Once the draft concludes, the talent acquisition process is far from over for the front office. The Dallas Cowboys take the minutes and hours after the completion of the seven rounds extremely seriously. The process of signing undrafted free agents has become a primary focus for diehard Cowboys fanatics, following the diamonds in the rough the franchise found in Tony Romo and Miles Austin.
Each year, a new crop of UDFAs grows, with fans hopeful the class will bear fruit. 2012 brought us Cole Beasley and Lance Dunbar who both received significant playing time. This year, one of the main targets whom folks have their eye on is an Arizona State Sun Devil, Brandon Magee.
Magee is a linebacker who might be a little short on height, but is high on skillsets and leadership qualities. After sitting out the 2011 season with an achilles injury, he returned in 2012 to lead the Sun Devils to their first bowl win since 2005. He can cover, he can blitz, he can tackle and he can lead. If you followed the draft, you know he was a Dallas target as early as the fifth round. They rolled the dice and played the waiting game, being rewarded when no other team selected Magee in the draft's final three rounds.
Don't let Magee going undrafted fool you. As you'll read below, he had plenty of suitors. So many that Dallas felt obligated to give him a $70,000 signing bonus; a number that exceeds what every 2012 seventh-rounder got as a bonus. (Note: We've since found out it's $70k of guaranteed money, not all signing bonus).
I recently had an opportunity to talk with Magee about a handful of topics; ranging from a predraft process that included being one of Dallas' 30 National Visits, to draft weekend and his time at ASU. Here's Part I of the conversation.
BloggingTheBoys:The Cowboys have signed you to their offseason roster in the hopes that you'll make the final 53. You obviously have a lot of people pulling for you and thinking that you're a star in the making. Did you get a chance to talk to Coach Kiffin after the draft?
Brandon Magee: Yessir, he was the first guy to call me. After the sixth round pick they gave me a call. He was really pushing for me to be a Cowboy and I'm happy he did. Because I'm really happy to be a part of a great organization such as the Dallas Cowboys.
KD: You should have a little familiarity because he was at USC coaching that defense for the last couple years while you were at Arizona State. Do you know where he envisions you in this defense, will you primarily be at the Will?
BM: No, I'm gonna play either the Sam, the Mike or the Will. Going into rookie camp they said I'm gonna be at Mike to start off, because I can play all three positions. This is the reason why I really wanted to sign with Dallas because at ASU we did the same scheme for three years. The lingo and the stuff that they coach is the same stuff I learned in college. So I can play all three spots... a good thing for me.
KD: I did get to watch some tape of you and I did see you flying around and lining up in multiple positions and it seemed like you guys ran a lot of stuff not only with three linebackers, but five men on the line and you might be the only linebacker out there in some of your nickel formations... I'm definitely interested to see how this is gonna play out for you.
BM: Oh yeah, me too. The system that we ran last year man... We had 3-3-5, the 3-4 a 4-3, a dime, a nickel a 33 set... we had everything that you could possibly think of. So, I mean, nothing will be new to me. Of course I'm gonna have to learn a new scheme but any way I can fit in and help the Cowboys get back to the Super Bowl, I'll be more than willing to do it.
KD: Unfortunately you did get injured in your last game, the bowl game against Navy. What was that like for you having to sit out the end of your final collegiate game?
BM: I'm not gonna lie, that was really tough to go through, especially since that was the first bowl game that I got to play in, and we were winning the game. So in my mind I was thinking like "Man I get to celebrate with my team, it's been a long year, we pulled it off, won a bowl game," and then all of a sudden I get hurt. Then I was like "Well, let's just cheer the team on." I still helped the team win, I was just happy to be part of a winning team and put ASU back on the map.
KD: A lot of people were checking for you to be part of the Dallas Cowboys starting around the fifth round. And the Rams turned around and trolled all of Cowboys Nation and they selected Brandon McGee, but it was the corner out of Miami and not you. Everybody was like Aww man, he's gone and then were like wait, our Brandon Magee went to ASU and not Miami. But what's it like going through that process, I'm sure that you're hopeful you get drafted as soon as possible, but what's it like going through that three day draft process?
BM: It was pretty crazy. I was sitting around the house watching some of it, but most of the time I was sitting outside trying to stay away. You know the draft process is something you can't control. The stuff you can't control, you just let God handle everything and he put me in a great situation, so I'm blessed with the opportunity that I have.
So now, you know, rookie mini camp, OTAs, training camp... Everybody is on the same pedestal, we're on the same gridiron and between them lines, man, the best people are gonna play, so I just have to prove myself.
