Among those rookies who hope to eventually earn a permanent place in the Dallas Cowboys locker room is Lance Dunbar, a free agent running back from North Texas.
“This is a great opportunity to try to show this team I want to play,” said Dunbar, a New Orleans native who moved to Haltom City after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “Everybody wants to play for the Dallas Cowboys.”
Dunbar has impressed Cowboys coaches with his speed and versatility and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield during the three days of rookie mini-camp at Valley Ranch.
“He has good quickness,” said coach Jason Garrett. “His acceleration as a runner is really good. He’s made a lot of space runs here over the last couple of days."
Dunbar rushed for 1,115 yards and scored 10 rushing touchdowns on 269 carries last season and finished his career as UNT's all-time leading rusher with 4,224 yards and 41 touchdowns. He also caught 97 career passes for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns.
Dunbar will have a chance to compete for the third running back job behind DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. The Cowboys began last season with four running backs before parting ways with Tashard Choice. Phillip Tanner, an undrafted free agent last season, played in nine games with 22 carries before going on injured reserve.
“[Dunbar] has come in, and he’s shown he’s very quick, agile and grasps what we’re trying to do very quickly," Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete said. "He makes good decisions in the running game. He can put his foot in the ground and really accelerate once he sees a crease and a hole. I’ve been impressed with the way he runs routes, catches the ball out of the backfield.”
Dunbar's size – 5-foot-8, 191 pounds -- and speed -- he ran 4.50 and 4.47 in the 40 at UNT's Pro Day – are reasons he went undrafted last week.
In practice Saturday, Dunbar got to know fourth-round pick Kyle Wilber a little better during scrimmage drills.Dunbar darted through the line of scrimmage only to find the Cowboys rookie linebacker, who threw Dunbar to the ground.
Dunbar took the run-in like any good red-blooded American football player: He laughed it off.
“He said, 'I didn't mean to throw you down like that,'” Dunbar said. “I said, 'That's all right. That's football.'”
-- John Henry