In what was a surprise to many this past May, the Dallas Cowboys traded back into the first round to select Wisconsin center Travis Frederick in the NFL Draft, a player that many thought would have gone in the second or even third round.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, never lacking in confidence in his players, said right from the start what he expected from Frederick — that he was to be the lynchpin of the offensive line for the next 10 years, assuming that Frederick stays at center and doesn’t make the switch to guard, and to be a big help to the other offensive linemen with his physical strength.
While such proclamations out of the gate could be viewed as negative as they can place too much pressure on a rookie, especially one playing a position as important as center, Jones’ rather lofty expectations can only be a benefit for the team’s newest potential line anchor.
In the last 25 years, the Cowboys have really only had two centers worthy of note. Mark Stepnoski, a third-round pick in 1989, manned the position until 2001, playing starting and playing all 16 games seven times over his career. Then in 2002, the Cowboys drafted Andre Gurode in the second round, who went to five straight Pro Bowls before being signed by the Baltimore Ravens in 2011.
In Frederick, the Cowboys obviously see a guy that could potentially reach the levels that Stepnoski and Gurode did.
Frederick will no doubt be playing with a chip on his shoulder, which could make that potential come through. Cowboys fans know that their team has seen its fair share of players that have been doubted, but who have also come through in big ways after being given big responsibilities.
It worked for Emmitt Smith, who was too small and too slow for NFL experts in 1990, only to become the league’s all-time leading rusher 12 years later. His task coming into Dallas was filling the shoes of former Cowboy great Tony Dorsett.
Then you have Tony Romo, who has done pretty well for himself for all the negatives that people want to magnify, being that he was undrafted in 2004. In a post-Troy Aikman era where the team toiled with mediocre young arms and over the hill veterans, Romo has at least given the team some continuity at the NFL’s most important position.
For Frederick, the situation is the same. He comes into the perfect scenario for himself — filling a position in need, with expectations be great and with a chip on his shoulder.
As a guy that will need to prove himself, the situation in Dallas is a good one.