights and the big show. This is what you look for and dream for."
It took a little bit of time for Wilcox to get back in the mix after missing time during training camp when he went to be with family after his mother passed away. He said when a player misses just a day or two from football, it can feel like he's weeks behind. He feels like he's just now getting back into the groove of the game, and he thanks defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin for helping him along during and after practice.
Head coach Jason Garrett said it was obviously a very unfortunate circumstance Wilcox had to go through during training camp, but the safety's done everything he's been asked since coming back. Garrett said Allen was the player who won the safety competition during camp and gave the team the best chance to win, but he noted that Wilcox has developed as the weeks went on.
Now, Wilcox is working in with the starters. Garrett said the rookie safety is fast, plays well in space, can tackle and has a good sense for the ball.
"He's done a nice job," Garrett said. "He's gotten better and better over the course of training camp and the early part of the season. He's a good football player. Will Allen's done a lot of good things for us as well. So we're just trying to get those guys ready to play."
Wilcox said it meant a lot that his mother got to see him make it to the NFL, and now he wants to make her happy and proud. Garrett didn't reveal which players would start at safety this weekend, but if it is Wilcox, he may get to perform in front of his father, who's expected to attend his second game this year after going to the opener.
"He's got to take care of the little sister now, so he's got to be mom and dad back home," Wilcox said. "They're doing good. That's my inspiration, for real."