"It's a nervewracking experience," Ratliff tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "It was very, very stressful. When I got the call I was definitely relieved. I'm very excited about everything."
Ratliff is a player that came to Auburn as a tight end, but moved to defense following his freshman season and improved dramatically each and every year. As a senior things came together for him and the Auburn defense on the way to a perfect 13-0 season. After playing end for his sophomore and junior years Ratliff moved inside as a senior and responded well. He made 37 tackles with one sack and four tackles for a loss in Auburn's 4-3 defensive alignment.
Ratliff came on strong when he moved inside to defensive tackle in 2004.
Now the 293-pounder with 4.9 speed in the 40-yard dash moves to Dallas and a 3-4 alignment, something he's never experienced while at Auburn. Despite doing something different, Ratliff's experience at both end and tackle should help him transition to the end position in the Cowboy defense.
"Part of going into the NFL is going in and learning new things," Ratliff says. "Whatever they throw at me and want me to learn I'm going to learn it. I'll do whatever the situation asks of me. I just have to be ready."
For Dallas there was little doubt coming into the 2005 NFL Draft that defense was going to be the order of the day. Always defensive-minded in his approach going back to his days with the New York Giants and players like Lawrence Taylor, Coach Bill Parcells went heavy on the defense to bolster the Cowboy front seven next year.
With just veteran Greg Ellis a proven commodity on the defensive front and players like former Mississippi State player Willie Blade trying to get into the rotation, Dallas needed help quickly. That should come from draftees like Ratliff, Troy LB/DE Demarcus Ware (11th), LSU's Marcus Spears (20th), Tennessee LB Kevin Burnett (42), Virginia DE Chris Canty (132) and Ball State safety Justin Beriant (208). Ratliff says the competition for playing time should only make himself and the defense better in the long run.
"I have already looked at it and there's some great players that are going to be down there," Ratliff says. "There should be some great competition there and I feel like with my ability it's just going to make me better. I'm excited and I'm really looking forward to it."
Ratliff reports to the Cowboys this coming Thursday to prepare for mini-camp with his new team. When he does he'll join a franchise expected to win and a coach that thrives on being the best. Ratliff says that he knew plenty about Parcells before Sunday, but talking with him made him even more ready to play for his new coach in the NFL.
"First of all when I took the phone call from him it was breathtaking," Ratliff says. "It's an honor to play for a coach like him. I can't wait."