IRVING, Texas (AP) – Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin are 23-year-old first-round draft picks anchoring the Dallas offensive line for NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray.
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“I hope not,” says Frederick. “I hate nicknames.”
And there’s the essence of a young group that could form the core of the Cowboys’ offense for years. The closest thing to Hollywood in this bunch is that Smith looks the part of a comic book hero at 6-foot-5, 320 pounds and he grew up in the Los Angeles area.
Otherwise, these are men of few words – unless you get Frederick talking about math or engineering – who live by the manta that you’re doing your job when nobody says your name.
“They are old-school offensive linemen,” coach Jason Garrett said. “They don’t say a whole lot. They go out and do their job. They do it the right way.”
Smith was Garrett’s first draft pick as coach in 2011, a 20-year-old from Southern California at No. 9 overall. The Cowboys gave him a year at right tackle but believed all along he was the future at the marquee spot, left tackle, and just proved it by locking him up with the franchise’s second $100 million contract after Tony Romo.
Frederick, the center, followed two years later near the end of the first round when the Cowboys traded down. Martin was the last of the three first-round picks this year after Dallas decided to keep the selection as everyone wondered whether owner Jerry Jones would grab the free-falling Johnny Manziel.
All three have started from the moment they walked into team headquarters, with the assumption always being the Cowboys were trying to make life easier on Romo. Jones said following the Frederick pick that the team was trying to buy their often-banged up quarterback an “extra half a second.”
Turns out Murray is reaping the most benefits, with a chance Sunday against the New York Giants (3-3) to become the first back with seven straight 100-yard games to start the season and a nearly 250-yard lead in the rushing race with 785 yards. He also leads all running backs with six touchdowns, a big reason for Dallas’ 5-1 start.
“Those are good guys,” said Murray, who says he takes care of his linemen but hasn’t added the downfield-blocking receivers and tight ends to his payroll yet.
“If I was making Romo’s money I would,” Murray said. “But I’m concentrating on the five guys right now. I appreciate the other guys, but I’m concentrating on the big fellas right now.”
He hangs out with them – a bit.
“I wouldn’t say all the time because fat guys like to hang out with other fat guys,” Frederick said. “Skinny guys don’t like hanging out with us too much. We eat too much. But he does a good job of making a point of being friendly and hanging out with us and making sure we know he cares.”READ MORE: Look Up To See Bright Comet Leonard In December Before It Vanishes Forever
And those “fat guys” do enjoy their time together. During training camp, their entrances looked choreographed – marching side by side, or just a few steps apart, even with the same pace and straight-ahead glare. But Martin, the right guard, says they weren’t.
Mostly, they hang out because that’s what offensive linemen do – and the bond goes beyond the young trio. Ron Leary, a 25-year-old undrafted free agent in this third year, starts at left guard.
The younger blockers are about to find out what life will be like without Doug Free, the 30-year-old right tackle who’s expected to miss up to a month with a broken right foot sustained in the surprising win over Super Bowl champion Seattle last weekend. In updating Free’s injury status on his radio show this week, Jones called Free the “daddy” of the offensive line.
And that also gets to Frederick’s point about nicknames.
“The three of us can’t do anything,” he said. “It’s a five-position group and usually you have to count at least a backup tackle if not two. It really has to do with a group as a whole and so I don’t think there should be any attention paid to that.”
There won’t be by his linemates.
“Travis talks but I’m more of a quiet side,” Martin, Frederick’s neighbor in the locker room, said as he sat alone in a corner while Frederick was surrounded by reporters Wednesday. “Just kind of do your job and stay under the radar.”
That says it all for this young group.
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