Before we get to the Dallas Cowboys news, please take a last moment to remember why yesterday was a holiday. In that vein, here is a look back (originally published in 2014) at the sacrifice of Pat Tillman, who gave up the glamor and money of an NFL career to serve his country in what he saw as a time of need - and whose widow started a foundation to help military veterans further their education and give even more to their nation.
It's been 10 years since Pat Tillman made the ultimate sacrifice.
His legacy and the indomitable spirit of those he left behind helped forge a foundation committed to making the lives of those involved in the armed forces better. In turn, it is the responsibility of the scholars to serve others.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote "It is not the length of life, but the depth of life."
He might as well have been writing about Mr. Tillman.
Almost everyone has heard of Tillman. But most of you probably know nothing about Bob Kalsu, who gave all in a much more traumatic war at a time when serving in the military was far less popular than it is now.
Bob Kalsu most certainly put others first when he was called up to fight in the Vietnam War after serving in the ROTC at Oklahoma University. When he was told he didn't have to fight, he didn't want to shirk his responsibility. His family understood, because that's the way he was raised.
"My dad would always say people from the Buffalo Bills or the ROTC would say 'We can get you out,' but he was committed to staying with what he said," said Bryan (Bob's cousin). "We're that type of people. He committed to the ROTC, and he felt committed to staying with his word."
Thanks for bearing with me. To all my military brothers and sisters who paid the greatest price for our freedom, and especially Major Rick Price, USAF Reserve, Texas A&M '74, you have not been forgotten.
Now on to our regular helping of Cowboys news. OTAs start back up today, and the team continues to work towards preparing for the coming season.
One thing that came up during the first OTA session was Ezekiel Elliott feeling "shell-shocked" by the pace of things.
So, it's no surprise there's an adjustment period even for a top-five pick like Elliott.
"There's a lot of information that they get every day," head coach Jason Garrett said. "They're going to get in a meeting, they're going to go through a walkthrough and they're going to be on a practice field and expectations are they're supposed to be able to execute it, so I think that process is quick for them. Over time, they'll have seen the stuff over and over and over again or concepts like it and they'll be able to pick it up more quickly than they were right at the start.
The drafting of Elliott is seen by many to mean that Darren McFadden is in jeopardy of losing his spot with the Cowboys, certainly after this year if not before the beginning of the season. But McFadden has been nothing but a real pro and team player about it, taking on a mentoring role with Elliott as he makes the adjustment to the NFL.
"It's a team sport," McFadden said. "You need a lot of guys to make the thing work and make it go. Having a guy like Zeke back there, man, he's an awesome runner. He's just a great all-around guy, and I love being around him."
OK, this is a virtual hype article for Zeke - and still a detailed, knowledgeable look at why his selection by the Cowboys was the best thing for all parties involved. Not only is Elliott the cream of the running back crop this year, he is coming to a team whose scheme isn't just a great fit for his talents.
, , , Elliott's role in the Dallas offense will not dramatically differ from what he was asked to do at Ohio State due to similarities in scheme.
Like OSU head coach Urban Meyer's running game, the Dallas offense utilizes diverse philosophy featuring a variety of zone and gap-blocked concepts. While the concept and technique will be more detailed in the pros, a quick look at the tape shows much overlap between Meyer's pro-style running game and that of Cowboys' head coach Jason Garrett.
As exciting as the prospect of Elliott saddling up behind that offensive line, Stephen Jones is well aware that the most important factor for a successful season is keeping Tony Romo on the field.
Stephen Jones: I do agree with you, at the end of the day it's all about Tony's health. We've got to keep him healthy. We did take a big pick in Ezekiel Elliott that I think really helps everybody. Not only going to help the rushing game, but because he is so gifted catching the ball out of the backfield, pass protection. I think all of that will do a lot to Tony and at the same time take a lot of the pressure off the defense in terms of controlling the ball like we did two years ago. We're excited about where we sit right now as a team.
A lot has been made of Zeke's proficiency at pass blocking, but his greatest contribution to keeping Romo safe will be doing his primary job well.
So how can the Cowboys achieve this? They plan on running the ball relentlessly to protect the veteran quarterback, which seems like a given considering the No. 4 overall selection of running back Ezekiel Elliott.
It remains to be seen how much Sean Lee will be involved this week, but Dallas will continue to be careful with him. He had his first pro-bowl appearance last season, and he is key to the defense in so many ways.
Dallas hopes that Lee can stay healthy for a defense that looks to generate more turnovers in 2016. Lee leads the Cowboys in interceptions since 2010, so he could a have huge impact on helping take the ball away in 2016.
J.J. Wilcox is seen as one player who clearly has to look over his shoulder to try and keep his spot on the 53 man roster. One thing that he hopes will help him is that this is his fourth year. He may have a point, given that he had only a year's experience at safety before being drafted, and the experience may finally begin to pay off.
"You know what is expected from you and your role with the team... you know the coaching staff and the playbook better. With that being said, you can go out there and play ball and be yourself."
Dallas has been hewing very close to its plan of focusing on draft picks rather than free agency to upgrade the talent level of the team. This article points out that they are not alone, and more and more teams are going with a few talented veteran leaders surrounded by an increasingly younger supporting cast.
The Cowboys seem to be following this equation. Their older players in Romo and Jason Witten rank near the top of their positions and are some of the best in Cowboys' history, while the rest of their roster consist mostly of fresh legs. Their average age is 25.2 currently. This number will likely change with roster alterations coming, but is very similar to last season's average of 25.1. They have been able to keep this young age with successful drafting and targeting younger players in free agency.