Category Archives: Wholesale Cowboys Jerseys

Kai Forbath Jersey

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ARLINGTON, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – It appears the Dallas Cowboys have found their kicker as they continue their playoff push.

Newly signed Kai Forbath made is debut for the Cowboys on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams after the team let go of struggling kicker Brett Maher.

And it was a perfect debut.

Forbath was 3-3 on field goals — two from 42 and one from 50 yards. He also made all five extra points as the Cowboys blew out the Rams at AT&T Stadium, 44-21.

His one blunder of the game came on his first kickoff when he kicked the ball out of bounds, giving the Rams great field position.

It was a welcome sight for fans as they saw the previous kicker, Maher, become inconsistent throughout an already topsy-turvy season. In his last two games, Maher was 1-4 on his field goal attempts.

The Cowboys will look to keep a consistent kicking game as they head to Philadelphia with playoff hopes on the line.

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The Buffalo Bills on April 25 selected former Cougars defensive tackle Ed Oliver with the No. 9 selection, marking the end of two years of no first-round picks for UH.

Houston may not have to wait much longer to produce another premier NFL talent.

Senior left tackle Josh Jones’ collegiate career is over. Now, it’s time for him to spend months preparing for 2020’s iteration of the NFL Draft, held in Las Vegas. His chances of making it in the first are good.

Jones measures in as a fringe first-round pick and likely second-rounder, according to NFL Draft experts NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein and CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso. Both see him elevating his stock if he has a good Senior Bowl performance in late January.

“He has the size, length, starting experience, production and athleticism of most prospects at his position who ultimately go in one of those first two rounds,” Trapasso said in a Twitter message.

At 6 feet 7 inches and 310 pounds, he has foundational NFL size at an important position.

“He needs to add more strength to his frame, but he’s got long arms, he’s a good athlete and he has really shown a great deal of improvement with his technique in pass protection as the season has progressed,” Zierlein said in a Twitter message. “He’s better in pass protection than he is a run blocker right now, but that’s okay because that’s what gets you drafted earliest – taking care of the quarterback.”

Both Zierlein and Trapasso agree that Jones is a stout pass protector. That correlates with their comparisons, as Zierlein sees him similar to Chicago Bears starter Bobby Massie while Trapasso has him as a fusion between All-Pro Tyron Smith and Pro Bowler Mitchell Schwartz.

The draft season has yet to ramp up. While the Cougars won’t be playing football until 2020, the NFL is, and so are bowling teams. However, Jones is getting attention, as he’s earned his fair share of spots as a first-rounder in mock drafts.

The hype for Jones is there. While not a definite first-round pick in all eyes, he plays an increasingly valuable position and is strongest in its most prominent trait – pass protecting. If he has good performances at the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine and UH pro-day, Cougar nation may be looking at back-to-back first-round picks for the first time since 1972.

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BOSTON — Yardage is hiding from the Cowboys.

It can be found on a kickoff not returned decisively or a punt not placed directionally, landing too close to the center of the field. It can be found on a poor angle in kickoff or punt coverage, or a punt return that features too much dancing and not enough upfield running.

Total yards is a mainstream stat commonly broadcast on televisions and stadium scoreboards, measuring how each offense fares. Far less quantifiable is hidden yards, which exists on special teams, impacts field position and influences a game’s outcome.

For years, the New England Patriots have found the hidden yardage.

The Cowboys this season?

“Probably not good enough,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ve got to do a better job.”

This special-teams matchup at Gillette Stadium lacks the glitz of the Cowboys’ No. 1-ranked offense versus the Patriots’ No. 1-ranked defense. Few will be glued to their televisions to see how the Cowboys’ young fliers stack up against the Patriots’ more experienced coverage duo. But special teams could be the difference Sunday.

It was last week for New England.

The Philadelphia Eagles jumped to an early 10-0 lead. Three Patriots field goals in the second quarter cut the deficit to one point at halftime, and an opening touchdown drive to start the third quarter gave the Patriots the lead.

After that, their offense mustered nada.

Six drives. Six punts. Four possessions spanned four or fewer plays for less than 10 yards.

