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2 Fans From North Carolina & How They Became Dallas Cowboys Fans



Staff Blog - Two Cowboys Fans From North Carolina 1

Lonnie Benford View his profile on Inside The Star

Growing up in North Carolina, 1,200 miles away from the Promised Land, people assume that I’m just another Cowboys bandwagon fan. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My first memory of football was Super Bowl XXXII when John Elway hurled his aging body between two Green Bay defenders to pick up the first down, and then the Broncos running back Terrell Davis scored the game-winning touchdown.

Until I started playing football at the age of 10, I was only a casual fan, watching Super Bowls and playing Madden. After I started playing, I spent most of my Sunday’s playing backyard football at my best friend’s house, whose dad was a Cowboys fan from the glory days of Roger “The Dodger” Staubach.

In between halves of our game, we would retreat back inside to cool down, drink a Pepsi and, of course, the Cowboys games were always on in that house. Even if the Cowboys weren’t on, my friend’s dad indoctrinated us with sweetened stories from autumns past of how things used to be.

Keep in mind this was the year 2000, Dave Campo was the head coach, and there was barely even a wagon left to jump on from the Golden Age of Jimmy Johnson. Troy Aikman was just a shell of his former self and nearing retirement, thanks to several concussions. I was too young to realize it, but Dallas was at the dawn of a decade-plus long stretch of heartbreak and turmoil.

Sure, there were a few proud moments along the way, but they were far and few between. Moments that should be remembered fondly such as Emmitt Smith surpassing Walter Payton as the all-time leading rusher, a few playoff berths, are largely overshadowed by multiple late season meltdowns.

During the 2nd Great Dallas Depression, as the Carolina Panthers became more popular, the number of Cowboys fans in this part of the country dwindled. The casual Cowboys fan jumped ship to a surging franchise that would eventually reach the Super Bowl in 2003. Being from North Carolina I was proud the Panthers made it that far, but distraught at the same time because they had to go through Dallas in the Wildcard round a few weeks prior.

The football culture in North Carolina is very different compared to Texas.

Being located in The South, the tradition of high school football is deeply engrained into each community, but thanks to the success of the ACC, we are recognized as a basketball state. The only true football schools are Appalachian State, who is just starting their first year at the FBS level, and my Alma Mater, East Carolina University.

As a Cowboys fan, my time at ECU was very interesting because a large portion of the student body comes from up north. It’s apparently cheaper for someone in New Jersey to send their kids to school in North Carolina than a place like Rutgers. The experience was fun for me because a lot of my new friends were fans of NFC East teams. Some of my favorite memories from college were meeting up with those friends during conference play, while I was decked out in my #17 Dwayne Harris (Also an ECU Alumni) jersey, at a local Deadskin Redskins bar called Sup Dogs.

I’m not sure what kept me loyal to the Dallas Cowboys. Maybe it's stupidity, or maybe I just like being disappointed around the holiday season. With each late season blunder, my friends didn’t hesitate to point and mock my team with their always-original “Tony Homo” chants.

With the way Jason Garrett is rebuilding the franchise, I will certainly be having the last laugh.

Walter Yeates View his profile on Inside The Star

My father is a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan, who actually tried out for the team in the 1970s, a story I will tell in the future on Inside The Star. My childhood was full of stories Tony Dorsett, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, DD Lewis, and many others from the days of Tom Landry. He also told me a lot about the 1985 Bears Defense being special, so I learned quite a bit about that team as well.

I have very few memories of the Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer Super Bowl winning teams, besides wearing Troy Aikman's jersey to class at a young age after one of their victories.

As I grew older, I remember watching quite a few games with my dad, being very fortunate to see Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, and Troy Aikman finish their careers on the field.

Much like Lonnie, I was never accused of being a bandwagon fan, as there's not much of a bandwagon to be on when Anthony Wright, Chad Hutchinson, Clint Stoerner, Drew Henson, and Ryan Leaf are starting games for the team. The Quincy Carter days were not exactly memorable as when he was about to turn the corner, his demons led to his time ending rather quickly in Dallas.

Even though North Carolina now has the Carolina Panthers, I have never felt their fanbase has grown as expected. There are quite a few fans from other teams that held onto their loyalties once the Panthers became an expansion team, however, I did not come across very many Cowboys fans until college.

East Carolina University is not known for putting a great deal of talent into the NFL. With more popular names being: Chris Johnson, David Garrard, Jeff Blake, Vonta Leach, Linval Joseph, and one Dwayne Harris. I was an undergraduate at ECU when Harris was playing, spoke to him on campus once, and he was a nice guy. I was excited when the Cowboys drafted him and I was pained when he left to play for the New York Giants.

