Turns out it was Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
“I answered and he was like, ‘Jalen,’ and I was like, ‘What’s up?’ And he’s like, ‘This is Dak Prescott. How are you doing?’” said Tolbert, the South Alabama wide receiver who was selected in the third round by the Cowboys Friday at No. 88 overall. “For a minute it was like a surreal moment because I never knew quarterbacks would call prospects, but it was an awesome, great experience.”
Prescott spoke with Tolbert for about 20 minutes, “and I think we immediately vibed on the phone, connected right there.”
The Cowboys considered Tolbert in the second round before selecting Ole Miss pass-rusher Sam Williams. They were happy to see him available in the third round. He caught 82 passes for 1,474 yards and eight touchdowns last season, including a seven-catch, 143-yard effort against Tennessee.
“We talked about my previous relationships with my quarterbacks,” Tolbert said. “We talked about my strengths on and off the field, what challenges I had to overcome. Also what I could bring to the table. Dak was asking me if he could put me at X by myself in a three-by-one or if I could go to the slot between CeeDee [Lamb] or Michael [Gallup]. All of it, we just talked.”
At the end of the conversation, Prescott told Tolbert to give him a call if he needed anything.
“I’m definitely going to call him tonight, let him know I’m ready to get on the plays,” Tolbert said. “I need the playbook.”
The Cowboys have used their quarterbacks in past draft evaluations. Troy Aikman was involved in workouts with David LaFleur and Tony Gonzalez before the 1997 draft. In 2013, Tony Romo looked at a number of receivers and tight ends and the Cowboys selected Gavin Escobar and Terrance Williams in the second and third round.
“For me, that was a Dak thing,” vice president of player personnel Will McClay said. “The importance of him to the organization, he reached out and said, ‘Hey, here’s some guys to do your thing with,’ because we’re 50-plus years old here. We have an impression and feeling about [players] and guys that are in the locker room also pick up tendencies and it was important for a great person like him to reach out to these guys.”
The call from Prescott wasn’t the only indication of the Cowboys’ interest in Tolbert. Wide receivers coach Robert Prince put him through a private workout.
“I showed that I could retain information and be able to run routes in the system of the Cowboys,” he said. “And then after I remember asking [Prince], ‘Hey, Coach, what can I work on?’ and he was like, ‘I’ll tell you that when we make you a Cowboy.’ I kinda got a little hint there.”
The Cowboys had a wide receiver need after trading Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns and losing Cedrick Wilson in free agency to the Miami Dolphins. Gallup re-signed with the team on a five-year deal, but he is expected to miss at least a couple of games after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late last season. The Cowboys added James Washington as a free agent but needed more help.
And Tolbert comes with Prescott’s approval.
“I know Michael Gallup is a receiver that goes down the field like I do and I know CeeDee is able to break tackles and play physical like I am,” Tolbert said, “so I’m excited to learn from both of those guys and be able to get to work.”