ARLINGTON, Texas -- The media horde made its way to the row of lockers around the corner from the Cowboys’ spacious locker room, where the rookies dressed for preseason games.
Sixth-round receiver Dwayne Harris drew a big crowd. That tends to happen when a guy catches all five passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns, including one that set up the winning two-point conversion, the first night he gets to wear a star on his helmet.
“Big-time players make big-time catches in big-time situations,” Harris said. “That’s what happened.”
OK, so it was just a preseason opener. The stakes weren’t quite as high as the last NFL game played in this $1.2 billion football palace, but it’s still a big-time situation for a kid trying to carve out a role on the Cowboys.
Harris caught all five passes thrown his way, but his performance wasn’t flawless. After a route early in the game, coach Jason Garrett pointed out to Harris that he’d have had room to run if he didn’t go around the defensive back. Garrett got a chance to offer positive reinforcement after Harris turned a 5-yard hook into a 76-yard touchdown with 12:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“See,” Garrett told Harris on the sideline, “you kept on running.”
On that play, Harris recognized a blitz was coming and ran a hot route. One block from tight end Martin Rucker -- and a bust by the Denver defense -- was all Harris needed to get to the end zone.
“I turned around expecting a hit and nobody was there,” said Harris, who excelled at working the middle of the field as Conference USA’s MVP at East Carolina. “I just saw green grass and the first thing that came to my mind was, don’t get caught from behind. Just keep running.”
Quarterback Stephen McGee, who threw both of the touchdowns to Harris, corrected the sixth-rounder’s route after McGee was sacked with 21 seconds remaining. Harris responded by getting open on a bend route in the middle of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown on fourth down the next play.
“He’s had a lot on his plate with no OTAs and an offense to learn,” said McGee, who completed 14 of 24 passes for 208 yards and three scores. “A lot of young guys’ heads are spinning. He stepped up and made plays. I was proud of him.”
Harris knows special teams could be his ticket to the active roster as a rookie, but he hopes his preseason debut was a sign of big-time things to come.