Soaking It All In

IRVING, Tex. - Dallas Cowboys rookie Bill Nagy remembers Oct. 18, 2008, very well.

The University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium was packed with 70,585 people, the majority of whom had no interest in seeing Nagy succeed in his first start as a member of the Wisconsin Badgers' offensive line.

"You could say it was a pretty hostile environment," Nagy said Wednesday at Valley Ranch as he and his new team continued preparations to open the 2011 season Sunday night. "It wasn't an easy first start."

Nagy gets to do it all over again Sunday when he and the Cowboys will enter MetLife Stadium to face the New York Jets. Nagy's Wisconsin team enjoys a loyal fan base that travels well; likewise, the Cowboys have a national following … but rest assured, the majority of those in attendance Sunday will have no interest in seeing Nagy and his new team succeed, either.

Nagy is expected to start at left guard Sunday night, and his first professional start could not come under a brighter spotlight. Not only is he playing for perhaps the most visible franchise in the National Football League, but the New York/New Jersey area is full of fans of the NFC East rival New York Giants — a group that is genetically predisposed to hating the Cowboys. In addition, the game is going to be on Sunday night, meaning the game will be seen by countless football fans across the country. Just for good measure, additional emotion will be felt because the game will be played in 82,566-seat MetLife Stadium, in which every seat will be filled by fans emotionally remembering the tragic events that took place 10 years ago Sept. 11, 2001.

Suffice to say, the Cowboys' exhibition games in which Nagy played did little to prepare him for the microscope under which he and his teammates will play Sunday night.

"Preseason games definitely don't have the same magnitude," Nagy said. "I get nervous before games, anyway — that's just part of it. But it's not really being nervous. There's an intensity, an anticipation.

"My thing is that when you get nervous, you get more emotion in the way you play — you have no choice. So really, it's not so much getting nervous as it is exciting. There's a different feeling on game day. I just don't want to let my teammates down, so I just want to go out and play as well as I can."

Nagy paused when asked if he allowed himself to dream when he was drafted by the Cowboys in April that he might be in the starting lineup for the first game of the season.

"That's a hard question to answer," he said. "If I said I didn't (expect to start right away) … I have never doubted my ability — let's put it that way."

Nagy said he was in middle school when the events of Sept. 11 took place 10 years ago.

"It was one of those things," he said, "that you just didn't believe was possible."

The memory of those events, he said, will only make his professional debut that much more memorable.

"This definitely is a big opportunity," he said. "That was a day I'll never forget — nobody will ever forget. Now, to be playing in New York on the anniversary of 9/11 … it's just really cool to be a part of something like this."

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