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Offseason | 2024

Willie Harvey Jr. opens up about joining Cowboys 


FRISCO, Texas — It's been an offseason wherein the Dallas Cowboys have invested a lot of resources in upgrading their corps of linebackers on the heels of an injury-riddled 2023 season that, in the end, cost former Pro Bowler Leighton Vander Esch his NFL career; and the recent addition of Willie Harvey, Jr. is more evidence of their efforts in that area.

Harvey, 28, lands with the Cowboys by way of the St. Louis Battlehawks of the UFL. His workout with the team not long ago went well, leading to a deal being agreed to and signed, and he recently spoke with 105.3 FM the Fan to explain his decision.

"They run a similar defense and I want the transition to be easy," said Harvey. "I got along well with the guys, the coaches, and I have some camaraderie with special teams [coordinator John "Bones" Fassel] and it was an easy decision."

And what exactly is his interpretation of what Mike Zimmer's defense will look like?

"It's a linebacker-driven defense — keeping the linebackers free to make plays," said Harvey.

Harvey is a former undrafted free agent out of Iowa State that joined the Cleveland Browns in 2019 and spent the entirety of his rookie contract in Ohio before heading to the spring league in 2023.

This marks his second chance at making a first impression on the NFL, and he's taking lessons learned from his past into the present to increase the chances of a brighter future in the league.

"I'm honest with myself," he said. "And I know I probably didn't work as hard as I should have and put in the work. Getting a second chance in the spring league I was like, 'Hey, I have another chance to perfect my craft at linebacker, and to get smarter, get faster and get stronger. That's kind of what I did in my first year and I felt like that wasn't enough, so I went back and did it again."

That he did, finishing the 2023 season with the Battlehawks as the league-leader in tackles and being named to the All-UFL Team as well.

And getting a call from the Cowboys is also fortuitous for Harvey in that he's been in the DFW area for quite some time now, so when the Frisco area code showed up on his and his agent's phone, he couldn't help but smile from ear to ear.

"Man, it was truly a blessing," he said. "Even with the XFL and USFL being here, I never had to move. I've always been at home, so getting the opportunity to play for [the Cowboys] was a no-brainer."

He'll now have to prove himself in training camp, but his experience gives him an edge that some of the younger linebackers in the room simply do not have. Harvey will be looked upon to both compete and to mentor those like Damone Clark, DeMarvion Overshown and rookie third-round pick Marist Liufau — not unlike Eric Kendricks, though Kendricks is already penciled in as a starter.

If Harvey wants a shot at taking the field, it'll begin with special teams and his defensive reps will be earned by making plays in Oxnard, effective late July.

The talent is definitely there, though.

And, as it explained, now so is the work ethic.

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