Blessed with considerable quickness, Lissemore was recruited as a linebacker. But after one year at William & Mary, he continued growing to the point that he was moved to the defensive line, anchoring the Tribe's line from his defensive tackle spot.
After getting chosen in the seventh round of the draft in April, he had to adjust from the Colonial Athletic Association to the National Football League. With the Cowboys, he is learning a new defense, new terminology, new coaches, new teammates … and starting at this weekend's mini-camp, he Lissemore started learning new positions, as well.
Whereas William & Mary ran a 4-3 defense most of the time, with the 6-foot-4, 298-pound Lissemore occupying one of the defensive tackle spots, Dallas runs its defense primarily out of a base 3-4 alignment. Lissemore has gotten plenty of work in his first few weeks at nose tackle, but this weekend, he also started taking some reps at both defensive end spots.
"I really haven't played end since my freshman year in college," Lissemore said, "and that was when I was redshirting. I was 240 pounds coming out of high school, so it made sense to play linebacker and defensive end, but with my body type, I started putting on a lot of size, and they moved me inside.
"In the 3-4, though, I think my body type is kind of the prototype to play defensive end. It's an adjustment, but it's nothing I can't do."
Lissemore's hometown is Durmont, N.J., and he begrudgingly admits that he grew up a fan of the New York Giants … although he quickly pointed out that no longer is the case, of course. Pressed about his childhood feelings about his new employers, he simply smiled and said, "no comment." Translation: Giants fans don't like the Cowboys.
But he said his feelings — as well as those of his family — have changed.
"They're Dallas fans now, of course," he said, "and you'd be surprised how many Cowboys fans there are in New Jersey."
His friends, like those of other rookies who hail from areas with staunch loyalties to their local teams, pick on Lissemore, wishing him success while reminding him that they hope the Cowboys struggle.
But if his family can learn to root for Dallas, he said he can learn the myriad assignments being thrown at him through the team's OTAs and mini-camp.
"I'm learning all three (defensive line) positions: nose and both ends," he said. "It's not easy at all. A lot of the terminology actually contradicts what I know from college.
"It's coming, but it's going to take some time."
Thankfully, Lissemore is learning from a smart, veteran defensive line, including Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who has a level of patience Lissemore admittedly has not yet mastered.
"There's so much I can learn from Jay," Lissemore said. "The way Jay stutters his steps and uses his hands … that's a big part of why he's a Pro Bowler. On one play, he'll rush right at his man, full-speed, and then on the next, he'll go slower and let the blocker lunge into him and use his weight against him. I think I'm a pretty high-motor guy, but I have a lot I can learn from a guy like Jay."
Lissemore said that being an NFL rookie is a little like being a college freshman, in terms of being at the bottom of the social pecking order and somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of information that must be absorbed in a short period of time.
"It's similar," he said. "The veterans give you a hard time, but they also try to teach you. They want you to do well."
Constant Transition for Lissemore
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