“To run on the field with all these guys like Sean [Lee] and Jaylon [Smith], Dak [Prescott] and Zeke [Elliott], [Tyrone] Crawford and Tank [Demarcus Lawrence] and all those guys, it’s awesome,” Vander Esch said. “It’s pretty surreal.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Vander Esch said the enormity of being a Dallas Cowboy started setting in during OTAs, of which he was limited out of precaution with a minor ankle injury.
“Those few weeks it really set in at that time,” he said. “Now it’s even setting in even more. It’s an exciting time in my life and for all my teammates and even the coaches, everybody is talking about how excited they are and how pumped they’ve been to get here and finally get rolling.”
Vander Esch said he’s working at all three linebacker positions.
“I’ve got to be prepared for any situation that comes up. I’ve got to know all the positions on the field,” he said. “The more I know, the more comfortable I am on the field. I’m not just trying to learn the MIK, I’m trying to learn all three linebacker positions.”
He’s trying to learn as much as he can from Lee and Smith and trying to earn their trust.
“[Lee] knows what the offense is doing before the ball is even snapped half the time so listening to him, listen to what he has to say and taking it all in and applying it and showing him that it matters to you.”
“There are different profiles for different positions. Typically, the linebackers in this scheme have been smaller guys, leaner guys, guys who can really run,” Cowboys’ coach Jason Garrett said. “I’m not comparing Leighton Vander Esch to Brian Urlacher but that is the body type he is, a very athletic guy, and that’s what we liked about him in college. He made so many plays sideline to sideline, he plays with a great spirit, a relentless nature.”
Vander Esch, who got engaged over the July 4th holiday, isn’t fazed by the high expectations that come from being a first-round pick.
“I’ve always taken pride in having a little pressure on me and the high expectations I have for myself,” he said. “And I know a lot of others do too, so I have to live up to those and not just because they want me to, but because I want to. I want to go above and beyond.”