Like a lot of high school football players who grow up in North Texas, Dashaun Phillips idolized the Dallas Cowboys.
Now he has a chance to play for them.
The Cowboys recently signed Phillips as an undrafted cornerback from Tarleton State. The 2009 Duncanville High School graduate is determined to make the team, particularly because this is the only franchise he’s ever wanted to play for.
“I’ve been wanting to play for Dallas for the longest,” Phillips said. “Since I was a kid I always wanted to have a star on my helmet.
“So once they called me after the draft it was no question that I was coming.”
Phillips is a cornerback who said his progress at the position took off after he attended a camp run by former Cowboys Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders.
And what knowledge did Sanders share?
“Basically body control, how to use my feet, how to make the receiver do what I want him to do,” Phillips said. “People think he just talks a lot, but he knows.
“He’s smart, he knows the game. And the way he was teaching the game, he would make it slow down to the point where it seemed like you’re not doing anything.”
Phillips has done a lot in his quest to earn his opportunity, and was impressive during Pro Day held at Tarleton State, when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds and had a 39-inch vertical leap. He also shined during Dallas Day, when he again caught the attention of the Cowboys.
“I got a chance to see him at Dallas Day,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He impressed. He is quick. He has a long way to go, but has positive physical traits for playing the cornerback position.”
Dallas Day brought on a different situation for Phillips. One that he now laughs about.
“When I came [to Dallas Day], they didn’t know my name,” Phillips said of the Cowboys’ coaches. “They called me ‘Tarleton State.’
“By the end of the day they actually called me by my name. So I was like, ‘OK, hopefully I made a great impression on them.’ ”
Phillips would like to make another impression whenever he gets to go against the Cowboys’ top receiver, Dez Bryant. Phillips has already taken a one-on-one turn against Bryant, but in a different sport.
“I covered Dez on the basketball court,” Phillips said of their encounter on a fitness center court. “One day over the summer I was like, ‘Man, I’m fixing to go in there and try to guard him.’
“So we played against him. We lost. He made damn near every shot. Dunking and everything.”
Because Phillips wasn’t drafted and played in college at a Division II school, he might be a long shot to make the Cowboys’ final roster.
But Phillips sees the NFL as a different set of challenges.
“It feels just like when I was at Tarleton, really,” he said. “I just want to play football, but it is different.
“Just the speed of the game versus where I came from. You get a couple of receivers every now and then that’ll give you something, but now it’s everybody, so you’ve got to be ready for everything.”
With his speed, aggressiveness and size (5-foot-11, 182 pounds), Phillips is regarded by the Cowboys as a player more than prepared to handle whatever issues he’s confronted with at cornerback.
“He’s got really good feet,” secondary coach Jerome Henderson said. “That’s what you saw when you watched the tape on him.
“He is a really natural athlete and has intriguing quickness and change of direction ability.”
The Cowboys have their first organized team activity Tuesday.
Now, if Phillips can just get that one-on-one rematch with Bryant. But this time at a venue he’s more familiar with.
“I want to cover him on the football field,” Phillips said. “I’m looking forward to it.
“I really want to go against everybody and show them that it doesn’t matter where you came from. Small school, big school. It doesn’t really matter.”