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Are we witnessing the rise of Rico Gathers for the Cowboys?

The second-year tight end had quite a night.

NFL: Pro Football Hall of Fame Game-Arizona Cardinals vs Dallas Cowboys Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys, and its fan base, have been chasing a mythical creature called Rico Gathers for over a year now. Gathers was a basketball player at Baylor, a pretty good one, but not good enough to give it a go in the NBA. Instead, he decided he would go back to football, a game he hadn’t played in a while, and make himself available to the NFL in the 2016 draft. The Cowboys liked his athleticism and took a chance by picking him in the sixth round of that draft. Ever since, the Legend of Rico has grown.

Maybe its his name, Rico, that sets him apart, or his story of basketball-turned-football player that we latch on to, or perhaps its his size and athleticism that intrigues us so. Whatever it is, fans and media have spent an inordinate amount of time hoping that Gathers would one day become the heir to Jason Witten’s throne. For the first time, in the Hall of Fame game, Gathers produced a hint of what might be to come.

Gathers had three catches for for 59 yards and a touchdown during the Hall of Fame game. Those numbers are nice, but perhaps more importantly he played over 60 snaps in the game. That shows the Cowboys are finally trusting him a little. This is a guy who, until last year, hadn’t played football since he was in junior high school.

Gather’s touchdown was a nice play because he was tightly covered and he used his big body to shield off the defender. Almost like boxing out for a rebound in basketball. The athleticism and size was on display on the play, but the problem for Gathers has always been the re-learning of football, re-learning it on a level that allows one to play in the NFL. He might just be on his way there, too. Check this quote out from Gathers about the touchdown play.

“I just saw the linebacker sitting in the hole and I saw the safety, the weakside safety come down and try to play me," Gathers said, "so I just sped up and took it all the way to the end zone and put him on my back."

Don’t look now, but that sounds like someone reading a defense and then diagnosing the proper way to beat it.

Before we go anointing Gathers for the Hall of Fame, we must step back and say this was one night, in a preseason game, against backup players. You could fill multiple AT&T Stadiums with the number of guys who have had a nice night in a preseason game who went on to do exactly nothing in the NFL. So we do need to keep some perspective here. Also, if Gathers can’t excel at blocking and knowing his assignments, he’ll never last in the Cowboys offense.

Still, for one night, we got a glimpse of the unicorn. Maybe he really does exist.

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