Diamond in the rough?

You think of NFL fullbacks, and you think of guys who don't get the headlines, don't get into the end zone very often and don't end up receiving the mega-bucks contracts.

But in many offenses, a star running back will insist that his yards and touchdowns belong partly to some big, strong blocker who paved the way for him coming out of the backfield. Remember when Emmitt Smith was enshrined in the Hall of Fame? During his acceptance speech, he made it sound like he never would have cracked the line of scrimmage if not for the blocking of fullback Daryl Johnston.

That's the kind of player the Cowboys hope they have found again, having chosen Georgia fullback Shaun Chapas, whom they selected in the seventh round of the 2011 draft with the 220th overall selection.

Chapas attended the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where he measured 6-foot-2 and weighed 247 pounds. He clocked a 4.91 in the 40-yard dash. He did 23 repetitions of the NFL-standard 225-pound bench press, jumped 35.5 inches in the vertical jump and leaped 9-8 in the broad jump.

The very nature of the position Chapas plays dictates that he isn't going to have his name sprinkled all over the stat sheet. For the record, he had 40 carries at Georgia — in his career, that is, including 15 for 44 yards and two touchdowns in 2010. He also caught 35 career passes, including five for 29 yards and a pair of receiving scores last year.

For a guy who earns his roster spot by slamming into would-be tacklers so his teammates can run free, Chapas does have surprisingly soft hands, and runs pretty well after making the catch.

But it is his willingness to put his head down and block that got him selected by the Cowboys. With the addition of fellow 2011 draftee DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys have four tailbacks, and someone needs to pave the way for them on the way out of the backfield.

After the somewhat surprising release last year of Deon Anderson, 2010 rookie Chris Gronkowski was the Cowboys' lone fullback. Chapas is expected to compete with Gronkowski for his job.

The team clearly is comfortable with the idea that Chapas can block. But if he he can show that he also can slide out of the backfield and catch the ball, his chances of earning a roster spot will increase significantly.

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