IRVING, Texas -- Benson Mayowa likes that nobody really knows who he is.
When the Dallas Cowboys held their rookie minicamp after the draft, Mayowa was in the locker room and the only way he lost his anonymity came from sitting at his locker, fresh with the name plate at the top and a moving company’s box tucked in the back.
"I haven't really scratched the surface yet,” Mayowa said. “I'd rather be low key and then people will be like, 'Who is this guy? Where did he come from?' I'm not loud. I don't want to talk about anything. I'm not about to brag or boast about anything. But when I ball, then [it’s], 'Who is this guy?' That's what I like. Football will take care of itself."
The Cowboys made Mayowa their first restricted free-agent signing, luring him away from the Oakland Raiders with a three-year, $8.55 million deal. Only Cedric Thornton received a bigger contract from the Cowboys in free agency at four years, $17 million.
And what has Mayowa accomplished so far in his three-year career?
The defensive end has played in 30 games with the Seattle Seahawks (two) and Raiders (28) and has recorded two sacks.
"In two years I played 30 percent of the plays," he said. "That's nothing. That's two years, plus my rookie year, that's probably 700 plays for my career. I know I've got my best football ahead of me because there's opportunity. If you take opportunity, that's how you shine. And you run with it. That's what I'm trying to do."
Despite the limited playing time, senior director of college and pro personnel Will McClay saw enough to warrant the signing. The Cowboys’ belief in McClay’s ability to find players anywhere led them to make their first foray into restricted free agency.
Mayowa joined the Cowboys because of the opportunity. In two years with the Raiders he played behind Khalil Mack, Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley. This offseason, the Raiders signed Bruce Irvin in free agency and already have Mack. In Seattle, he was behind Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Irvin.
“So I always had to scratch my way in places,” he said. “That's why coming here is a great opportunity."
The Cowboys don’t have a Mack or Tuck or Clemons. They are hoping Mayowa can do some of the things those players did as part of a rotation. They hope defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli can bring out his best. After a conversation with former Seattle teammate Michael Bennett about Marinelli, Mayowa is convinced it will happen.
"I feel like he's going to take me to the next level," Mayowa said. "When you work like that, it will take your game to another level."
Marinelli will like to hear Mayowa’s self-scouting report.
"Fast, high motor," Mayowa said. "I'm going to go after it every play and play like it's my last."