Updated: Oct 11, 2018
The Phase 3 for NFL’s OTAs (organized team activities) began last month with the majority of the Dallas Cowboys roster present and ready for practice. Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett held a press conference Tuesday, May 22, during day two of the OTA, where he fielded questions covering many team and league concerns including the players who will step up with the departures of Jason Witten and Dez Bryant.
“Yeah, we’ve got a lot of guys on our team. On the defensive side, Sean Lee is one of those guys, DeMarcus Lawrence is one of those guys, Tyrone Crawford, Jeff Heath,” Jason Garrett said. “I’m hesitant to go on, because there are a lot of guys you’re going to leave out in this. Offensively, the guys up front do an incredible job. Dak Prescott’s a natural leader, Ezekiel Elliott. You know, I can keep going.
“They all have different personalities, like you suggested, but they all lead in their own way and having a passion for the game is really line one. Those guys bring it every day, and we’re excited to see them step into the void when you have a couple veteran guys like Witten and Dez not being here. Those guys are excited about stepping into the void and leading this football team.”
This is one of the youngest and most talented rosters Dallas has seen in the last couple of decades. Despite receiving some criticism for draft choices, such as Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th overall pick in the first round, the Cowboys have also received much praise for their offseason decision making. One of those particularly exciting decisions was drafting University of Texas offensive lineman and Coppell-native, Connor Williams, in the second round with the 50th overall pick.
With growing pressure to perform up front offensively, the Cowboys’ need for a solid offensive lineman brought Williams’ dreams of playing for his home city alive. Given the size, skillset, and career accolades he possesses, it’s easy to see why Dallas’ fans are excited about the addition.
“It’s definitely exciting to be home,” Connor Williams said. “Being able to grow up in the city, I understand what the star represents, the expectations that come along with it, and how humble you have to be to be able to walk in the building, and go to work every day.”
The Cowboys’ offensive line has been widely considered one of the league’s best for the last three years. Upon drafting Williams, Jerry Jones explained how some of the struggles last season, such as Dallas’ loss to Atlanta, pushed the team’s decision to prioritize building more depth along the offensive line, a unit amongst the league’s best when healthy.
“That has influenced our coaching staff, and that has influenced really this selection. We don’t want to have that happen [again]. That took a lot of air out of us up there. Connor Williams and what we’ve done in free agency that’s addressing some of the things there,” Jones said. “The Connor Williams pick was a real classic here. We decided to frankly cure what happened in Atlanta as best we could.”
Williams started all four years at Coppell High School, eventually earning himself second-team 6A All-State and All-District selections playing both ways during his senior year. Williams impressed by giving up only one holding penalty and one sack on the season, while racking up 38 tackles, three sacks, and five forced fumbles.
Williams went on to play his college ball at the University of Texas (UT) on scholarship. After starting 22 out of his first 24 games at left tackle and receiving awards such as Freshman All-American, All-Big 12 honorable-mention, and Consensus All-American. Williams became the fourth sophomore in university history to receive first-team All-American honors. Williams’ college career was cut short upon injuring his left knee three games into his junior season.
Williams returned for the last two games of the season, before deciding to skip his senior year to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
Since the draft, there has been growing talk pertaining to his serious starting potential and the positive impact he could have for Dallas this season. In the time leading up until then, he has a chance to solidify his spot on the starting line and establish himself as a young leader on the team.
“None of that matters,” Williams said. “It’s just about earning the guys’ respect in the locker room and earning the respect of the guys on the o-line.”
The OTA excitement attracted an appearance from boxing phenom, Errol Spence Jr., the current International Boxing Federation welterweight title holder.
“It’s pretty dope, man, seeing their first practice, seeing the players running,” Spence said. “My dad was a big Cowboys fan, so I grew up watching the Cowboys since I was able to walk.”