Rico Gathers' journey to the NFL was fascinating, but his story once that destination was reached has been far from it.
In fact, Rico Gathers' NFL career has been inconsequential at best and a failure at worst. Only playing in 15 games over his first 3 seasons, Gathers' time with the Cowboys has failed to live up to fan-driven hopes and dreams. A converted college basketball player, too much hype was placed on Gathers' shoulders before he even took a snap for the Cowboys.
His preseason performance in the 2017 Hall of Fame Game then took this hype to a whole new level, as he caught 3 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown in the preseason opening win. Gathers was heralded as a red zone threat, a potential down the field game breaker for the Cowboys offense, and the big-bodied athletic tight end teams are chasing around the league.
Instead Gathers' three seasons have resulted in a bunch of nothing for the Cowboys, and with Jason Witten returning, Gathers now faces a do-or-die situation this Summer. Gathers spoke to Dallascowboys.com's Nick Eatman about his approach heading into this consequential training camp, speaking in a much more focused tone than we've heard from him in the past.
“I’m just trying to make some big leaps and take advantage of every opportunity they throw my way and just show my progression…Just the picking up on everything is second nature now” – Rico Gathers
Gathers clearly recognizes the task he has at hand. Both Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin were above him on the depth chart a year ago, and each showed flashes towards the end of the season which give hope around their potential. Plus, wide receiver Noah Brown has become somewhat of a “light end” for the Cowboys offense (shoutout staff writer John Williams). Opportunities for Gathers have been few and far between, and his lack of contribution on Special Teams puts him at an even greater disadvantage.
The odds are not in Rico Gathers' favor whatsoever, but he could change that in theory. Maybe another offseason has helped re-focus him, and allowed him to take strides towards being a better overall tight end.
The natural gifts appear to be there with Gathers after-all, as is seen by his athleticism on Baylor's basketball court. But just because you were a college basketball player doesn't mean you can be an NFL tight end. The Antonio Gates and Jimmy Grahams of the world are the exceptions, not the rule.
It's going to be a long-shot for Rico Gathers to make himself a Dallas Cowboy in 2019, but if he is going to do so, he's going to have to perform in ways we have yet to see from him over the last three seasons.