They were the big men on campus, stars of the football team.
Terrance Williams had the most receiving yards in the country as a senior at Baylor. Cole Beasley caught 173 passes combined his last two seasons at SMU. Gavin Escobar emerged as San Diego State’s No. 1 passing threat his junior season and declared for the NFL Draft early.
So did Joseph Randle after he rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a junior at Oklahoma State.
But those numbers haven’t translated in the pro game for any of them. They’ve gone from featured roles to complementary roles with the Dallas Cowboys. ,Nobody, however, is complaining.
All four are cashing in on their limited opportunities when they come their way, and must do so again against the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday with first-place in the NFC East on the line.
The Eagles essentially shut down DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant in the first meeting, and will likely try to do so again. That should give another player an opportunity to shine.
“Each week, someone new will pop up,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “We have a very team-oriented focus. Not every team is like that. Egos come into play. Our team is the exception. That’s going to help us win.”
So far, each of the role guys have had their moments.
Williams had six TD catches in the first seven weeks; Beasley has three TDs the past three weeks; almost half of Escobar’s catches (nine) have been touchdowns (4); and Randle is averaging 7 yards a carry.
And none of them appears to have wavered in their confidence or ability to play at this level.
“I still feel like a stud,” said Randle, who has 32 carries for 224 yards and two TDs this season.
“I still feel like I’m the man. I’m still playing for the Dallas Cowboys, still doing what I love. It’s not a knock on me when I’m getting only a few carries considering we’ve got the No. 1 back in the NFL.”
The Cowboys certainly have plenty of options on offense. At this point, as Randle alluded to, it seems like a given that Murray will get at least 20 carries a game plus whatever comes his way in the passing game.
Then Romo is going to give Bryant his fair share of looks, as well as tight end Jason Witten. That leaves the rest to bide their time until their number is called.
“It’s hard, man,” said Beasley, who ended his college career with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. “Getting to this point, you’re used to getting the ball a lot obviously. So it definitely takes some adjusting, especially when you have so many guys who can do something with the ball.
“But that’s a good problem to have. We’re winning games, so it’s not an issue.”
That’s the mindset Escobar and Williams have, too.
Escobar had 42 catches for 543 yards and six touchdowns as a junior at San Diego State in 2012, but has combined for 18 catches so far in one-plus seasons in the NFL.
Williams had 97 catches and 1,832 receiving yards for Baylor in 2012. This year, Williams has 30 catches for 482 yards, but has seen his role decrease in recent weeks.
Williams wasn’t even targeted in the Cowboys’ last game, at Chicago, and has only five catches combined the past five games.
“Sometimes I have mind battles,” Williams said. “But from my standpoint, my time will come. If I just keep working hard the way that I’ve been doing, my time will come. I just have to be ready.
“I know my capabilities. Whenever the coach or Tony gives me the chance, I just have to make the most of it.”
So far, so good for all of them. The individual numbers, sometimes, don’t tell the full story. The 9-4 record does.
“When they’ve had opportunities, after not getting them for a while, they’ve all cashed in,” coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s a tribute to those guys — they can focus, they have a maturity to them. Also, they’re team-oriented guys. They don’t get frustrated because they’re not getting theirs, so to speak.
“They understand what their roles are and they’re embracing them.”
Charean Williams, 817-390-7760
The Dallas Cowboys have gotten big plays out of several role players this season. Here’s a few:
WR Cole Beasley: He’s fifth on the team with 25 catches for 292 yards and three TDs.
RB Joseph Randle: He’s averaging 7.0 yards per carry with 224 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns in relief of DeMarco Murray.
TE Gavin Escobar: He’s averaging 11.7 yards per catch with four touchdowns.
WR Terrance Williams: He starts, but his touches have been limited of late. Still, he has 30 catches for 482 yards and six touchdowns.