Dennis Roland: Aim High

Rookie offensive lineman Dennis Roland is right where he wants to be.

Dennis Roland is not an original. Well, he is, of course, but his story is not being told for the first time.

Remember Gheorghe Muresan? Or Manute Bol? Or, more recently, Shawn Bradley? The former NBA centers were the three tallest players ever drafted in the NBA. None was overly productive before going pro, but at 7-foot-7, 7-7 and 7-6, respectively, each tantalized scouts with the possibility of what could be ... if only their skills could be refined a little.

The parallel is not an exact match, of course, because Roland was a very productive offensive tackle at the University of Georgia. But at 6-foot-9 and 309 pounds, his raw dimensions are as appealing as anything he did for the Bulldogs against the Southeastern Conference's finest defensive ends.

Roland often overwhelmed would-be pass rushers with his mountainous frame, engulfing pass rushers with his massive wingspan and smothering them before they got in the same zip code as Georgia's quarterbacks and running backs.

But his size also caused problems for Roland. Line coaches constantly bark at their players to keep their pads low; if a defensive end can get underneath an offensive tackle's pads, he has a chance to knock the blocker back on his heels, making it much easier to get around him en route to the quarterback.

"It's very hard," Roland said about keeping his pads low at his height. "That's something I have to work at all the time. When I get in a normal blocking position, I'm automatically going to be higher than just about every guy I go against. It's a constant battle, staying low."

When he made it through the draft unchosen, Roland said he heard from three teams -- the Cowboys, the Arizona Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints -- but quickly decided Dallas was the team with which he would sign.

"I looked at it with my agent," he said. "We looked at the tackles each team had, and what kind of chance I'd have to realistically make the team and play. We looked at the offensive style each team plays, and the way they block, what they ask their tackles to do. When we looked at it like that, it was a pretty easy decision."

Roland said he harbors no illusions of security, yet, because of the number of players ahead of him on the team. But he said he sees Dallas as having players from whom he can hone his skills as he matures.

"Flozell Adams is one of the best tackles there is, and Jason Fabini is a very smart player," Roland said. "Those are both very tall guys, too (Adams and Fabini are both 6-foot-7), and they've been able to establish themselves as two of the best. A lot of the other guys are young, but they're talented, and we all can learn from those two."

The Cowboys use a lot of the same blocking schemes in which Roland played at Georgia, but the transition will not be immediate.

"It's different, because there's a lot of new terminology," Roland said. "But the way we block here is a lot like the way we blocked at Georgia."

Roland, who is getting married in a couple of weeks, said the other factor in his decision to sign with the Cowboys was the interest the team showed in him.

"(Offensive line) Coach (Tony) Sparano called me on the first day of the draft, to basically try to recruit me," Roland said. "He said that if they didn't have a chance to draft me, they really wanted me to come here as a free agent. The fact that he showed such interest in me helped me realize that this is where I want to be."

CowboysHQ Top Stories