Ex-Zach-Ly

If one were to look up "football player" in any reference source, it's a safe bet Zach Thomas makes the team picture…every time.

This acquisition has barely created a murmur, and the reason is simple. Going unnoticed is Zach Thomas' M.O. He comes with little fanfare and yet delivers beyond the wildest of expectations. The Miami short-sidedness was expressed all over Wade Phillips' face, and his Southern smile had "Cheshire Cat" written all over it.

What does Wade Phillips know that inexplicably escaped the brain trust of Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano?

Conventional wisdom says their concerns are the same voiced by all those questioning the thought process of the Cowboys organization. So, what's there not to understand? He's damaged goods, old, diminutive, and improperly slotted for inside play in the 3-4 scheme. To quote the great Ebenezer (no, not Ekuban), "Bah humbug." Did these assessments of Zach Thomas just fall out of the Dallas skies? Not unless you've been living under a pigskin rock for all of 24 years. Zach Thomas has always been assessed in the very same, descriptive, mold since he first pulled the pads on. In other words, it's nothing new to Thomas or his new boss, the ecstatic Wade Phillips.

Once the scrum of over analysis is cleared, what's not to like about Zach Thomas? At last check, he's the NFL leading tackler. In NFL history! Seven-time Pro Bowler. His playing career accounts for 11 seasons of 100+ tackles, 17 interceptions, 27 passes defended, 19.5 sacks, 4 TDs and 0 world championships. Even though true, which stat doesn't appear to belong?

Ex-Zach-Ly!

With headline courters being New England, New Orleans and Dallas, why was Big D the ultimate choice? There were many reasons behind the decision, but the Cowboys being the most likely candidate for a world championship was a huge factor. Zach Thomas has been around the NFL block a time or two, and he didn't overcome all these perceived shortcomings by lacking in intelligence. Zach's decision was about fit and opportunity. When a veteran of his ilk chooses the Cowboys over greener financial pastures, there's a rock-solid reason. Wade Phillips and Brian Stewart have acquired thee "X" factor for the Phillips' system. Thomas is the proverbial jigsaw piece which has fallen between the sofa cushions, and upon discovery, completes the intricate puzzle.

What does Thomas bring that seems to please Phillips and Stewart so? It certainly doesn't end here, but it definitely starts with heart. To say his football ticker is larger than Texas itself would be doing great injustice to the Zach Thomas pulmonary power plant. Was it mentioned, above all, that Zach Thomas is a natural-born football player? It's certainly in his Texas blood. From the sparsely-populated (not just people-wise) Pampa to collegiate venue, Lubbock, Zach Thomas has personified West Texas football. Do you think former Cowboys' Head Coach Jimmy Johnson knew a little something about this human tackling machine back in 1996? They were cut from the same Lone Star cloth.

Suffice it to say, Zach Thomas has never disappointed. He's the prototype when it comes to under promising and over delivering.

What else did Phillips know? Zach Thomas is a leader. That's tremendous news for a defensive unit which hasn't seen a proven leadership commodity since Darren Woodson navigated the playing waters some 5 years ago. No slight to Bradie James or Greg Ellis, but Thomas brings the badly-needed personae to a new level. It's highly-likely his new teammates have already witnessed the transformation, and by some chance it hasn't struck them yet, it will. He does it without saying much of anything. He allows his actions to speak with eloquence. There are no vocal gymnastics necessary. The man doesn't talk a good game; he hand, arm and shoulder delivers it.

Phillips will also point to instinctiveness. It's the skill set and characteristic which can't be taught, and when it comes to linebackers, there might not be a more important trait. Go back and take a look at those stats. If you say nothing else about the man, no one can deny the fact Zach Thomas has a nose for the football. He'll sniff out a ball carrier with the best of Texas bird dogs. In Phillips' own words, "For him, it's a seventh sense." In the first 2008 OTA session, it was reported Thomas had no problems rendering a couple of Garrett gadgets both cute and dead in the water. He has natural flow. He glides and drifts to the possession point of contact. Phillips' scheme will accentuate Thomas' innate skills and instincts. Zach Thomas' arrival made the home-town Akin Adoyele expendable. Not merely demoted, but sent packing.

Similar to ungodly Bermuda grass (Midwesterner at heart), Zach Thomas also brings roots. Running, spreading, entangling Texas roots. So what? Returning to and playing football in the Lone Star state actually means something to this guy? A little. Well, maybe slightly more than a little. It's being reported Thomas' entire family is still screaming from the Panhandle mountaintops. This means something, no, really means something to Zach Thomas. Several of the Cowboys' rookies have touted the significance of the star, but like his leadership style, Zach Thomas is culturally-inspired by the famed Blue Star. In every shimmering and gleaming way, he simply embodies everything the symbol stands for. If it were possible to simply "will" a championship, the Cowboys newest LB will hand-deliver the record-setting sixth Lombardi trophy. Anyone want to bet this so-called "has been" will be voted a team captain?

Zach Thomas resembles Manwich. Half the readership just went, "Man what?" You know, sloppy joe, sandwich-like. Hunger. Appetite. Growling stomach. Cavernous space. Unsatisfied craving. Are you getting the "something's missing" picture? In surveying his body of work, there's a resume bullet and piece of jewelry missing from the Thomas credentials.

It's the same void which completely evaded the 2007 Cowboys. No one "stomached" the opportunity. It was supposed to unfold by simply showing up. Dispute if you must, but that was the mindset, and it screamed, "Look at us." There was no Zach Thomas to put that nonsense in the toilet. The entire personnel assembly did nothing to squelch the "heir apparent" approach, and hopefully that won't be any sort of issue in 2008.

If Zach Thomas knows nothing else, he knows opportunity, the speed of a closing window, and the meaning of seize the moment. He's the kind of comrade you simply look at, attempt to emulate, and say, "I'm not letting that cat down." A simple look from Thomas will command the others to profess, "We're winning this for that guy." If he can lay all those God-forsaken shortcomings on the line, then the rest of the crew should be able to do the same. The Wade Phillips' acquisition smirk should tell us all we need to know. He's got something that most ignored, and don't put it past these two good ol' Texas boys to formulate a winning combination.

Isn't that right, Ebenezer?

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