<
>

Spelling bee champ spends day with Dez Bryant, Cowboys

Nihar Janga (left) celebrates with co-champion Jairam Hathwar during the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 26. Jack Gruber/USA TODAY NETWORK

IRVING, Texas -- Nihar Janga, the 11-year-old youngster who threw up the "X" after being named co-champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee last month, is spending the day with the Dallas Cowboys.

Atop Nihar's list of things to do is meeting his favorite player, Dez Bryant, who throws up the "X" every time he scores a touchdown. He is also watching practice and being introduced to the team.

Yes, there will be a friendly competition.

“We’re going to have you cover Dez,” coach Jason Garrett said with a laugh, “and have Dez spell a word.”

Nihar and his family, who live in suburban Austin, about three hours south of Dallas, attended Garrett’s news conference.

“Can you spell 'gesellschaft'?” a tiny voice hidden by minicams asked from the back of the news conference.

“I can’t,” Garrett said. “I can’t even say it. Can you? Why don’t you spell it for us? Come up here. What is this word?"

Then Garrett asked Nihar whether he could use the word in a sentence.

“I can’t use it in a sentence, but I know what it means,” he responded.

Garrett was clearly impressed.

“How in the world do you know this word, the definition and how to spell it?” the coach asked as he shared a lectern with Nihar.

“My mom helps me a lot to prepare,” he said. “She looks through lists and helps me prepare, and I found this in one of the lists she prepared."

After the news conference ended, Garrett spent a few moments talking to Nihar's family. He wanted them to know he respected the young man’s work ethic.

“A lot of times people will say a certain athlete is a natural,” he told them. “But they don’t see all of the hard work; they just see the result and say, “See, he’s a natural.'"

“You’re not a natural spelling bee champ. You have to put in a lot of work.”

Later, Nihar said Bryant is his favorite player "because he doesn't give up on anything."

Bryant came away humbled.

"It means everything to me. For a kid to tell me that, that is everything," Bryant said. "It only makes you want to work harder. Those are people you try your best not to let down. I was speechless."

And Bryant wasn't about to compete in any spelling competitions.

"I'm nowhere near on his level and I'm not afraid to tell the world that," Bryant said. "This guy is extremely amazing."

And the feeling was mutual.

"This is the greatest day of my life," Nihar said.