When the Cowboys signed former LSU star La’el Collins as an undrafted free agent in May, conventional wisdom had him replacing Ron Leary as the team’s starting left guard.
Collins was a first-round talent that fell out of the draft because of questions about the death of his former girl friend. After being cleared of any wrong doing and signing with the Cowboys, he was expected to take a spot on the offensive line, joining three other true former first rounders in tackle Tyron Crawford, guard Zack Martin and center Travis Frederick and allowing them to live up to owner Jerry Jones’ prediction of being the best line in NFL history.
At least, that was how it was supposed to go.
But with the season opener a little more than a week away, Leary, who had the best the best training camp of his career, remains firmly entrenched as the start on the Cowboys offensive line that is already considered the best in the NFL.
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“You just got to be a pro about it,” Leary said. “We all know what all went down with everything in the offseason and all that. It just came down to being a pro and doing my job. I’m a real confident person. I saw all the stuff. It didn’t do nothing to me. La’el is a good player. He’s a young player. I just tried to get better and keep working and keep doing my job. I think they knew that already that I’m a big competitive guy. There is nothing wrong with a little extra fuel.”
Leary’s response to the challenge from Collins was impressive to coach Jason Garrett. It was good for him and good for the Cowboys. It’s helped spread the message to the team that the best players will play no matter where you came from or you ranking.
“Very impressed. It’s good for our team,” Garrett said. “It really doesn’t matter where guys come from. It matters what you do. We made that abundantly clear to every body and Ron Leary stepped up and competed each and every day. He said I want to be your left guard. He didn’t say it out loud. He just said it with his play. We are hoping the other guys do the same thing. That is really good for your team when that happens.”
Adding a little icing the cake for Leary is that he grew up in Baton Rouge but wasn’t offered a scholarship to hometown LSU. He played at college at Memphis, coming to the Cowboys as a true undrafted free agent in 2012. He also didn’t come into the league with Collins’ credentials as consensus all-american at LSU.
But yet he held on when matched head to head for the starting job in 2015.
Of course, all of that could change in 2016 when Leary will be a restricted free agent and Collins would present a case as a younger, cheaper option with room to grow.