Having a boisterous crowd in Seattle and Kansas City or inclement weather in Buffalo or Green Bay can create a real home-field advantage for the city’s NFL teams. Located in Texas, the Dallas Cowboys’ facilities prevent weather from being a competitive advantage on game day.
However, the Cowboys will be happy to know their facilities are precisely why they gained an edge over the rest of the league and will help them during the pre-draft process next season.
“I mean, hey, all 32 teams will have the same access for sure, but the Cowboys have that home-field advantage kind of knowing where things are and knowing how things are going to operate and not be caught off guard by stuff.”
On the most recent episode of The Writer’s Block Podcast, we sat down with Eric Galko, the Director of Player Personnel for the East-West Shrine Bowl. He was present at the press conference when it was announced last week the college all-star game would be moving to Frisco, TX, in 2024.
Galko reiterated his excitement about the game coming to Texas and what playing at The Star could mean for the players participating in the week-long event.
“Dallas was one of our finalists two years ago for the East-West Shrine Bowl and this time around opening it back up and seeing the community, the city of Dallas and Frisco; Being able to have us have the option to be at The Star all week for every day of practice and the game, to be at what I think is basically a brand new hotel right nearby and all the other benefits that we’re gonna have to provide our players. Being in an awesome area like Dallas where everything’s connected, everything’s easy to get to. The facility is best in class in the NFL. If it’s not number one, it’s definitely in the top three in terms of practice facilities and also thinking about it for our players. If you can’t tell, I’m fired up because I think people are gonna love being at the Shrine Bowl in Dallas.”
While the Cowboys won’t have more access than the other 31 teams to work with the college players, there is a history of the team that plays host can get a better feel of prospects given the access to their own building.
The Las Vegas Raiders weren’t a part of the primary coaching staff for the recent Shrine Bowl, but they got to see quarterback Aidan O’Connell all week, who even had discussions with head coach Josh McDaniels. The Raiders drafted O’Connell in the fourth round and could have used the Shrine Bowl to solidify their decision.
As a part of Dallas’ rookie class, Luke Schoonmaker, Junior Fehoko, and Eric Scott Jr. all attended the recent Shrine Bowl, and Galko got to know them well enough to give his take on the players and how they will impact the Cowboys.
Eric Scott Jr., CB - 6th round draft pick
“Eric Scott was a guy that not a lot of people appreciate in the NFL even, but I think he impressed at pro day after the Shrine Bowl and then the whole draft process. But I think during his college career, he showed the physicality, the ability to win against press when he faced an NFL-level receiver in college. He always rose up to the occasion and had the ideal body type...I think they’re [Cowboys] gonna find a role from early on. I would not be surprised at all if he ends up being in their three to four-man rotation at corner early on despite being a day-three pick.”
Junior Fehoko, DE - 4th round draft pick
“Junior Fehoko was banged up towards the end of his college season. Didn’t end up playing the game for the Shrine Bowl, but just personality-wise, he’s obviously got family that play in the NFL and he was very focused on, ‘hey, what do I need to get better at for the NFL?’ He was laser-focused on like what are the things step by step I have to do to be successful in the NFL...he’s a guy that I think you’ll see as a Cowboy fan, he’ll get better the next three to four years. He’s not gonna be a guy that comes as a rookie and shows you everything he has. He’s gonna get a lot better as his NFL career goes on.”
Luke Schoonmaker, TE - 2nd round draft pick
“He [Schoonmaker] was one of the best athletes at tight end in the entire draft. It was talked about a lot about how it’s a deep tight-end class last year, definitely was, but Luke got lost in that, and he was a guy that preseason was the highest-ranked senior tight end by most NFL teams coming into last season. Had a great year got banged up towards the end of his senior season, but then crushed the draft process [and] interviewed outstandingly. He’s a pro's pro...and if not for that injury, he might have been a guy that ended up going in the late first, early, second-round area too. The Cowboys got an absolute great value in Luke Schoonmaker, and again, it wouldn’t surprise me at all by year two, year three, if he’s one of if not the best tight end in last year’s draft.”
Thinking about how successful the front office and scouts have been drafting under-the-radar players like DaRon Bland, Israel Mukuamu, Tyler Biadasz, Donovan Wilson, Dorance Armstrong, Tony Pollard, and others, having the bowl game in their backyard could undoubtedly be beneficial for a team like Dallas.
While nothing is confirmed, the Cowboys could team have some of their coaches on the staff to run practices and get an opportunity to coach the East or West players.
We won’t know for sure until the game gets closer who is on what staff, but it’s something Galko wants to make sure people know the importance of these games for coaches.
“It’s really important for, I think people [to] realize that this is also a chance for NFL coaches to network a little bit. One of the areas that the two all-star games, us and the Senior Bowl, have [is] coaches from the NFL get a chance to do one job higher than they’re currently doing. It allows coaches to get experience, show other GMs future people that may be hiring them what they can and can’t do as coaches, but also, which is my favorite part, a chance to network. This year we’ll have, just like the other all-star game, we’ll have nominated coaches from multiple different teams coaching the Shrine Bowl so they may have some Cowboys coaches and Eagles coaches, etc., and they get a chance to network with each other.”
To help bring more diversity to league hirings, the Cowboys had two members of their coaching staff, Joe Whitt Jr. and Aden Durde, travel to the NFL owners meeting in May as a part of the NFL coach accelerator program. Whitt Jr. and Durde have helped build Dallas’ dominant defense alongside Dan Quinn. If any members of Dallas’ staff is selected to participate, these could be names to look out for as it gets closer to February.
Not only will there be a ton of media and events on game day, but fans should also expect a huge tailgate party on the field outside of The Star. The game will have a lot of Texas representation, as Galko hopes the community knows this will become their all-star game and represent the city with pride.
“We wanna make sure that the city of Frisco and Dallas know that we want to be here for a long time and know that this is this community’s game and we want this to be the Dallas and Frisco all-star game to the city, the community, the high schools are all involved moving forward as well too. We’ll have a lot of TCU, SMU, [and] Longhorn Helmets for sure, right? All those Texas-based schools at the Shrine Bowl as well too. So we’re excited to kind of be a part of the Dallas and Frisco community now this year moving forward.”
The game will take place on February 1, 2024, at 7:00 pm at The Star. Visit the East-West Shrine Bowl website for more details and information.