But fortunately for New England, it had special teams. The punt team, in particular, put on a show. Philadelphia took possession inside of its own 20 after each of those six punts, including once at its own 3 and another at its own 6.

For the game, the Patriots’ Jake Bailey averaged 46 net yards per punt, earning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

New England is the only NFL team that has blocked multiple punts (two) this season. Both were returned for touchdowns. Wide receiver Matthew Slater and cornerback Justin Bethel are the fliers, or gunners, in special-teams coverage. Slater is a seven-time Pro Bowler. Bethel is a three-time selection.

Cornerback C.J. Goodwin and undrafted rookie wide receiver Ventell Bryant are the Cowboys’ fliers.

Both expressed respect for Slater and Bethel, but they look to stack up, too.

“I’ve been studying those guys since I became a special-teams guy, since this became my main job [in 2016],” Goodwin said. “I looked up to those guys as I came into the league because they were always in the Pro Bowl and whatnot. Now, they’re my peers. Now, I want to show that I’m better than them.”

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The Dallas Cowboys were were about linebacker depth headed into today’s game with the Los Angeles Rams. Veteran Sean Lee missed practice all week long dealing with both thigh and pectoral injuries.

Rookie reserve linebacker Luke Gifford left in the first quarter. Leighton Vander Esch was ruled out and hasn’t played in weeks. Now Joe Thomas has limped off the field with the help of trainers.

The Cowboys will have to rely on Justin March, who has played just five defensive snaps all season and was blocked handily on a screen pass that went for 28 yards. It’s unclear whether or not Thomas will be able to return to the game, but as it stands, Lee and linebacker Jaylon Smith will have to play with little help.

The club also activated Chris Covington for depth this week, leaving DT Trysten Hill inactive after playing the last several weeks.

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The Dallas Cowboys added quite a few pieces to their defensive front during the offseason. Veteran’s Kerry Hyder and Christian Covington were brought in to provide a steady rotation on the defensive line and to make life easier for All-Pro DeMarcus Lawrence.

The biggest acquisition came at the end of March when the Cowboys traded for Defensive End Robert Quinn, sending a sixth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins. A former All-Pro in his own right, Quinn was set to start opposite Lawrence at right defensive end and provide the Cowboys with one of the best pass-rushing duos in the league. Unfortunately, Quinn was suspended in August for violating the NFL’s PED policy. Also, he broke a bone in his hand around the same time, making his start in Dallas a shaky one.

When Quinn made his Cowboys debut in Week 3 vs his former team he wasted very little time making his presence felt. Not only did he register a sack but he was credited with seven quarterback pressures, which already gave him the team lead in that category. Pretty impressive for a guy with limited practice time prior to the season.

This would set the tone for his entire season and he hasn’t looked back. In the seven games since his Cowboys debut, Quinn has registered at least a half-sack in every game except Week 5 vs the Green Bay Packers, including two games with multiple sacks. What’s mind-blowing to me is that his 8.5 sacks for the season are almost a third of the Cowboys 26 sacks as a team.

Quinn’s speed and leverage coming off the edge is quite impressive. Trying to block him one on one is a recipe for disaster. In fact, if any team takes this approach they might as well make funeral arrangements for their quarterback.

The benefits of having Quinn are endless. The more pressure he gets coming off the right side the easier it will make Lawrence’s job coming off the left side due to less double teams. What this also does is free up Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Michael Bennett on the interior by putting them in more one on one situations.

The “Black Cobra” as he’s called in Dallas has been the best offseason acquisition the Cowboys have made in a while. He’s on pace for 15 sacks in 14 games which would be the second-most of his career (had 19 in 2013) and his first double-digit sack season since 2014 when he was a member of the Los Angeles Rams. He’s been best pass rusher all year for the Cowboys and a true gift from above for this defensive line unit.

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When the Dallas Cowboys came on the clock toward the end of the second round in the 2019 NFL Draft, many people expected them to consider safety to be a top priority at that point. For a team that had been chasing Earl Thomas for the previous year and had several safeties in for visits, Taylor Rapp and Juan Thornhill were there for the Cowboys to draft. Instead, they opted to select Defensive Tackle Trysten Hill.

At the time, both Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard talked about the importance of building a defense from front to back. Thus the selection of Trysten Hill.

