Ezekiel Elliott was back on the football field and seemingly back in his comfort zone on the first day of Dallas Cowboys rookie minicamp Friday.
It’s been eight days since he was chosen fourth overall in the NFL Draft, taking on the pressure of making the Cowboys winners again as well as the expectations of carrying on the Hall of Fame running back lineage of Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith.
The enormity of the situation was not lost on him, not that it could have been with the horde of microphones in his face during interviews and the throng of cameras detailing his every move on the practice field.
The former Ohio State star was winded and out of shape on his first day of practice, thanks to a whirlwind draft circuit over the past three months.
Elliott even caused running backs coach Gary Brown to gasp when he slipped down after a drill before ordering the newest franchise savior to drop down and do five push-ups for hitting a cone.
“A little bit. A little bit,” Brown said, when asked if he held his breath watching Elliott fall. “We don’t need that. That’s why I told him to slow down a little bit. I think it’s being excited, trying to work as hard as you can, trying to show what you can do
“And you get a little bit ahead of yourself. I think he will be better tomorrow and better on Sunday.”
Elliott tried to take a nap on the couch in the locker room between the morning walk-through and the afternoon practice.
“I was just excited to get back on the field honestly,” Elliott said. “It’s been long time since I actually strapped up and put some cleats on and got on the field. It’s a relief to start playing ball again.
“The draft process is crazy, all the traveling and not really having a home. So it’s a relief to finally be able to have stable environment and do what you love. And that’s play ball.”
Aside from a slip and some heavy breathing between reps, Elliott’s first day on the field was as impressive as his tape at Ohio State, where he rushed for 3,961 yards and 43 touchdowns in three seasons and led the Buckeyes to the 2014 national championship.
He looked every bit like the future star that blew the Cowboys away during a campus workout in Columbus, Ohio, overhauling their draft plans to make him the primary target.
“I think it’s similar to what I saw,” Brown said. “You see the burst. You see the acceleration. You see the power. It’s exactly what I saw in Columbus. He is such complete back. He can run. He can catch. He can block. He can do all the things necessary to be a complete back.”
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will be in charge of building an offense with Elliott.
“He’s a natural. He’s a natural athlete,” Linehan said. “He is a built for the position.
“He is a big guy, but he doesn’t look big. He is in the mid-220s. But he looks like a lighter guy in a lot of ways. He moves with ease. He is very fluid.
“And he is built low to the ground, ideal to play running back. The low man wins in this game. And running backs who have that kind of style are effective players.”
Elliott knows the expectations being placed on him. Smith, the league’s all-time leading rusher, said earlier this week that Elliott has more talent than he had.
“I don’t think anyone — no one’s going to have higher expectations on me than myself,” Elliott said. “I appreciate it. I thank him. But I’ve got to get on the field and prove that. Honestly, I haven’t done anything. All I’ve done in college really doesn’t matter anymore. Now I’ve just got to do what I do on the next level.”
Elliott quickly shut down any talk of him wearing Smith’s No. 22 jersey.
“No, I didn’t think about 22,” Elliott said. “I think that’s just something you don’t do. That’s a guy who worked so hard and accomplished so much in this organization it would’ve been kind of disrespectful just to try to wear his number.”
Elliott’s willingness to work, humble approach and keen sense of awareness impressed the Cowboys as much as his athletics skills.
“He is going to be a normal rookie,” Brown said. “He is going to have to earn what he gets.
“He is going to have to bring the donuts and the breakfast sandwiches on Saturday. Since he is the fourth pick, he is going to have a little more bread. He may have to bring those Stubbs [breakfast sandwiches from the Coppell Deli] instead of the ones from McDonald’s.”
Dallas Cowboys schedule
Saturday, Aug. 13 at Los Angeles Rams, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Friday, Aug. 19 vs. Miami, 7 p.m., (KTVT/11)
Thursday, Aug. 25 at Seattle, 9 p.m. (KTVT/11)
Thursday, Sept. 1 vs. Houston, 7 p.m. (KTVT/11)
Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. New York Giants, 3:25 p.m. (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Sept. 18 at Washington, Noon, (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Sept. 25 vs. Chicago, 7:30 p.m. (KXAS/5)
Sunday, Oct. 2 at San Francisco, 3:25 p.m. (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Oct. 9 vs. Cincinnati, 3:25 p.m. (KTVT/11)
Sunday, Oct. 16 at Green Bay, 3:25 p.m. (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Oct. 23 Bye
Sunday, Oct. 30 vs. Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. (KXAS/5)
Sunday, Nov. 6 at Cleveland, Noon, (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Nov. 13 at Pittsburgh, 3:25 p.m. (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Nov. 20 vs. Baltimore, Noon (KTVT/11)
Thursday, Nov. 24 vs. Washington, 3:30 p.m. (KDFW/4)
Thursday, Dec. 1 at Minnesota, 7:25 p.m. (KXAS/5, NFL Network and Twitter)
Sunday, Dec. 11 at New York Giants, 7:30 p.m. (KXAS/5)
Sunday, Dec. 18 vs. Tampa Bay, Noon, (KDFW/4)
Monday, Dec. 26 vs. Detroit, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday, Jan. 1 at Philadelphia, Noon (KDFW/4)