OXNARD, Calif. – Leighton Vander Esch is living the dream: The dream of becoming a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
The small town kid from Idaho who lit up opponents at Boise State as a walk on has now become the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft for one of the most recognized sports franchises in the world, the Dallas Cowboys.
"It's an exciting time in my life." said the 21-year-old rookie from Riggins, Idaho who was selected 19th overall. "Everybody is talking how excited they are and how pumped they are to finally get rolling."
So pumped head coach Jason Garrett even throwing out veiled comparisons to one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game who is about to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even though he makes a point of saying he's not.
"Typically the linebackers in this scheme have been smaller guys leaner guys, guys who can really run," opened Garrett. "The guy who stands out as the exception is a guy who was an incredible player in this system Brian Urlacher. I'm not comparing Brian Urlacher to Leighton Vander Esch but that is the body type that he is. A very athletic guy and that's what we like about him."
Vander Esch stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 256 pounds and will get playing time right out of the gate.
"At the minimum we are going to get him into the rotation and give us some back up at this position," beams defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. "We've never had this much depth at this position so far."
With Sean Lee coming off another season where he missed 5 games due to a strained hamstring it only makes sense for Vander Esch to start by backing Lee up, but Leighton says he wants to be prepared for anything the Cowboys ask him to do.
"Obviously I have to be prepared for any situation that comes up," says Vander Esch. " I have to know all positions on the field. The more I know the more comfortable I am on the field."