His lack of playing time and production has put the Cowboys front office under the spotlight, especially when Kansas City’s Juan Thornhill and Los Angeles’ Taylor Rapp have made significant plays for their respective teams. Just this past Sunday, both of the 2019 rookie safeties recorded interception returns for a touchdown in their teams’ wins last week.

Hill has only been active for five of the Cowboys 12 games this season. With Antwaun Woods out with an injury the last couple of weeks, Trysten Hill’s found an opportunity to play and he’s taking advantage of that opportunity at a time when the Cowboys need interior defensive line play.

In the Thanksgiving Day game against the Buffalo Bills, Hill had quite possibly his best game of the season with two total tackles, a tackle for loss, and two stops per Pro Football Focus.

From the beginning, Hill was dubbed a work in progress. He needed to work on playing with better leverage and a better base. Hill needed to play with better play strength, especially against double teams. According to Head Coach Jason Garrett, Hill has been improving and with another opportunity for playing time this week against the Chicago Bears, there’s a chance he could see further improvement to his game.

For young players, playing time is key to development. It’s one of the reasons Taco Charlton never really worked out in Dallas. There wasn’t much playing time available behind DeMarcus Lawrence and Charlton was never able to earn snaps along the rest of the defensive line. With Woods out, there are more snaps available along the defensive line and it looks as if Hill is taking advantage of the playing time.

Hill’s still looking for his first career sack, but if he continues to earn snaps, opportunities to rush the passer will come. A player with his ability to penetrate and get off the ball can’t be kept out of the backfield for long. Though it would have been nice to get something out of him each week this season, it’s nice that the Cowboys aren’t having to wait until 2020 for their second-round pick to start providing quality snaps for them.

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ARLINGTON, Texas – Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back Cowboys.

Oh, how they have been missing, reminding of that old song by the band America, and in deference to “A Horse With No Name,” as if they’ve been wandering through this NFL desert on a team with no _game._

Sitting at 6-7 after 13 games? That was not the team we saw in training camp.

A team crumbling away on a three-game losing streak? Not the team we saw winning the opening three games of the season.

A team having lost four of the past five games and seven of 10, and yet to beat anyone in the NFL with a winning record? Not even the team standing 5-3 halfway through the season.

Then out of nowhere this:

Cowboys 37, Rams 7, with 6:40 left in the fourth quarter.

Remember, it’s the Rams, dude, the team that eliminated the Cowboys from the 2018 playoffs, 30-22. The team that ran for 273 yards that day at the LA Coliseum. The defending NFC champion team – “This is the team that played in the Super Bowl last year, the Rams I’m talking about,” Cowboys owner Jerry jones emphasized – coming into AT&T Stadium before 90,436 on Sunday at 8-5, scrambling back into the NFC wild-card race on the strength of a two-game winning streak and having won three of its past four.

And the Cowboys did this to them, 44-21, giving up two touchdowns in the final b.s. moments, likely leaving the Rams with their heads swimming on the way back to Los Angeles, probably wondering, _which way did they go_ after getting run right over.

Where in the hell you guys been?

“We never left,” Maliek Collins said, dead serious. “Even though everybody else counted us out, we still here.”

Darn right they still here. Back to 7-7. Still tied for first place with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East, with what I’ve been predicting and Dak Prescott claims is a “playoff game” coming in next Sunday’s showdown at Philadelphia with the division title on the line.

Cowboys win, become the first team to win back-to-back NFC East titles since the Eagles in 2003-04. Lose, and the Cowboys will be at the mercy of the New York Football Giants. Even if they beat the Redskins in the season finale, they would need the Giants to beat the Eagles in the final game to tie them at 8-8 and win the tiebreaker on the basis of a better division record (5-1 to 4-2).

Not the precarious position you want to be in, because as we know, the NFL helps those who help themselves, and neither the Giants nor the Redskins these past two games have given the Cowboys any help whatsoever.

Like Prescott said, “It’s a playoff game. Simple as that. It’s a rival. It’s a team in the division. It’s a ‘must win’ game. We have to approach it as a playoff game and we will. Back to work tomorrow.”

So these Cowboys, are they Jekyll or are they Hyde?