KD: You were one of the 30 players that Dallas brought in for a National Visit, and the Cowboys have a budding legacy of drafting players and signing UDFAs that they bring in either through the national visits or Dallas Day. When you came in, did you get the royal Jerry Jones treatment?
BM: Yes sir, I toured the stadium, I saw the practice facilities, I met the coaches, met for a while with the linebackers coach, coach Kiffin, met Jerry Jones, the head coach... all the stuff that everybody else gets to do. I loved the vibe there, I loved the winning mentality, I love how they don't settle for nothing mediocre or average.
I want to go to a program that wants to win, wants to be one of the greatest in the world. I want to go to a team that has great linebackers there that can teach me the game , that can also make my game better. Man, everything there is just an awesome fit, I'm just happy to be there.
KD: It's gotta be exciting to envision yourself in meetings and on the same field as Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. Those are guys we have plenty high hopes for, they're pretty much like you, very athletic, they can chase sideline to sideline, pretty much you're the carbon copy as far as what Dallas seems to be looking for out of their linebackers right now.
BM: Oh yeah, that's one of the reasons I came here. I know they're looking for a guy, especially in a 4-3, not necessarily judging people off their size. I‘m not the biggest linebacker in the world, so it fits me pretty good to sit in a 4-3, that Tampa 2 look, running sideline to sideline making plays. Being in some Nickel packages, covering some guys man to man, getting on some special teams, anything to help the team win. I feel like I'll be able to contribute and contribute early, so that's why I picked them.
KD: Now when they bring you in for that visit, do you actually get on the practice field and go through drills or is it more of a classroom setting?
BM: It's a classroom, it's a test. They want to see how smart you are and how quick you can pick up the defense. When I was there, they were on the whiteboard, I'm in with the linebackers coach, they draw up, let me see, six different formations and four different blitzes that they could run this year.
And then one by one, he'll draw it up, then erase it. Next one, draw it up, erase it. And he keeps doing that until he done, and he finished it in like 10 minutes. Next thing you know he's like alright, redraw everything I just did. So you gotta redraw it and then he grades the test right there. And I did pretty well. It's all similar to what I did at ASU.
KD: The linebackers coach that you're getting with is actually one of the best. We're concerned Matt Eberflus is gonna leave us and be a defensive coordinator soon. Rumor has it he was leading the defense at the end of last year. He's gonna fill you with a lot of knowledge on the game, it's just a great situation for any young linebacker to get in his meeting room.
BM: That's another reason, the reasons just keep building up. I knew he was an intelligent guy, he knows Xs and Os, he knows what kind of linebackers he's looking for, knows how to get ‘em to be even better than they even expected. Has high expectations for the defense especially the linebackers he's coaching.
So, like me man? I want to be one of the greatest linebackers there ever was. I don't want to go anywhere and be an average type of guy, and get thrown under the bus. I need to make a statement and I need to do whatever it takes to get the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl.
KD: I'm not gonna ask you about your money, but the word did come out that you got a significant signing bonus compared to other UDFAs. So I have to ask, you seem very enthusiastic about joining the Cowboys, but were there other teams that were competing for your services, that wanted to bring you into the fold?
BM: Mainly in the 7th round, before the draft was even over I was getting phone calls saying I hope you get drafted but if you don't I'd like you to come here. And it was between 11 and 13 different teams that were calling me and my agent at the time.
We discussed, first and foremost the most important thing was where I could fit in, what defense am I looking for, 4-3. What kind of linebackers do they have there, are there spots there for me. How's the defensive coordinator, how's the linebackers coach? All that stuff played a factor in where I chose and Dallas was the best spot for you.
KD: Please tell me that the Giants were one of the teams that you picked the Cowboys over...
BM: (Laughs) I can't say that man.
KD: Look you said you were looking for the 4-3, so I eliminated the Eagles, I eliminated the Redskins so if we beat the Giants to get to you that would make me even more happy with the selection man.
BM: There were some 3-4 teams in there as well, but it was mostly 4-3. It came close, but there was no way I could turn down being a Dallas Cowboy. Regardless of how much money they gave me I would've gone for cheap. It didn't matter.
KD: But it's better to have the money, aint it?
BM: (Laughing) Oh yeah, of course!
We'll return soon with the rest of the interview, where we'll touch on the role of being a captain, his contract with the Boston Red Sox, his return from injury and much more.
If you'd like to get the remainder of the interview before then, head on over to the iTunes Store and subscribe to the "Cowboys Crunchtime with KD" podcast! The interview in it's entirety is available there. You know you want to!