Cowboys' history helps Keith Smith in switch to fullback

IRVING, Texas -- Keith Smith is not familiar with the Robert Thomas story, but the Dallas Cowboys are attempting to do with Smith what they did with Thomas in the late 1990s.

Thomas was a linebacker when he first joined the Cowboys, then made the transition to fullback, helping to open up holes for Emmitt Smith.

Keith Smith has been on and off the Cowboys’ active roster the last two seasons as a linebacker but he has made the move this offseason to fullback.

The Cowboys got the idea last year when watching Smith work the scout team in practice.

“They asked me, ‘Have you ever played offense?’” Smith said. “I thought it was just small talk and what not, but I guess they really considered it then. I think it was the last week of the season and [running backs coach Gary Brown] said, 'So, do you think you can handle the running back room?' and I was like, 'Man, put me in a room that’s going to get me on the field.'"

At his exit meeting with head coach Jason Garrett, the move was made.

Smith played tight end and some fullback in high school, in addition to linebacker. At San José State, Smith practiced some at fullback as well but they never used him there in a game.

“It’s not like it’s foreign to me,” Smith said. “I’ve always had good ball skills, so that just came natural to me. I think that’s what’s helped me out with the transition.”

Free agent Tyler Clutts had been the Cowboys’ fullback the last two-plus seasons, but the Cowboys wanted to get more production from that spot in special teams. Smith has the ability to play on all of the special-teams units. Clutts was part of the kickoff return team.

Smith has spent the offseason studying John Kuhn of the Green Bay Packers and Marcel Reece of the Oakland Raiders. He also believes playing linebacker will help him at fullback.

“I think that’s going to be an advantage for me just knowing how linebackers think on the defensive side because I know what angles they need to take to the ball, what they’re looking at and what I can use to my benefit against the defense,” Smith said.