The Cowboys took former Baylor basketball player Rico Gathers in the sixth round of last year’s draft even though he hadn’t played football in college, or even in high school. And even though Gathers never got on the field as a rookie, they think that gamble is going to pay off.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says a year on the practice squad did Gathers a world of good, and he now appears to be ready to play tight end in the NFL.
“You think about where he was, coming from last year,” Garrett said, via the Star-Telegram. “He hadn’t played football since junior high, and he had done a really good job working out, trying to understand and get better at the fundamentals of the game away from here, but once he got here, it’s a different story. He came to work every day, and you saw him get better. He’s a very different player in all ways. He’s grown up in a lot of different ways that will help him become a better player this year.”
Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan loved what he saw of Gathers at the team’s first minicamp practice.
“It’s night and day for [Gathers] in a good way from last year,” Linehan said. “When you know what you’re doing and you’ve got your body in football shape, it’s amazing what you can do, and that’s the biggest difference from where he was a year ago until now.”
Gathers and linebacker Jaylon Smith are two Cowboys 2016 draft picks who didn’t play at all as rookies but could be in for big years in 2017. Dallas already has two big hits from the 2016 draft in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. If Smith and Gathers are able to live up to their promise, that Cowboys 2016 draft class could be legendary.