When the Dallas Cowboys selected Rico Gathers out of Baylor, it took a ton of people by surprise. Gathers last played football at the age of 13, but the potential stemming from his size and athleticism alone led the Cowboys to have interest in him. Fortunately for the staff and readers of Blogging The Boys, we were able to interview Mattisbear, a writer for SB Nation's Our Daily Bears, Baylor's website.
Blogging The Boys: What was your first opinion when you heard Rico was getting drafted by the Cowboys?
Mattisbear: Personally, torn. I'm a massive Texans fan, so rules dictate I have to hate and troll everything with the star on it. From a football perspective, it might darn well be the best landing spot Rico could've hoped for. No pressure to perform immediately, learn from one of the best to play the position, and close to home.
BTB: What is Rico's biggest strength?
Mattisbear: In the context of the NFL, I will hope it continues to be durability. Rico only missed, at most, a handful of games playing basketball for Baylor, and I believe they were all non-injury related. Universally though, it's probably just that. His strength. He's a rock, and I'm excited to see what an NFL strength and conditioning program can do with him.
BTB: What is something he will need to work on?
Timing. Rhythm. Not that he doesn't naturally have that, he most certainly does. But the transition will just be one of practice. Breaking in and out of routes, acceleration patterns, etc.
BTB: Who do you compare his game/football potential to?
Mattisbear: I feel it's really cliche to compare his football potential to other TE's that have played basketball, so I'm going to try and dig a little deeper. I feel like a Larry Donnell comparison is at one end realistic, and at the other end, still quite satisfactory.
BTB: What can he bring to this Cowboys team?
Mattisbear: He's an intense guy, that's for sure. I don't know him personally, but I've seen the fire. He will bring a competitive, something-to-prove attitude from his first day at camp.
BTB: What's the most special memory you have of Rico?
Mattisbear: Watching Rico develop from Sophomore year as a high-motor energy guy to Junior year as a high-motor energy guy with new skills and a new level of competitive fire. Every rebound where the opposing player, no matter how big, could not move or alter his path to a rebound. Incredible.
BTB: Do you think he will struggle with the transition to the NFL?
Mattisbear: He has to, right? Can anybody say right now that the whole process will be easy for him? Just peachy? He will definitely struggle, but the real question is, for how long? The more important question is, how does he respond to that struggle? I would bet he handles it quite well.
BTB: Did you hear about the Cowboys' interest in Rico before the draft? If so, what exactly did you hear?
Mattisbear: Aside from the general information that came out of his pro day, I didn't hear anything. I suspected someone would take a chance on his athleticism and skillset, but not that early in the draft.
BTB: Does he know anyone on the Cowboys?
Mattisbear: I would imagine he's spoken with TWill, but I have no insight to that being the case.
BTB: What are your expectations for Rico for the 2016 season?
Mattisbear: Sit back, learn the game. Learn the locker room. Learn the playbook. He might find himself in certain formation sets, and hell, if he handles his business and progresses. I could see him getting a few targets later in the season.
BTB: What will be his role and what will be his role in three years?
Mattisbear: Injury insurance, future project to start. In three years, I would predict he finds himself as a backup TE for another squad most likely.
BTB: Tell us an interesting story about Rico.
Announcers during basketball games would, without fail, always hit a few key points about Rico. "He has a body that lends itself to the gridiron!" or "Art Briles has to be knocking on this young man's door daily!" or "Did you know, Rico Gathers didn't start lifting weights until college?" It's ironic that now the go-to line will be "Rico was a basketball player."
As Mattisbear mentioned, there will be a huge learning curve for Gathers as he looks to evolve into the NFL. However, by going to Dallas, Rico will have the opportunity to ease himself into a situation that could lead to potential long-term success. I want to thank Mattisbear for taking the time to answer these questions. These interviews are huge for us, as there is no one better to answer these sets of questions than people that have followed the player's respective team for years. Thanks again, Mattisbear! You can follow him on Twitter here.