FRISCO, Texas — Following his first official NFL practice last Friday, a reporter asked Dalton Schultz if he viewed being a Dallas Cowboy in terms of pressure or opportunity.
Schultz, a Bingham High product participating in a rookie minicamp, answered like a seasoned professional.
“We have a saying at Stanford, pressure is not perceived in the moment. If you really take advantage of the now, there’s no such thing as pressure,” he said. “Pressure is fear of outcome and of the future. Honestly, I look to the opportunity more than anything. I don’t think there’s any pressure in the now.”
On May 3, his prospects for more playing time as a rookie improved considerably when 11-time Pro Bowl tight end and franchise icon Jason Witten retired after 15 seasons to transition into broadcasting.
Schultz knows the absence of Witten, one of the Cowboys’ top veteran voices, will be felt in the locker room now and in the future. “This is my 14th year playing football, ever in my life, and he’s had 15 years in the league. When you put it in perspective like that, it’s not better that he’s gone,” he said. “Having a guy like that around would only be good for everybody.”
Much of the two-day camp, at least the on-field portions, was spent putting the rookies through the paces in one big walk-through. And despite those unique circumstances, Dallas offensive coordinator Scott Linehan sees plenty to like in his rookie tight end.
“He’s a really good blocker, but he’s a really good athlete,” Linehan said. “I think he’d be a really productive player in the passing game. I think he has an all-around game. He can play on the ball.”
At one point, Linehan even compared Schultz to Witten, who he’d coached since 2015. “Much like Jason (Witten) was able to do, I think at some point in his career he’s going to be able to play three downs,” Linehan said. “I know he’s a real bright kid. You got to be smart to go to Stanford, so I think he should be able to pick things up. And I like the fact he played in the system that he played there. It’s a real pro-style system that asked the tight ends to do a lot, just like we do here. We’re excited about his prospects.”
Dallas will be the second place Schultz has played since his days at Bingham High, but this affable 6-foot-6, 242-pound tight end remains true to his Utah roots by keeping his Twitter handle @BinghamBaller9, which he’s had since his sophomore year of high school. This is done, he says, to ensure his never-ending pride in his home state remains on full display.
“Yeah, I take a lot of pride in where I come from. Back in my day, it (Utah) was just on the come-up. We had big names come out and it was just starting to get put on the map,” Schultz said. “I take a lot of pride in my high school, too. I love the coaches and the philosophy that we played there, so that’s why (I use that as my Twitter handle).”
Schultz considers himself blessed to have played in three programs with similar philosophies of being run-heavy with plenty of play action and over-the-top play, which started at Bingham, then led him to Stanford and now to Dallas.
He feels playing in these kinds of systems has allowed him to maximize his skill set everywhere he’s been, something he now hopes to do for the Cowboys, who picked him in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft. Like many rookies from big programs, he feels well prepared for the NFL, but one thing has surprised him thus far.
“We’ve had a lot of similar concepts carry over, but the thing that surprised me most shouldn’t have been a surprise, but everything is so well-oiled and well-managed,” Schultz said. “There’s a time guy in the middle (of the field) and he’s keeping track of everything. You are on a schedule. College is the same way, but here you really just see that everybody is in their own spots, doing their own thing. You see why at this level, things get done.”
Schultz was drafted on April 28 and has only been a Cowboy for a few weeks, but he still remembers that phone call from owner Jerry Jones on day three of the draft like it happened yesterday.
“No, it (the mystique of being a Dallas Cowboy) is real. I definitely felt it, getting the call from Jerry Jones is still surreal,” he said. “I think there is a lot of tradition to be had here. Going forward, I know us rookies are looking forward to possibly carrying that torch.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.