Hambrick Parcells' Whipping Boy?

Roughly four days after the departure of legendary Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, the coronation of Troy Hambrick began. Not as the new starting running back, but rather as the new whipping boy of coach Bill Parcells.

"He came into the weight room (Monday morning) and told the strength coach that I was fat," Hambrick said. "He told me he gave Curtis Martin eight carries in a row the first preseason game to find out if he had endurance. He asked me if I had endurance. It was a nice little back and forth thing."

As Smith's backup up the past two years, Hambrick is expected to get the first shot at replacing the league's all-time leading rusher -- though Parcells has made no such promises of a starting job to the supposed heir apparent.

However, Hambrick, who says he has had to work for everything his whole life, didn't expect the job to be given to him.

"Coach Parcells is not a guy who is going to say a lot about that," Hambrick said. "I don't expect him to say `I am the man.' I am going to have to show him I am the man. That is what this is all about. I got to show him."

The Cowboys will likely bring in a running back or two in free agency and/or the draft to compete with him.

Hambrick has no problem with that because all he's ever wanted was a chance to compete on equal footing.

At 6-1, 233 pounds, Hambrick has the size and speed Parcells likes in his running backs. His production, albeit on a limited basis the past two years, intrigues Parcells.

Hambrick has rushed for 924 yards on 198 carries. He has an impressive yards-per-carry average of 4.7. Still the Cowboys must look at other options because with 11 career starts, Hambrick has never done it on regular basis.

"This is the opportunity I always looked for," said Hambrick, a three-year veteran who originally signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent out of tiny Savannah State.

"I am excited about it. I feel good. My legs are fresh. I don't think they have exploited my ability. I know I can do so much more. But I still got to go to work. There is always going to be somebody to compete with. Some young punk like me coming in trying to take mine."

The last line elicited a chuckle from Hambrick because he knows that's just what he tried to do the past two years when he admittedly campaigned for Smith's job through the media.

Hambrick compared the future Hall of Fame running back to aging Michael Jordan last season and said several times he was the best running back on the team.

It became such a controversy that Smith cited the situation as one reason why it was best that he move on.

"It's better for me not to be here. The media doesn't have to look at Troy and wonder if Troy should be the starter. It's a clean slate now. Troy and club have one direction. That direction should be straight ahead and they should take full advantage of it."

Though Hambrick finally got what he wanted, he can't help but look back with a bit of regret, not because of the seemingly disrespectful things he said about Smith but that he didn't get to beat him out on the football field.

"It's a sad thing for me to see Emmitt leave," Hambrick said. "I would have loved to compete with him. That would have been exciting to me. I wanted to go at him. But there are going to have somebody give me a run."

No matter who it is, Hambrick says he is more than ready to live out what he described as his destiny.

"I wanted to be the future and the future is now," Hambrick said. "This what I have been asking for and what I have been campaigning for. It's here. It's here. I don't plan on letting it go to waste."

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