From Rival Territory

At least one free-agent hopeful in the Dallas Cowboys' recently-concluded rookie mini-camp is hoping for a chance to hear those boos from 1,500 miles away.

Greg Isdaner is a rookie guard the Cowboys invited to camp after he went undrafted out of the University of West Virginia. Isdaner admitted, somewhat awkwardly, that he did, indeed, grow up a fan of the Eagles … but was quick to point out how proud he is that the Cowboys brought him to camp.

"I guess," he said when pressed about his whether he rooted for the Eagles growing up, "but there's something about the Cowboys. You grow up, thinking you're going to play in the NFL … teams are teams, but the Cowboys are the Cowboys — it's just a little different."

Isdaner acknowledged, however, that while his friends and family are pleased that he's getting his chance to make an NFL roster, he now is firmly entrenched as a member of the enemy.

"It's funny, because all my buddies back home were sending me text messages, (saying) ‘good luck … congrats … and we're still booing you,'" he said, laughing. "They'll talk to me, but they're definitely going to boo me when we play the Eagles."

When the NFL Draft came and went without his name being called, Isdaner had options. In addition to Dallas, he also heard from the Kansas City Chiefs, the New York Jets, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Seattle Seahawks and the Houston Texans.

"It just looked like a great opportunity — this is such a storied franchise," he said of his decision to choose Dallas over his other suitors. "That, and it looks like a good opportunity to come in and compete, and maybe win a spot on the roster."

At first glance, that might sound odd, considering the all of the Pro Bowl appearances on the résumés of the Cowboys' starting five. But upon closer inspection, he might be right. The starting Dallas line is presumably set, but the team has sought quality depth for years.

The 6-foot-3, 325-pound Isdaner can play both center and guard, as well as on special teams, and that versatility will be vital as he battles for a roster spot. He's exceptionally strong, and draws high grades for his intelligence, toughness, technique and work habits. But his arms aren't exceptionally long, and he can be a little stiff at times, characteristics which likely kept the former first-team All-Big East selection from being drafted.

Isdaner is one of those guys who "just wants a chance." He said that the terminology he began learning at last week's mini-camp was different than that used with the Mountaineers, but said that many of the plays and much of the blocking philosophy the Cowboys actually resembles some of the things his WVU teams did.

"They're a little different, but some of the stuff is surprisingly similar," Isdaner said. "Certain plays are fundamental building blocks of football, so that carries over everywhere. But we'll see, as we progress in the playbook and pick up new things. Some of it's going to be difficult to learn, but I have a feeling I'll be fine."

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