Eager to Prove his Worth

IRVING, Tex. - For Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, the questions started before the draft … and before his senior season at IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) was over … and even before his final college season started.

"Can a Div. II guy really play in the NFL?"

Owusu-Ansah had the statistics to suggest he could. At 6 feet and 207 pounds, he has the bulk to handle the rigors of an NFL secondary, whether he is kept at his college position, cornerback, or moved over to safety, where his 4.47 speed in the 40-yard dash was the third-fastest among cornerbacks at the NFL Combine. Among safeties — the position he'll play first for the Cowboys — he would have been tied for the second-fastest.

At IUP, he collected 73 tackles despite the fact that many teams threw away from him. He also picked off 10 passes, including a career-best eight in 2008. He had a career-best 27 tackles as a senior, despite the fact that his left shoulder dislocated twice during the season, prompting offseason surgery.

So when the Dallas Cowboys convened this weekend at Valley Ranch (Friday and Saturday) and Cowboys Stadium in Arlington (Sunday) for the team's 2010 rookie mini-camp, Owusu-Ansah was relegated to the role of interested bystander — very interested.

As secondary coaches Dave Campo and Brett Maxie put their charges through their paces, Owusu-Ansah hovered in their shadows, soaking in every word. He watched as the safeties and cornerbacks went through their paces, refined their techniques and shadowed wide receivers all over the field. He even stood with the kickoff returners, getting used to the sight of the ball in flight.

The move to the NFL is a huge jump for all players, including those from national powerhouse programs like Florida and USC and Oklahoma. IUP, to be gentle, is not Florida or USC or Oklahoma.

"That's the biggest question: ‘Can the D-II guy play?'" Owusu-Ansah said. "That's the No. 1 question. I get asked that every day."

Fortunately for the Cowboys, their fourth-round pick is confident in his ability adjust. He's moving to a new position. The competition he will face will be like nothing he has ever seen. The terminology he used in college pales in comparison to the vocabulary he will have to absorb with the Cowboys.

"I'm picking things up," he said. "I feel comfortable at both positions. For now, I'm playing safety. We'll see what happens."

Owusu-Ansah said he has no doubts about his ability to compete at the professional level, but he is extremely frustrated about having to wait for his shoulder to finish healing. He expects to be back on the field at the start of training camp. How fast he works his way into the secondary rotation at that point remains to be seen.

"Right now, I'm picking things up pretty smooth," Owusu-Ansah said. "But I'm coming off shoulder surgery. I want to compete, but I want to be fully healthy before I get out there.

"Only time will tell. But I definitely feel I can play."

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