Schizo or in reboot mode?

See, all this blabbering about the team has no fight, no leadership. That head coach Jason Garrett has simply fallen on his head, that the team has tuned him out. That this team isn’t motivated, thinks it is entitled. That the young offensive coordinator is no Sean McVay. All that intangible garbage.

Remember, Friday, Jason Witten told you, “Look, you can’t confuse losing with fight. You can’t confuse losing with leadership. You can’t confuse it when you win or when you lose you’re in disarray.

“You’ve got to _play_ better.”

And how these Cowboys played better. Played even better than they did in their previous best game of the season when they battered the Eagles the first time around, 37-10. Probably played their best game against the best opponent since beating the Saints 13-10 last year. Offense, defense, special teams – only the third time all season, thanks to replacement kicker Kai Forbath, they were 100 percent on multiple field-goal attempts (3-for-3), including making two from 42 yards, one more 40-49-yard field goal than Brett Maher had made in 13 games.

Biggest difference on this Sunday?

Defense, defense, defense. Finally.

Don’t need to remind you that the last time the Cowboys played the Rams, they were the ones run right over, Los Angeles piling up 273 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the playoff win. Two-seventy-three now, an opponent playoff record.

This time?

Uh, 22 yards, and seven of those came when trailing 37-7 on Todd Gurley’s touchdown run, giving him a grand total of 20 yards on 11 carries. Twenty, now. Like the Rams ran for 251 fewer yards Sunday than they did in the playoff game. Gurley ran for 95 fewer than he totaled in that playoff game.

What the what?

“We learned schematically from things we did,” said linebackers coach Ben Bloom of the playoff game. “We learned, better play, players executed.”

“We understood their high tempo,” DeMarcus Lawrence said. “We had to get set.”

Set they got. Why, the Rams had all of three yards rushing in the first half. Gurley was two for two. Seriously, while the Cowboys were finishing the game with two 100-yard rushers for just the second time this year, Ezekiel Elliott schooling the Rams vaunted defense for 117 yards and two touchdowns before handing off to rookie Tony Pollard, totaling a career-high 131 thanks to a 44-yard touchdown run.

Like, 263 yards rushing.

Like, how good was that offensive line? Rams’ all-world defensive tackle Aaron Donald had only two assisted tackles at halftime, adding just one solo in the second half. On top of that, LA had zero sacks.

And how ’bout the two “old men,” the tight end Witten turning a one-handed catch into a spinning 19-yard touchdown on third-and-10, finishing with four catches for 36 yards, and linebacker Sean Lee, who didn’t practice all week with thigh and pec injuries – all he got were the walk-through practice reps – picking off Jared Goff, then returning the ball 25 yards to the Rams’ 9, acting as if he was back in his Upper St. Clair High running back days. That was Lee’s first pick since 2017, setting up what basically was the Cowboys’ knockout touchdown, Zeke from 3 yards out giving the Cowboys a 28-7 halftime lead.

Some latter day Ponce de Leons stumbling into the Fountain of youth?

And this offense? The NFL’s No. 1 offense (yards) totaling 475. Scoring five touchdowns, matching the season-high previously established in the season opener against the Giants. Scoring a season-high 44 points, the seventh time this season the Cowboys have scored at least 31 points – all seven victories.

Then there is this, and these coaches, these guys would never use this for the lackluster performances in the previous two losses, 26-15 to Buffalo and 31-24 to Chicago:

That aforementioned reboot.

This was just a tuckered out bunch following that grueling 13-9 loss to New England in the cold, wind and constant rain in Foxborough, Mass., followed by a 1:30 a.m. arrival Monday back in Dallas, no one getting to bed probably before 3 a.m., followed by playing three days later on Thanksgiving, followed by playing the following Thursday, totaling three of four road games in a 19-day span, starting with that 35-27 win at Detroit on Nov. 17.

This looked like a drained team – physically and mentally. Coaches under fire. Star players’ hearts questioned. Whatever could go wrong did, including starting off the game with a nearly botched coin toss rectified by audio review, of all things, back in New York.

But now we find out if these Cowboys are one-week wonders or if they indeed are the team we thought they were – can be – knowing the importance of next Sunday’s game at Philadelphia.

