Ask Leighton Vander Esch about his improbable path from eight-man high school football to first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys Malik Jefferson Jersey , and the rookie linebacker is quick with a retort of never being fazed by brighter lights or bigger cities.
Ask the former Boise State walk-on what he does to relax, and Vander Esch stares silently as his smile grows.
"Uh," he said Friday, the first day of rookie minicamp. "I don't even know."
Maybe that helps explain his rise to Mountain West Conference defensive player of the year and his showing at the combine and other workouts that stood out to new Dallas linebackers coach Ben Bloom. The Cowboys drafted Vander Esch 19th overall two weeks ago.
"It's kind of hard for me to relax, honestly," said Vander Esch, who signed an $11.8 million, four-year deal later Friday. "At this point, expectations are so high there's no time to relax. There's no days off. You've just got to keep trucking away."
Linebacker was one of the primary needs for Dallas going into the draft because of Sean Lee's history of injuries, Jaylon Smith's continuing recovery from a serious college knee injury and Anthony Hitchens' departure in free agency.
The Cowboys hadn't drafted a linebacker in the first round since Bobby Carpenter 12 years ago in almost the same spot (18th). Carpenter didn't get a second contract, leaving Dallas after four years in a career that ended after seven seasons. He never had more than 37 tackles.
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is already talking rotation with Lee, Smith and Vander Esch for two spots. If Lee stays healthy LeSean McCoy Jersey , that's more likely to mean shared time between Vander Esch and Smith, a second-round pick in 2016.
Smith didn't play as a rookie while recovering from the devastating injury during his final game at Notre Dame and was inconsistent last season, particularly early in the year when he was playing more than expected after Hitchens injured a knee in the preseason.
"We're going to play the best guys," Bloom said. "Everybody linebacker in the room has the ability to play at least two positions. We'll get the best guys on the field and they'll be asked to have multiple positions."
Lee's best fit is weakside linebacker, but he's missed at least one game because of injury in seven of his eight seasons. The only exception was his All-Pro year in 2016.
Vander Esch considers himself a middle linebacker and flatly denied a report from before the draft that a neck injury sustained at Boise had prompted some NFL teams to downgrade him on draft boards. Regardless, the Cowboys weren't one of those teams.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones likes to compare Vander Esch to Rolando McClain, a first-round flameout in Oakland who had the best year of his career in 2014 in helping the Cowboys to just their second playoff win since their last Super Bowl title following the 1995 season.
Size would be a good place to start with that connection. McClain was 6-foot-4, same as Vander Esch, with an almost identical listed weight. The rookie is listed at 256.
"There's always pressure to perform," Vander Esch said. "Obviously this is the biggest level now so there's even more of it. You've just got to relax yourself and go out and do what you do."
After helping Salmon River High School in Riggins, Idaho, to a pair of state titles Jerry Hughes Jersey , Vander Esch walked on at Boise, about 150 miles south of his hometown. After a redshirt year, he progressed fast enough to bypass his senior season and enter the draft.
"You've got to be able to adapt quick no matter what," Vander Esch said. "You've got to able to take on anything and not worry about it, not stress yourself out, not get all flustered with it."
With his focus so much on football, Vander Esch didn't mind getting flustered over a question about what he does for fun.
NOTES: DT Maliek Collins is likely out until training camp after breaking a bone in his left foot Thursday during offseason workouts at the team's practice facility. He is expected to have his second surgery on that foot since January. The first procedure was for a stress reaction that bothered him last season, although he didn't miss any games. ... WR Terrance Williams, who broke a bone in his right foot in January, has been working on the side with trainers. Coach Jason Garrett said his recovery is on schedule, which likely means a return at training camp.
鈥?The NFL is heading to a new destination in London, and the first match-up at English Premier League club Tottenham will be the Oakland Raiders against the Seattle Seahawks in October.That’s if the 60 Da'Shawn Hand Jersey ,000-plus capacity stadium, which has been designed to accommodate soccer and NFL, is completed in time for Week 6.While Tottenham is sure that building work is on schedule on the White Hart Lane site where its previous stadium was demolished last year, the NFL has contingency plans to move the Oct. 14 game to Wembley Stadium.The home of the England national soccer team is where the NFL will be staging another two games after Raiders-Seahawks match-up, giving London three consecutive weeks of American football for the first time.The Philadelphia Eagles will play the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Tennessee Titans will take on the Los Angeles Chargers. The NFL is yet to decide which game will be on Oct. 21 in Week 7 and which slots into Week 8 on Oct. 28.“It’s a great learning for us, it’s another test for us,” Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president of international, said Thursday at the site of Tottenham’s new stadium. “If we were ever to put a franchise in the UK we would need to know we can do three consecutive weekends.”The NFL had planned to stage two games in the 2018 season at Tottenham, which was runner-up in the Premier League last season. But Tottenham, which is using Wembley as its own temporary home this season Telvin Smith Jersey , doesn’t want the burden of two NFL fixtures when it is still settling into its new, unnamed stadium.“We have created something very unique,” Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said at the announcement of fixtures. “We still have another six or seven months of really hard work of construction.”Tottenham has signed a 10-year contract for games with the NFL.“We very much hope there will be a franchise in London and we would very much like this stadium to be used for that club,” Levy said. “We haven’t assumed there is going to be a franchise. It’s very much our desire.”The new stadium was designed with NFL-sized changing rooms and to ensure the grass soccer pitch can be retracted and kept under lights below the stands when the artificial surface is required for NFL.Waller said they “don’t want to alienate” fans of Tottenham’s rivals by being so closely associated with one Premier League team.“We will need to get that right,” Waller said. “But we are also playing at Wembley so there will be plenty of other opportunities for fans to go elsewhere as well. It also puts an onus on us to ensure we are thoughtful about how we manage all our relationships.”By the end of the year, 29 of the NFL’s 32 franchises will have played in London since regular-season games were first played in the British capital in 2007.“When we played the first game here we had no idea if we were ever coming back,” Waller said..