Who is Alain Karatepeyan?

IRVING, Tex. - Every now and then, an entire starting unit from a college team ends up making it in the NFL.

It's pretty safe to say Arkansas running backs Felix Jones and Darren McFadden will have jobs when the season begins. A few years ago, Ohio State running backs Bobby Carpenter, A.J. Hawk and Anthony Schlegel all went from Columbus to the professional ranks. Seemingly every year, USC sends a stable of wide receivers to the NFL.

So in addition to the Arkansas running backs, could this year also see the NFL arrival of the starting … Tulsa linebackers?

Most fans outside of Tulsa (and many in the city) couldn't pick any of the three out of a crowd, or probably even name them all. But rest assured, Todd Graham (um … he coaches at Tulsa) and his staff will miss Chris Chamberlain, who was drafted by the Saint Louis Rams, Nelson Coleman, who signed with the New York Jets, and Alain Karatepeyan, who signed with Dallas.

The 6-foot, 245-pound Karatepeyan played the SAM linebacker spot for the Golden Hurricane, racking up 114 tackles as a senior, including 76 solo stops. With the Cowboys, he is moving to one of the inside spots, where the pre-draft trade of Akin Ayodele has allowed him to have a chance at a roster spot.

"The move (from SAM linebacker to inside linebacker) really won't be that big of a deal, I don't think," Karatepeyan said. "At Tulsa, the SAM linebacker usually lined up over the tight end. In this defense, the inside linebacker on the SAM side lines up over the tight end, so from that standpoint, there won't be much of a change."

The biggest difference, Karatepeyan said, will be simply the fact that he's playing inside, behind a three-man line, rather than playing outside behind a four-man line. He might be in the same spot on the field, but his perspective when looking at the offense will be completely different.

"When you have four linebackers, you don't have a traditional ‘middle' linebacker," Karatepeyan said. "You split the field, and you have two inside guys. The MIKE linebacker, which is the middle linebacker in a 4-3, is really the inside linebacker on the weak side. The other inside guy is the MO — that's me.

"It will take some getting used to, having a guy on both sides of me, but I'll adjust."

When he went undrafted, Karatepeyan had choices, receiving calls from the San Francisco 49ers, the St. Louis Rams, the New York Jets and the Houston Texans. A native Californian, Karatepeyan didn't stay home to play for the 49ers (he grew up in Chatsworth, which is near San Diego, so it's not like the Niners are his hometown team), and he didn't join his former teammates with the Rams or Jets. The Cowboys, he decided, presented the best fit.

"I figured I probably have a better shot going to a team that plays a 3-4," he said. "But when you look at Dallas, they have outside linebackers who are huge, 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6 guys like DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis. I'm six feet tall, so that wasn't going to happen. There was no question I was moving inside."

Another big reason for Karatepeyan's decision to choose Dallas is a person who spent his career being called "too small" — inside linebackers coach Dat Nguyen.

"In the mini-camp, it was almost like I got one-on-one coaching," Karatepeyan said. "He's been through everything I'm going through. He's teaching me how a guy our size can take on blockers. There's a lot of times Coach (Wade) Phillips told him, ‘teach him how you did it.' I know I can ask him about any part of the game, because he did exactly what I'm trying to do.

"He is who I want to be. He played defense, he played special teams, and I'll do that, too. Playing for the Cowboys — playing in the NFL — is a dream. At this level, you do whatever you have to do to make it."

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