Can they duplicate this full-team, three-prong complementary performance.

“I don’t know if it’s a sense of replicating,” Prescott said. “It’s a sense of getting better from what we did today. We can’t say that we need to go out there and have the same performance. We have to go out there and improve on this one offensively and defensively.

“We have to be even better. Those field goals have to turn into touchdowns. It’s just about putting the pedal to the metal and trying to play our best ball when it means the most.”

Then just maybe everyone will once again know their game.

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For Dallas Cowboys center Travis Frederick in 2017, not being on the field was a completely foreign concept to him. During his final two seasons at Wisconsin, and through his first five with the Dallas Cowboys, he played in 112 straight games at a very high level, making his fourth straight Pro Bowl after the completion of the 2017 NFL Season.

Everything began to change, though, as Frederick entered training camp in 2018. He began feeling tingling in his toes and numbness in his toes and back, which he originally attributed to a potential lower back injury, which often occurs due to the nature of his position on the offensive line. But when he started having trouble gripping a football in his hands, a vital skill for a center, his concern was heightened that his issue was a potential neck injury or something that could be more severe than initially anticipated.

The next few weeks were a whirlwind for Frederick, seeing specialists all over the country, who couldn’t identify what exactly was causing his body to act the way it was. The eventual diagnosis was a rare syndrome called Guillain-Barre, a rapidly on-setting weakness of the muscles brought on by one’s immune and nervous systems.

“I had never heard of [GBS]. Neither did most people, not even the doctors,” Frederick told Yahoo earlier this year. “The neurosurgeon had only seen it twice. He is one of the top neurosurgeons in the country. When you have something that rare, that’s when you know there is something going on. That is why it took a little bit for the diagnosis. It’s hard. There are a lot of things it could have been leading up to it. I give a lot of credit to our training staff. They kept on it. They kept trying to figure something out.”

In short, the body begins to attack itself and strips off the insulation on one’s nervous system which prevents the body from getting the connections it needs to function in a day-to-day setting – let alone on a football field.

For Frederick, it has been a long process, which included him missing the entire 2018 NFL season, but also left him in a perpetual state of uncertainty in a football life that is consistently dictated by routine and a clear plan for what the next day would bring. With Guillain-Barre, that routine was turned on its head as there was suddenly no diet that could improve his condition and no specialized treatments one can receive. After considerable research and medical consultations, Frederick came to the realization that the only real way to get back to 100% again was to get as much sleep as he could.

This solution led to Frederick’s contact with Sleep Number in a collaborative effort to partner and find a way to get optimize his sleep and aid in his recovery process so he could get back on the field as soon as possible. Frederick used the company’s patented “SleepIQ” system to find a sleep setting that matched his body and personal preferences. This includes automatic adjustments to a sleeper’s position, as they sleep,to optimize patterns, and snoring detection to help the sleeper adjust the bed to get out of a sub-optimal sleep position. The bed can also elevate your head and also over time determine how one sleeps best, based on heart rate and breathing patterns during sleep as well as how much tossing and turning goes on throughout the sleep cycle.

“The Sleep Number system really helped me throughout my recovery in getting optimal sleep”, Frederick told me. “Utilizing the bed’s zero-gravity position as well allowing me to customize sleep based off of what I do while I’m sleeping was a great aid in helping me recover and get back on the field this season.”

As the 2018 season ended and Travis began his preparations for the current season, there were no guarantees that he would be able to return to his previous form. He ran through numerous workouts, back-testing his strength and beginning to participate with no pads in off-season drills. As the off-season progressed, Frederick was still not clear, even in late April, as the team’s plans for the season start to clarify, after the NFL Draft. His role on the offensive line also made the decision to return to the field a lot different than for any other professional athlete. The reduction of even a split second slower reaction time or not being physically at full strength could have a very adverse effect on the quarterback he is tasked with protecting.

“Throughout this process, thinking about my position on the field affects others was a major factor in my rehab and figuring out when I could be cleared to return to the field”, Frederick told me. “Me not being 100% could have an enormous effect on others on the field and I really needed to make sure I was ready and play at the level I had been used to playing at throughout my career.”

