Sunday, 1 May 2016

Drafting Rico Gathers with the Cowboys' final pick a 'worthwhile opportunity' according to Jason Garrett

IRVING -- With their last pick in the NFL draft, the Cowboys took a shot on Rico Gathers, Baylor's 6-8, 275-pound power forward turned work-in-progress tight end.

Gathers hasn't played football since eighth grade, but he decided to pursue professional football instead of basketball. His size and physicality - he set a school record with 394 rebounds in 2014-2015 - intrigued more than 20 NFL teams that attended his pro day and inspired Dallas to set up a private workout and eventually take the former Bear in the sixth round with the 217th pick.

He could hope to emulate Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham -- NFL tight ends who are former basketball players. And Gathers will have the benefit of learning from veteran Pro Bowler Jason Witten.

"He is just very impressive physically," Garrett said. "Clearly he is determined to do this, and so we just felt at the bottom of our draft, this was a worthwhile opportunity.

"His style as a basketball player is one that's very physical; prolific rebounder. We felt like that could translate. Clearly he is a developmental player, but if he turns into something, it might be something we really like."

The Cowboys see Gathers as a potential in-line tight end, and Gathers said he knows his future depends on being willing to use his frame to block and create space.

Gathers has played in AT&T Stadium before - in a Baylor-Kentucky basketball game in December 2013.

"A lot of people thought I was crazy - 'what, you want to give up basketball?'" Gathers said. "I never saw myself being a first, second, third round guy. I always saw myself making the team and working my way up. A lot of people don't expect a guy that hasn't played since 13 to be effective right way, but I see it differently because of the hard worker that I am."

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