‘I’ve Been A Cowboys Fan My Whole Life’

FRISCO, Texas — In one of the most unexpected and applauded moves to begin the 2023 NFL free agency spree, it was the Dallas Cowboys making a gargantuan splash in acquiring cornerback Stephon Gilmore from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a 2022 fifth-round compensatory pick, instantly upgrading their secondary in the process.

Seriously, the waves from the meteor’s impact nearly washed away some coastal cities.

The five-time Pro Bowler and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year joins a cornerback room headlined by fellow First-Team All-Pro and ballhawking defensive back Trevon Diggs, along with breakout sensation DaRon Bland; and that means there’s a lot to be excited about in Dallas.

But few were more thrilled about the news than Gilmore himself, who admits he used to dream of this moment when he was a little boy playing ball in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

“I was very excited [because] I’ve been a Cowboys fan all my life, growing up as a kid,” he said on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after landing in Dallas and making his way to the team’s headquarters in Frisco. “My dad, my cousins, I told my uncle I had a surprise for him. He was so excited. I’m just excited to be in town and see this amazing facility.

“I’m just looking forward to making plays in this Cowboys uniform.”

Gilmore, wearing an ear-to-ear smile during the discussion, knows the caliber of defense he’s being dropped into — as does Diggs and megastar linebacker Micah Parsons, the latter two celebrating the trade on Twitter.

“It’s going to be great,” said Gilmore. “Obviously, you have to work hard and put the work in, but those guys have been great players in this league. I’m just trying to come in and add my piece to the puzzle. I’m looking forward to competing with people like CeeDee Lamb in practice, getting better, even Dak [Prescott].

“He’s a great quarterback. I’m looking forward to going for the championship. That’s what we play the game for.”

It goes without saying that Gilmore is no stranger to winning and, as such, knows what is required to take that next step, having won a ring during his time with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

He’s seen and, more importantly, contributed to what was a perennially successful culture in Foxborough, and he’s bringing that type of mentality to a Cowboys’ locker room that will almost immediately see young talent like Diggs, Bland and others (e.g., Nahshon Wright, Israel Mukuamu) work to pick his brain and learn his ways.

For his part, Gilmore is as ready to teach as he is to produce.

“I’ve been in the league for awhile, and it takes a lot of hard work,” he said. “You gotta have that short-term memory. No matter what you did in the past, you have to prove yourself each and every year. I’m just wanting to come in and do what I do — work hard — but I also like teaching the youth the things that I didn’t know as a young player, to help them become a better player.”

With Donovan Wilson and Leighton Vander Esch both secured to multi-year deals on Tuesday, bookended a day that included the trade for Gilmore, the Cowboys defense is thus far not only still mostly whole, but it’s been upgraded like a Game Genie on a Nintendo cartridge (Google it, kids).

“You have to put the work in, but we have a lot of talented players on defense,” Gilmore said. “There are [guys] who take the ball away. Myself? I know I love making plays on the ball.”

That’s saying the very least for a player who has 29 career interceptions, and when Gilmore isn’t intercepting the ball, he’s knocking it away — evidenced in his 127 career pass break ups (11 in 2022 alone). With so much ability to play the ball, and being surrounded by others who can complement him by doing the same on any given play, might there be a bit of fun to come between Diggs, Bland, Gilmore and Jourdan Lewis?

Say, maybe, a friendly wager on who’ll have the most takeaways in 2023??

“That’s what it’s about,” he said, still wearing a big grin. “You play this game for competition, and there’s a lot of [it] on this team.”

There’s a lot more of it now, that’s for sure.

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