Transition to NFL going well for Gavin Escobar

IRVING, Texas — In a lot of ways, Gavin Escobar is your average NFL rookie. A 6-foot-6 tight end who was drafted in the second round by the Dallas Cowboys in April, this Orange County product has spent his first few weeks with America’s Team doing one thing-adjusting.
Whether it’s been learning about the Dallas offense, getting to know his new teammates and coaches and acclimating himself to new surroundings, the 22-year-old pass catcher’s first few weeks in Big D have been something of a whirlwind. But that’s the case for any player transitioning to the NFL like this big tight end is currently doing after leaving San Diego State following his junior season.

“I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I knew the game speed was going to be a little faster. I knew the playbook was going to be a little bigger. That’s kind of what I’ve noticed so far. It’s definitely a transition. I definitely feel like a freshman again and a rookie obviously, but just getting better every day,” Escobar said after Tuesday’s OTAs (organized team activities).

A two-time first-team All-Mountain West Conference selection at SDSU, where he came to be regarded as one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the nation last fall as a junior, the addition of Escobar in the draft gives Dallas now at least two other viable options behind the always dependable Jason Witten.

Former Oklahoma Sooner James Hanna, a Flower Mound product, showed pretty well for himself last year as a rookie and figures to be second on the depth chart behind Witten at least to start training camp, but Escobar’s pedigree has many thinking he could be on the field alongside No. 82 when the Cowboys opt to go with 12 personnel or a two tight end set next season.

“I’m not really sure [how much I’ll get on the field],” Escobar admitted. “Right now, we’re just working on learning the plays. I’m expecting to be on the field. I’m competing to get on the field. That’s what I’m hoping for. As far as the two tight end set, we’ve been doing a lot of that but we’re just learning the playbook right now.”

Of course, the young rookie has been doing his best impression of a sponge ever since arriving at Valley Ranch not long after the draft, absorbing every bit of information and sage advice he can from every source imaginable.

“I’m trying to learn everything, whether it’s coach, player, anyone, any tips they tell me, I’m just trying to take it all in and utilize that on the field,” Escobar said. “The transition’s going well. Biggest adjustment I’d say is the playbook, the amount of information in the playbooks and probably the speed of the game. But I’m getting the hang of it and it’s going well.”

And since he plays behind one of the best tight ends in the league in Witten, he has been paying extra attention to how No. 82 and Hanna alike handle their business between the lines.

“As far as technique and everything, I’m trying to just watch them and see what they do, try to watch Jason [Witten] and all the little things he does. They’re helping me out a lot,” Escobar said. “Sometimes there might be a play where after I run it, I go back and check with them to see if I was doing it right, little things that help me out in the system, so they’ve been really helpful.”

Since the Cowboys won’t be in full pads until next week’s minicamp, the last time the team will work out as a group until the start of training camp in late July, he doesn’t yet have a feel for what sorts of rookie rites of passage he’ll have to endure this season, but he knows he’ll have to do his share of paying his dues.

“We’ve only got helmets on right now, so I’m sure minicamp or training camp I’ll be doing a lot of that,” Escobar said.

And speaking of training camp, that in itself is something else he is looking forward to, not just because it will be held in Oxnard, California again this year, a short drive for his friends and family from Orange County to make, but also because he’s looking forward to continuing to learn all he can so that he can maximize his immense upside and feels that his first exposure to an NFL training camp will be an invaluable part of that process.

“Well, I’m hoping after minicamp and everything I’ll have a better grasp of the playbook, so I’ll be able to compete more during training camp. Right now, it’s a learning process, learn everything as well as compete out there. So, I’m excited to get rolling in training camp as well,” Escobar said.

It is definitely way too early to project exactly how Gavin Escobar will contribute to the Cowboy offense this season, something Dallas fans and media might not get a good idea of until training camp is a few weeks in or even into preseason play, but getting to learn from one of the best in the game in Jason Witten and absorbing all he can from everyone around him who knows what it takes to make it in the NFL is a great start and definitely sets him up for future success.