05-02-08 -- Cowboys first-round pick Felix Jones hasn’t yet shared a “Woooooooooo, Pig! Sooie!” with owner Jerry Jones, the Arkansas alumnus who had never drafted a fellow Razorback until getting the running back last weekend.
Still, the runner is already sharing the owner’s affection for being a Cowboy.
“It’s unbelievable for me. I grew up watching the Cowboys, and now that I’ve got a chance to wear that star on the side of my helmet, it’s a blast,” Jones said after his first practice Friday during rookie minicamp. “It’s just a dream come true for me.”
The Cowboys hadn’t selected an offensive player in the first round since tight end David LaFleur in 1997. The last time they used a first-round pick on a running back was for Emmitt Smith in 1990, the year after Jerry Jones bought the team.
But this time they needed a runner to complement Marion Barber, the bruising Pro Bowl player, and replace another Jones, Julius, the running back who left in free agency to Seattle. The Cowboys got Felix Jones 22nd overall, 18 picks after his Razorbacks backfield mate Darren McFadden, and a spot ahead of Illinois’ Rashard Mendenhall, who the Cowboys also could have had.
“He was appreciative of getting the nod so to speak (over Mendenhall),” Jerry Jones said. “He earned it. He should have been the pick and will really have an opportunity here because of his skills to really have a special career with the Cowboys.”
Both of the first-round picks, Felix Jones and South Florida cornerback Mike Jenkins, are among 19 rookies and eight first-year players taking part in the weekend minicamp. They had two practices Friday, with two more scheduled Saturday.
Since Jones wasn’t taking handoffs from Tony Romo or sharing time with Barber, most eyes were on the rookie running back during the opening of the minicamp. But that didn’t bother the speedster at all.
“It was practice for me,” he insisted. “I was just going out there learning everything and making sure I do everything right. … I wasn’t thinking about the eyes that were on me.”
He did still notice owner Jones watching from the sideline, and impressed the fellow Razorback.
“Certainly, we saw how smooth Felix Jones is as a player and see the kind of thing that has made him the productive back he is,” Jerry Jones said. “We knew what a hard worker he is. You can see he can run when he gets that ball. But the most important thing I saw out here was just how smooth he looks cutting and doing the kinds of things you do.”
Jones expects the running back to “immediately have significant roles” in the offense.
Felix Jones will be in a situation with Barber similar to what he was at Arkansas with McFadden, the Heisman Trophy runner-up who was drafted fourth overall by Oakland.
Even without being the featured back, Jones rushed for 1,162 yards and 11 touchdowns last season for the Razorbacks. He averaged 8.7 yards per carry—3 yards better than McFadden’s average—and 159.1 all-purpose yards a game since he also averaged 29 yards on kickoff returns.
Barber made the Pro Bowl last year without even starting a game in the regular season, when he rushed for 975 yards and 10 TDs before taking over as the starter in the Cowboys playoff game. Julius Jones, the first player the Cowboys selected in 2004, though it was 43rd overall in the second round, left in free agency.
Now Felix Jones looks forward to be part of another 1-2 punch, though he hasn’t an opportunity yet to visit with his new teammate.
“Barber, he’s a power guy. He hits the hole full speed. I do the same thing,” Jones said. “He’s kind of like Darren. He’s going to run and pound you and pound you. And I believe once (defenders) get pounded and think they’re going to get me, I’ll put a move on them.”
Jones acknowledged that there were a “few words” spoken about Arkansas when he had a couple of minutes with the Cowboys owner before the start of minicamp, and that they have a lot in common. But the old school cheer will have to wait.
“We haven’t practiced it at all,” Felix Jones said. “I haven’t heard him do it yet, bu I’m sure he’s still good at it.”