Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott at Pro Bowl reflects on season while doing ‘what Zeke does’

Two things are pretty clear about Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott following a fantastic season that should end with him taking home NFL Rookie of the Year honors next Saturday before the Super Bowl.

Nobody ran the ball better than Elliott, who led the league with 1,631 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns.

And nobody likes to have more fun than Elliott, whose party photos on TMZ rival his game footage on ESPN.

Both worlds are colliding at the Pro Bowl in Orlando this week, as Elliott is one of the game's top attractions and he is enjoying every minute of it.

Whether it's going shirtless at the Pro Bowl skills challenge, switching numbers with Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett in practice and lining up on defense, play fighting with Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman while lining up at receiver or having a dance off with New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr, Elliott is making the most of his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

"It means everything, being a rookie and coming out here and playing in this game," Elliott said. "It means a lot. It's been a great time, great guys out here. We all have an tremendous amount of respect for each other. So we learn from each other and have a good time at the same time."

Don't take Elliott's fun during the season or at the Pro Bowl for a lack of a passion for the game. It hides the intense disappointment he still has over the Cowboys season ending early with the NFC Divisional playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers and not reaching the Super Bowl.

"Sometimes I have to step back and really look and see what I did this year because I have had such high expectations for myself," Elliot said. "When I think about the season, I'm like 'man I wanted to be in that Super Bowl. I wanted to be there.' But then I have to realize what I have done this season, the honors I have gotten and how special that is. At least I try to. But I'm a perfectionist so I'm definitely not satisfied."

From a personal standpoint, Elliott's goals for next season are to get to the Super Bowl and break DeMarco Murray's club-record rushing mark of 1,845 yards, set in 2014.

Murray, who is back in the Pro Bowl on the AFC squad following a bounce-back year with the Tennessee Titans, has no doubt Elliott will break his record.

"He'll get it. He'll get it some day," Murray said. "That ain't going to last too long with him."

Murray watched from afar as Elliott piled up yards behind his former offensive line, but he was most impressed with the rookie's efforts as a blocker and a receiver.

"He is a tough guy," Murray said. "As a running back you are supposed to run the ball. But what has impressed me is his catching and blocking. Those are two things for me. I’ve got a lot of respect for a guy that can do that and run the ball."

Elliott honored and respected some advice Murray gave him before the season when he told him to take care of his offensive line and learn how to be a pro by following tight end Jason Witten.

"I stayed in (Witten's) back pocket," Elliott said. "I learned from him. I learned how to be a pro."

Elliott took care of his offensive linemen during Christmas when he bought them all John Deere Utility Task Vehicles, valued at roughly $16,000 each retail.

But what he values most this week at the Pro Bowl is the personal time with the three offensive linemen who made the team, including tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and guard Zack Martin.

"During the season they have families, they don't have time to do what what Zeke does," Elliott said tongue in cheek. "We have more time. We can spend time with each other. It's been great getting to know these guys more and more, getting to know their families. I really appreciate them."

Most people don't have time to do what Zeke does. But everyone can enjoy the fun ride he's having.

Clarence Hill: 817-390-7760, @clarencehilljr

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