As the NFL regular season is winding down, this unfortunate chapter in Frederick’s life has been able to find a smooth resolution. He has played in all 13 games for the Dallas Cowboys this season, as the team looks to return to the postseason this year, after making it to the Divisional Round last season. While the ordeal was a very difficult one, Frederick noted that it has made him a better player, after being able to observe the game for a prolonged period of time, and better understand the positive effects sleep can have for a professional athlete when utilized in training.

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FRISCO — Popcorn shrimp, shrimp fried rice and a salad were part of the usual order at John’s Seafood restaurant in Baton Rouge. Lahairoi Dillon occasionally placed it when visiting home as a student at nearby Southern University and A&M College.

Some of the plate, she’d eat right away. The rest, she’d plan to finish later. But upon returning to the refrigerator, that white to-go box would feel noticeably lighter than before.

Popcorn shrimp: gone.

Fried rice: gone.

“I’d leave the salad,” La’el Collins said with a laugh. “I let her have that.”

As two of five siblings raised by a resilient mother who worked multiple jobs, Lahairoi and La’el in some sense shared a typical sibling relationship. There was the occasional dust-up over food or footraces to see who sprinted faster. Far deeper than that, there was a bond. This surfaced around Thanksgiving last year when tragedy struck.

Today, La’el has much for which to be thankful.

The Cowboys’ right tackle is healthy, albeit donning a bulky brace over a left knee sprain. He is playing the best football of his NFL career following a five-year, $50 million contract extension he signed in August. Most important, he has his family.

About 30 members, including Lahairoi and her husband, are in the Dallas area this week. The majority will attend Thursday’s game against the Buffalo Bills before convening at his home for a holiday feast.

“I’m extremely grateful for everything I have,” La’el said. “Family, my two beautiful kids. … I’m thankful just to be in the place that I am right now. I’ve been through a lot in my life, the challenges that came with growing as a man. I’m thankful I finally get to see all of my family here together.”

La’el wore No. 70 at Redemptorist Upper School and also LSU before switching to No. 71 upon joining the Cowboys. Neither number represents who he is as a football player or how he’s quietly come into his own this season.

His offensive line coach has a number for that.

Fourteen.

After each win, the Cowboys’ staff selects one player to receive boxing gloves and a championship belt in honor of exemplary individual contribution to the game’s result. This is more hallowed ground than a game ball. On Oct. 20, La’el earned the hardware for his performance in a 37-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Marc Colombo, an NFL offensive lineman from 2002 to 2011, joined the Cowboys’ coaching staff in 2015.

His arrival coincided with that of La’el, who signed as an undrafted free agent. La’el was considered a first-round prospect until, shortly before the draft, Baton Rouge police announced intent to interview him as part of a murder investigation. He never was a suspect. Investigators ultimately cleared him of wrongdoing.

Under Colombo, La’el has settled in here in Dallas.

After two seasons at left guard, he switched to right tackle in 2017. He gradually gained a greater understanding of the position’s nuances. Between that comfort and improved hand usage, he’s made a significant jump this year.

So far, his performance against the Eagles was the pinnacle.

“He had 14 knockdowns in the game,” Colombo said. “It’s the most I’ve ever seen of any lineman since I’ve been coaching or even playing. I mean, you look at that. Sixty-nine total plays. Fourteen of those times, he was knocking a guy to the ground. … We made a big deal about it because it’s not easy to knock down anyone in the NFL, especially a physical team like the Philadelphia Eagles.”

This is who La’el is during a football play.

Aggressive. Nasty.

“He is one of the most physical players I’ve ever played with,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “It’s a big factor in his game.”

Said right guard Zack Martin: “He’s an enforcer on our line. He brings a lot of that kind of demeanor and attitude to our line. … I’m not a big smack talker, but La’el in his case, he’s almost better when he is playing that game with someone.”

This isn’t who La’el is outside the game.

He flips a switch, sometimes just seconds before a snap.

Last Sunday, against the New England Patriots, rain and wind made a nightmare of kicking, passing and catching. The wind chill sunk into the 20s. And yet, before becoming the Cowboys’ thumper, he found himself laughing at the line of scrimmage because center Travis Frederick was diagnosing the defense’s pass rushers so accurately and eloquently while directing the protection assignments.

