IRVING -- Kyle Wilber's route from a trailer park in Sorrento, Fla., to the penthouse of the NFL would appear to be a most unlikely expedition.
That is until you see the size (6-foot-3, 249 pounds), quickness, high energy and big-play ability that the Dallas Cowboys believe they can employ to add depth to the strong-side linebacker spot behind Anthony Spencer and make plays on special teams in his rookie year.
"I know I can be a great special teams player," said Wilber, a Cowboys fourth-round draft pick out of Wake Forest. "I can give great competition to the veteran players -- push them and make them better. And if coach feels that I can play, that decision is up to him."
Coaches believe the team acquired a player who can play -- at some point -- one who is a good fit with coverage skills in their 3-4 defensive scheme because he played defensive end and outside linebacker at Wake Forest.
He impressed at the combine, lifting 225 pounds 25 times.
"Across the board, there wasn't anything he wasn't above average in at the combine," said Gil Brandt, the Cowboys' former vice president of player personnel and now a draft analyst for NFL.com, among others who took in the Cowboys' rookie minicamp over the weekend.
"I thought he was pretty impressive out here [on Friday]. The way he moves around, his quickness, his recognition. And the guy is smart. I think he'll be a pleasant surprise."
Wilber played 21/2 seasons at defensive end after redshirting his freshman season before finishing on the outside the last part of his junior season and all of last season.
The Cowboys were most impressed about his enthusiasm to play. On Saturday, coaches raved about the magic "motor" Wilber demonstrated in workouts and scrimmages.
He gave a glimpse of an ability he showed on film to hit the gaps hard and pack a punch at the line of scrimmage with a run-in with running back Lance Dunbar, flinging the rookie free agent from North Texas to the ground during scrimmage drills.
"I'm kind of out of shape right now, but they see that I can make plays," said Wilber, explaining that there's a big difference preparing for combines and being in shape for real workouts. "I showed them that I had a motor on me."
Said coach Jason Garrett: "One of the things we talked about motor when we were talking about [second-round draft pick] Tyrone Crawford, it's the same thing with him. It showed up. He plays from the snap to the whistle. He plays physically. He's a nonstop type guy.
"He showed up a lot both as a run defender, as a pass defender, on special teams. It's really one of the things we liked about him as much as anything."
It's a mentality of can-do that helped Wilber stay well adjusted through some hard times growing up.
He bounced around parents and grandparents, living in a state of dysfunction typical of a young boy, with his sister, growing up without their biological father and made tragic by the suicide of their mother.
He lives with his stepfather -- whom he considers his father -- in the trailer park in Florida.
It's also a mode of thinking and drive that coaches believe will make him a good NFL player, but who is more than capable of helping make the Cowboys a better football team this season.
"He's a smart kid. He plays hard. He knows how to cover, which is a hard thing for an outside linebacker," defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. "He's going to be a lot further advanced than most rookies are. The kid's got a lot of talent."
Staff writer Charean Williams contributed to this report.