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

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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.

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What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 2

For many years, Linebacker Sean Lee has been the face of the Dallas Cowboys defense. However, that's quickly changing. The young duo consisting of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have taken over the linebacker position by dominating the field from sideline to sideline with their explosive talent. As a rookie, Vander Esch filled in for Lee at the weak linebacker position when the veteran went down injured and never gave the job back.

Currently, uncertainty surrounds Sean Lee, who took a pay cut earlier in the year to stay with the franchise he's played for since the beginning of his professional career in 2010. What will his role be in a young fueled defense in the upcoming season?

As we've all been able to see throughout his career, Sean Lee is one of the best in the game when he's healthy. Unfortunately, that's not very often. His injury proneness led him to a position change years ago, when he was moved from the MIKE (middle linebacker) to the WILL (weak side linebacker) position. Now, those two spots are taken care of.

Where does this leaves Lee? The main question is whether or not he'll move to the strong side. Many question if this would be the correct call, given that he could be at even more risk of suffering yet another injury in a position that leads to more contact. The other option would be for him to be Vander Esch's backup at WILL.

Wish List for Dallas Cowboys 1st Preseason Game

Dallas Cowboys LBs Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Sean Lee

Lately, it seems like the Cowboys will indeed move him to the strong-side. After all, it only makes sense to have your best three players on the field at the same time. On minicamp, the Cowboys have been playing the veteran at SAM, letting him get reps and grow comfortable in what seems to be his new job.

But even if Sean Lee starts lining up on the strong side, what can we expect from him next season? The way the NFL offenses operate now leads to teams sending their nickel packages to the field more often than not. For the Cowboys 4-3 defense, that means three cornerbacks, two linebackers. When that's the case, it will be Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith who we see out there, not Lee.

Damien Wilson was the team's "starter" on the strong side, and he only managed to get 286 snaps, according to Pro Football Reference. That represents 28% of the team's total snaps. Even if Sean Lee becomes the starting strong side linebacker, we likely won't be seeing him as much.

Even still, I'd expect Sean Lee's experience to play a big factor when the team needs Jaylon Smith or Leighton Vander Esch to catch their breath. Lee could jump in and play a few snaps at any LB spot and do a good job at it.

After all, we can't forget that despite his injuries, Lee is a remarkable player on defense. He should still be one of the smartest linebackers with extraordinary instincts. There's a reason why, before Vander Esch arrived to America's Team, the defense crumbled without him. Last year, despite losing the starting gig, Lee still had 118 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and an interception. The longtime veteran can still play.

It will be odd for Cowboys Nation to watch Lee on a completely new role. It's also hard to put the finger on what his production will look like at the end of the year. If there's one thing we know though, is that the veteran will work hard every practice trying to get the most playing time he can. We should be excited about the team's top three linebackers.

Tell me what you think about "What Are Realistic Expectations for Cowboys LB Sean Lee?" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Dak Prescott Impresses, Draws Compliments All Minicamp Long

Kevin Brady

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Dak Prescott and Coaches Both to Blame for Cowboys Offensive Woes
James D. Smith via AP

Dak Prescott stood before the media Thursday in a Stetson Cowboy hat, answering questions about his upcoming contract extension.

“I’ve got my cowboy hat on, so I’m a Cowboy, we’ll say that.”

Prescott has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback of America's Team, and now it's time for the franchise to pay him like it. Set to earn roughly $34 million per year (according to recent rumors/reports), Prescott is going to be a very rich and comfortable man in the near future.

But, for now, he still plays under his fourth round rookie contract. You wouldn't be able to tell by watching him on the field, however. Though it was just minicamp, Prescott was impressive as ever over the last couple weeks of practice, earning praise from all levels within the organization.

Veteran Jason Witten complimented both Prescott's anticipation and accuracy, saying his throws have been "off the charts" at minicamp. Prescott himself said that this is the best he's felt since he's entered the league, and it certainly makes sense for this to be the case.

"Is it three years under my belt or just seeing defenses a whole lot more clear, being quicker and faster in everything I want to do, having great teammates around me? Who really knows the answer, but I feel great. I feel confident, and my teammates do, as well.” - Prescott to DallasCowboys.com

If Prescott was ever going to be comfortable, hungry, and ready to go, this is likely the time that it would happen. He has three relatively successful seasons under his belt, and ended 2018 on the best stretch of his career. He is the unquestioned starting quarterback for this team, and has the backing of every key decision maker in the building.

Prescott now has an offensive coordinator who he has not only worked closely with (in some capacity) since he entered the league in 2016, but is also being lauded for his creativity as an offensive mastermind. His quarterbacks coach, Jon Kitna, has been receiving similar praise for how he can coach up Prescott and get his footwork consistent, to help him "throw it through a Fruit Loop."

The time is now for Dak Prescott, and it's encouraging to see how he is responding to this increased pressure and responsibility. Then again we should have no doubt that he will respond positively, as he as throughout his entire young career.

Whenever faced with adversity, Prescott has answered the bell. Now he has all the supporters he needs, and just needs to prove them right.



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Does RB Ezekiel Elliott Have A Chance At NFL MVP?

Kevin Brady

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Ezekiel Elliott

Who is the Cowboys best player?

A question debated seemingly daily on social media, most fans seem to center their arguments around the same few names. Dak Prescott, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Ezekiel Elliott.

As a running back, it's quite possible that Elliott is both the best of that bunch and the least important to the team's overall success. NFL.com's Adam Schein disagrees with the latter statement, however, placing Ezekiel Elliott among his top ten contenders for 2019 NFL MVP.

"I think the Cowboys are going to challenge for the Super Bowl in 2019 -- and I think Zeke fuels this team. When Elliott runs for 95-plus yards, the Cowboys are 19-4; when he falls below that benchmark, they're 9-8." - Adam Schein

Schein's prediction will no doubt make Cowboys Nation swoon, but does Elliott really have the opportunity to compete for an MVP award?

For one, this would require the Cowboys be among the best teams in the league this season. It's quite possible, as they did win 10 regular season and 1 playoff game a year ago, but it will have to happen once again for Elliott to be considered.

Next, Ezekiel Elliott would have to put up incredible numbers. Well, it's safe to assume this will likely be the case if condition one is met. Elliott is going to get a lot of opportunities to touch the ball each game, and finding himself among the league's rushing leaders has never been an issue for the young running back. Especially if the team has a lead and is running the ball to kill clock.

Even if both these conditions prove true, though, Elliott will still have trouble getting himself in the real MVP discussion. These awards tend to go to certain positions, and running back is not among that list. If Dallas has such a successful 2019, and their offense is clicking, it's more likely Dak Prescott will be the one contending for that MVP honor.

I know to some it sounds crazy, but Prescott will likely need to be closer to MVP level than Elliott if the Cowboys are to contend in the way Adam Schein suggests in his article.

So, likely, Schein should have named Prescott among his top ten MVP contenders, not Elliott.



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