As a Cowboys fan in North Carolina, I did not recognize how hated the team was until joining twitter at some point during college. It still today baffles me how a Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, or New England Patriots fan can despise a team not even in their conference. Some fans will even speak more about the Cowboys than the team they are actually fans of.

It became such a phenomena that even ESPN regularly spends time bashing the team whenever it is convenient. As a Sports Journalist, I find a great deal of that coverage to be laughable, yet it draws their network a great deal of attention.

While there were several years without much to cheer for on the field, with Will McClay and Jason Garrett at the helm it is difficult not to feel encouraged about the future of America's Team.

We welcome Cowboys fans across the nation to share their stories with us in the comment section or on twitter. You can reach Lonnie @LonnieBenford and Walter @TheRealSmoothG.

Avid Cowboys fan that will provide analytical analysis to the Draft, Film, and everything related to the team. You can find me @TheRealSmoothG on twitter.

Star Blog

Sean’s Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Cowboys D

Sean Martin



Sean's Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Dallas Cowboys Defense 1

It took some time, but the Dallas Cowboys have their first outside free agent of the offseason, signing Linebacker Joe Thomas to provide depth at a position where Anthony Hitchens and Kyle Wilber have already signed elsewhere.

The fifth-year pro has played exclusively with the Green Bay Packers, but the Cowboys do have some familiarity with Thomas as he spent part of 2015 on their practice squad.

Joe Thomas has served as a core special teams contributor and sub-package LB for the Packers out of South Carolina State, and will now look to bring these services to a Cowboys team in need of play making ability on both defense and special teams.

Using film from this past season, here is Joe Thomas' full scouting report.

LB Joe Thomas: Strengths

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Joe Thomas lined up at all three LB positions for the Packers, taking the majority of his snaps on defense at MIKE or WILL. The WILL position is where Thomas should fit best in Dallas.

Not overly physical with a shorter but square frame, Thomas is a rangy player with light feet and fluid movement ability. Shifting laterally along the line of scrimmage to "pick through trash" is not a problem for Thomas, nor is flipping his hips and running to the football.

It may take Thomas more effort than it should to get in position on most plays, with false steps and late reads being an issue, but once he establishes his sight on the point of attack this is a downhill missile of a player.

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Joe Thomas uses his length well to disengage from blocks and finish off plays, doing a nice job of not allowing blockers into his chest consistently.

With Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith expected to be the Cowboys' primary starters at WILL and MIKE respectively, Thomas could supplement these two physical, well-rounded players extremely well given his athleticism.

LB Joe Thomas: Weaknesses

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There is a reason a player with the raw traits of Joe Thomas goes un-drafted, and in this case it is because of awareness and anticipation issues in Thomas' game.

Far too often on tape, Thomas is forcing himself to recover from false steps against the blockers in front of him. I would have loved to see a player with this movement ability get more clean opportunities to finish at the football, but it was simply not there for Thomas.

When Thomas wasn't late to the ball against the run, he was getting caught flat-footed in space trying to compensate for this reactionary ability. This led to Thomas' fair share of missed tackles, where the LB failed to break down correctly.

Overall, Thomas did a decent job of avoiding blocks and disengaging, and does play with better-than-expected stopping power. The strength and technique to shed blocks was rarely seen though, relying on his quickness to outrun opponents to the spot.

LB Joe Thomas: Summary

Sean's Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Dallas Cowboys Defense

This is a player that should help the Dallas Cowboys in two phases of their game this season.

Signed for both 2018 and 2019, the Cowboys have clearly seen enough from their former practice squad linebacker in Green Bay to bring back an athletic ST ace with upside on defense.

Joe Thomas shouldn't be taking Lee or Smith off the field regularly this season, but at his best he will factor into Rod Marinelli's defense on passing downs.

Thomas gives a unit predicated on flowing to the ball even more speed on the field, and is an ideal depth signing with the versatility to cover punts and kickoffs.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Linebacker Joe Thomas Brings Speed, Range to Cowboys D" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Star Blog

Could a Special Coach Help Dez Bryant’s Route-Running?

Brian Martin



Could Special Coach Help Dez Bryant's Route Running?

Dez Bryant's career with the Dallas Cowboys may be in limbo, but that's not stopping him from trying to improve his game and on-field performance.

Bryant will reportedly train with personal wide receivers coach David Robinson, who specializes in route-running, according to reporter Jane Slater of NFL Network. This should come as good news to a lot of Cowboys fans, because Dez Bryant has often been criticized throughout his professional career for his route-running.

