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,
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
"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
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."
Dennis Roland: Aim High
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