STANBACK: Waiting Not-So-Patiently

IRVING, Tex. - How much things can change in a year. A year ago at this time, Isaiah Stanback was beginning summer workouts as he prepared for his senior season as the quarterback at the University of Washington.

A year later, he's trying to regain his health, adjust to professional football (and new coaches and teammates) and learn a new position.

Nothing like a little pressure, huh?

The Cowboys' fourth-round draft pick this year was considered one of the more dangerous quarterbacks in the Pac-10 Conference last year. But it was that athletic ability that probably forced him to drop in the draft, and had him watching from the sidelines as his new team began its second OTA (Optional Team Activity) Thursday at Valley Ranch.

In the Huskies' seventh game of the season last year, UW faced third- and-25 from deep in its own end of the field against Oregon State.

"We were almost on our own goal line," Stanback said Thursday. "I couldn't find anyone open, so I took off. I got 24 of the 25 yards, and the defense closed in. I tried to make a move, and my foot popped on one side. Then I felt it pop on the other."

His season was over. Stanback had suffered a "Liz Frank" injury, tearing multiple tendons in his foot. He had season-ending surgery that week.

The comeback has been long, and the direction of his future uncertain.

"I didn't know what I was going to play in the NFL, but I'm just glad I'm here," he said. "Most of the reports I saw before the draft called me a 'quarterback/receiver,' or 'quarterback/athlete.' All of the teams that talked to me before the draft said they want me to play at least some receiver and some special teams, so if that's what they want, that's what I'm ready to do."

Stanback said that catching the ball — either on offense or on special teams — wasn't his top priority, but for a chance to get to the NFL, he was more than happy to take on the challenge.

"I told the teams that my passion was at quarterback," Stanback said. "But if they think enough of me as an athlete that they think I can help a team at wide receiver, or on special teams, I told them I was ready to do that."

Before he can prove his abilities at receiver or returning kicks — both of which he has done, albeit not recently — he has to get his body ready.

"It feels good now, just in the last week-and-a-half or two," he said. "I'm working on conditioning now. The doctors say they're going to clear me for training camp. There's no reason to push anything too fast. They're being cautious with it, and I think that's the right thing to do."

While he might be preaching the company line about taking a cautious path, Stanback is chomping at the proverbial bit to get his career underway.

"I returned some kicks in my redshirt freshman year, and I played some receiver that year," he said. "But we had Reggie Williams (now of the Jacksonville Jaguars), so I wasn't really learning the position. I was more of a decoy for him, trying to open up space for him."

That experience as the Huskies' "decoy receiver," coupled with his time under center, should help him learn his new position, Stanback said.

"A lot of the guys have gone out of their way to help me learn since I've been here, especially Patrick (Crayton)," Stanback said of the Cowboys' fourth-year wideout, who also played quarterback in college. "He's talked to me about getting a release (from press coverage at the line of scrimmage), and how to run routes. But with both of us being former quarterbacks, we both understand coverages, and we understand how one guy has to run his route even if the ball's not coming to him, to help open up things for the other guy on the other side of the field."

So while team doctors have restricted Stanback to spectator duty while his teammates are on the field, he has immersed himself in the aspects of his job in which he is allowed to participate: studying his playbook and listening to everything his coaches and teammates tell him.

"It's frustrating to watch from the sideline," Stanback said. "I'm an observant type of guy, so I'm just trying to soak everything up so I'll be ready to go when I get out there on the field with my teammates."

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