Vickers emotional knowing late dad was Cowboys fan
OXNARD, Calif. (AP)
But Lawrence Vickers Sr., a lifetime Cowboys fan, never got to see his son play with a star on his helmet. He died of lung cancer in early May.
''It's very emotional because every day I come out, I think about him,'' Vickers said during training camp. ''Everything around me reminds me of it, so every day I wake up and I just tell him, `Thank you,' like maybe this was his last blessing given to me.''
After spending his first five NFL seasons with Cleveland, where he blocked for 1,000-yard rushers Jamal Lewis and Peyton Hillis, Vickers played last season with Houston. Being with the Texans allowed him to be where his dad was.
Vickers had signed a two-year deal with the Texans, but they cut him in March as free agency began. A couple of days later, he had a two-year deal with the Cowboys (No. 15 in the AP Pro32).
''Everything happens for a reason. It was crazy that I ended up in Houston,'' Vickers said. ''Maybe I needed to be in Houston because I was close to my daddy going through the things he was going through, and maybe me coming here was a sign of him going on bye-bye, him getting to see something before he left. Maybe this was God's gift to him.
''Maybe this was my dad's gift, and I'm going to take it.''
The Cowboys are also seemingly a better fit for Vickers as a player, with the team's desire to have a true fullback to lead the way for DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones and provide protection for quarterback Tony Romo.
That is where the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Vickers has excelled in his six NFL seasons. He has had only 34 career rushing attempts for 87 yards, and 45 catches. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and secondary coach Jerome Henderson were on Cleveland's staff two of the years Vickers was with the Browns.
''He's very passionate about football. They say fullbacks are a dying breed. We still use the fullback in our offense. We like the fullback we have,'' Garrett said. ''He's been a well-studied player. ... We knew him as a player but also had a good feel for what he's like as a person, what he brings to the team. If you have a fullback who is tough, has some intensity, that's a really good thing.''
Murray, the second-year back who led the Cowboys in rushing as a rookie last season, despite missing the last three games, describes Vickers as a vocal leader.
''He is someone who has a lot of knowledge about the game. He's not afraid to speak his mind. That's what we need in the running back room,'' Murray said. ''He's my fullback and he's busting his butt for me every time I get the football. ... I am going to always be behind him.''
The Cowboys had only five rushing touchdowns last year, the fewest in the team's 52-season history.
With Murray and Jones hopefully healthy after both missed games with injuries last season, and Vickers in the mix, Dallas certainly expects that total to be much higher this season.
''At the present time, we're working on having our touchdowns for this year. That's what we're all based on, we're based on positive things,'' Vickers said. ''I'm just an extra piece to the puzzle, an extra guy to come in that wants to work and do the things we need to do to execute.''
Vickers is passionate when playing the game, and is the same when talking about his father.
Even after an exhausting practice followed by an interview, Vickers walked away talking about what a refreshing reminder it always is to tell the story about his father's love for the Cowboys and the excitement he had about his son being part of the team.
''I come to work every day with a smile on my face. I'm blessed to be here,'' Vickers said. ''I want to play football, but it's bigger than that for me. I made more of it. I put more on my plate to make me work just much harder. ... I know every day he's watching me.''