How frustrating that must be for the opponent, La’el thought.

Ha.

His on-field nastiness was not inherent; he learned early to channel it into his game. Youth football coaches preached to him that collisions were coming either way. It was either hit or be hit. That made sense to La’el, who preferred the first option.

Hardship coached him, too.

In middle school, he rode the bus and played sports with his best friend until one day learning they could no longer. The friend was killed as a bystander to gun violence. La’el attended his funeral. He had to learn to ride, play and live without him.

There were days at home when the lights or water was off. His mother worked so both utilities returned in short order. Still, La’el was aware of their circumstances. La’el didn’t just clean out food from the refrigerator, growing into the eventual 6-4, 320-pound lineman he became.

He paid attention.

Be it Domino’s Pizza, working security, delivering phone books or a different vocation, Loyetta Collins went from one job to the next. She didn’t complain between shifts. She did what needed to be done.

“My mom was a hustler,” said La’el, who calls her his “superhero.”

And in case her work ethic wasn’t inspiring enough, there was Loyetta’s personality. Faith seems to flow through the very fabric of her being, her sentences often slipping into sermons. She recites proverbs and biblical passages with passion.

All the while, she’s sought what was best for her children.

La’el became involved in Boy Scouts of America during elementary school before he ever began organized football or basketball. He was active in church, singing as part of the choir. That felt a little awkward, he admitted, since it seemed the whole congregation was staring at him as the tallest one. He was active, too, in the Boys & Girls Club and Big Buddy, a youth mentoring organization in Baton Rouge.

Such experience has made La’el mindful of giving back.

He annually hosts a free football clinic in his hometown. On Monday evening, he will host a celebrity bowling night at Bowlmor Dallas in Addison. It will accept unwrapped toys and benefit the Oliver W. Holmes Humanities/Communications Academy.

“As the years went on, the neighborhood got bad,” Loyetta said in a phone interview. “But I’m going to be honest with you: We lived there, but we were always gone. We were involved in church. We were involved in sports. We were involved in scouting. We were involved in so many things. We slept there, but we weren’t there for the most part.

“I didn’t allow my children to [be] with everybody because I understand how things can work. Association can bring on assimilation. … I tried to keep them under my wing.”

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DETROIT – Michael Gallup had family on his mind Sunday.

It’s been a year since Gallup learned of his brother Andrew’s passing just moments after the Cowboys played in Atlanta last November.

Sunday, honoring his brother, the second-year wide receiver delivered a career-high nine catches for 148 yards in the Cowboys’ 35-27 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

“Obviously it’s going to be tough around this time every year,” Gallup said afterward. “His birthday was Nov. 10, so it’s always a hard one.

“But to go out here and have fun and do what I love – he knows that I’ve always loved this game, and he was up there watching me. So it’s a good feeling to be able to do that for him and have the family watch as well.”

The Cowboys’ top-ranked offense needed Gallup’s production, particularly after falling behind 7-0 early. Lead receiver Amari Cooper, battling through a knee contusion the last two weeks, had three catches for 38 yards and appeared to have his snaps managed at points in the game.

Gallup’s back-to-back catches of 12 and 14 yards set up a first-quarter field goal that got Dallas on the scoreboard. Then, late in the second quarter, he made a leaping 41-yard catch over Lions cornerback Mike Ford – despite defensive pass interference penalty – to put the offense inside Detroit’s 10-yard line.

Ezekiel Elliott scored on a 1-yard touchdown run two plays later to give Dallas a 17-14 lead. They never trailed again.

“I wasn’t supposed to run that route. I kind of messed myself up,” Gallup said. “That’s really why I had to catch the ball because I messed it up. I’d just seen him throw it up in the air, and he was behind me so I had to fight through him.”

Last year, Gallup played on Thanksgiving just four days after learning of his brother’s passing. He received the game ball after that victory.

Football, he said Sunday, “helps me fill that void.”

“I go out there and do what I do, and he definitely sees it.”

Said quarterback Dak Prescott: “Proud of him. I know his brother’s proud of him. When you’re a ball player, being able to go out there on that field and be at peace, it just allows you to be who you are. And that’s what Michael Gallup did tonight.”