If anything, this news should indicate that Dez Bryant is more determined than ever to rebound from his disappointing 2017 season and prove his critics wrong that he is no longer one of the top receivers in the league. I for one am not going to bet against him.

Bryant's work ethic and passion for the game have never been questioned. His desire to be the best is evident anytime you turn on his film, whether it is in a game situation or on the practice field. He takes the "practice like you play" mantra to heart.

Everybody should be encouraged that at this point in his career, Dez Bryant is still looking at ways to improve his game and seek help. Hopefully, working with a well-known receivers coach like David Robinson can take Bryant's game to the next level.

Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)

You may not know who David Robinson is (I certainly didn't), but he is well respected around the league and has helped other receivers under his tutelage. Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jordan Reed, and even Cowboys former WR Brice Butler have all benefited from Robinson's coaching.

Dez Bryant has always been regarded as one of those types of receivers who is always open regardless how tight the coverage is around him. His ability to go up and snag the ball out of the air is arguably his best trait, but he could become more dangerous if he can create separation on his own with better route-running.

Unfortunately, Bryant is entering the stage in his career where age becomes a factor and some regression is to be expected. This is why improved route-running could improve any deficiencies Bryant maybe dealing with.

But, what exactly will David Robinson be working on with Dez Bryant?

Robinson told Jane Slater that in his workouts with Dez Bryant, he will concentrate on the expansion of Bryant's route tree, shaking defenders at the line of scrimmage, and improving footwork technique to compensate for any natural loss of speed due to age.

I don't know about you, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing how Bryant responds to Robinson's coaching, hopefully still as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

We all know that Bryant's status with the Cowboys is unknown, at least to those of us on the outside looking in, but I don't see him going anywhere in 2018. There just aren't any vet WRs or rookies who I can see replacing his production. Of course, I could be wrong.

One thing is for sure though, Dez Bryant isn't going to sit on his hands while he waits to find out what his future holds.

Do you think improved route-running will help Dez Bryant's game?

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Star Blog

Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Brian Martin



Should Cowboys Reunite Shea McClellin With Rod Marinelli?

Since becoming the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, Rod Marinelli hasn't had too many of his former players follow him to Dallas. In fact, I can only think of one… Henry Melton, and we all know how that turned out.

I don't know about you, but I found that a little strange. It's pretty common for coaches to try to bring some of their players with them when they accept a new job. Familiarity goes a long way in the NFL and former players can also help make the transition easier for everyone.

Strangely enough, Rod Marinelli hasn't really been afforded that luxury, whether it was his doing or not. But, there is a free agent who played under Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago who might make sense for the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Shea McClellin.

Rod Marinelli was the defensive coordinator in Chicago when the Bears decided to draft Shea McClellin 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Marinelli likely had a big say in that decision, and if he still feels the same, a reunion could be in order.

Shea McClellin started his career in the NFL as a 4-3 left side defensive end playing opposite Julius Peppers, but was also viewed as a potential Brian Urlacher replacement. He showed flashes of becoming a solid defensive end his first few years in the league, but was eventually moved to linebacker, where he seemed to find a home for himself.

Shea McClellin

New England Patriots LB Shea McClellin

After his contract expired with the Bears, the New England Patriots decided to bring him aboard to help with their linebacker depth. He only ended up starting four games for them in 2016, but made some memorable plays to help the Patriots become the Super Bowl champions.

Unfortunately, the 2017 season wasn't very kind to him. His entire year was wiped out due to a concussion, which probably had a lot to do with why they recently released him.

This of course could be good news for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently need some depth at the linebacker position and Shea McClellin could provide that, if he's healthy. The healthy bit here is key, because he has had problems with concussions in the past.

If McClellin is indeed healthy, he could bring a versatile skill set to the Cowboys defense. His best spot is probably at strong side LB (SAM), but I think he could play middle linebacker (MIKE) as well. He also could provide depth at defensive end, the position he played to start his NFL career.

With the LB depth a concern, Shea McClellin makes quite a bit of sense for the Dallas Cowboys. Of course, his past history with concussions is a red flag, but it also drives down his asking price. I think he would definitely fall into that "bargain shopping" mentality the Cowboys have been using these last few offseasons.

He probably wouldn't be viewed as a very important signing, but you still need these types of players on your team in order to succeed in the NFL. Let's see if the Dallas Cowboys agree.

Do you think a Rod Marinelli and Shea McClellin reunion is in order?

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