Cowboys 2009 Draft Class Passes Character Test

A really nice piece by Nick Eatman on the aftermath of the collapse of the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility a week ago that left scouting assistant Rich Behm paralyzed and special teams coach Joe DeCamillis with a broken back, and others with less severe injuries. The only players there were the recent draftees and undrafted free agents, none of whom were seriously hurt.  But they showed a little something that day.

We’ve all seen the video footage by now. We see the shots of guys like tight end John Phillips face first into a broken glass window that he kicked out, looking for more survivors. Or the shot of free-agent guard Travis Bright at the aide of scout Chris Hall, who was down with a bad shoulder injury.

There is the visual I had back in the team’s training room when head coach Wade Phillips had demanded a players head-count and then realized that both Hodge and DeAngelo Smith were not accounted for.

Moments later, I walked outside the training room and noticed Phillips, now some 200 yards away, was making his way back towards the facility. Just in front of him, were none other than Hodge and Smith. But they weren’t in danger, they were two of the players who decided to check the other side of the fallen building to make sure there indeed were no injuries as well.

Then, of course, the most personal and visual image that I’ll take from this event was when I tried to lift something, I wish I knew what it was, off of fellow reporter Todd Archer, who was buried underneath this piece of debris. When Josh Ellis and myself couldn’t lift it up in the air, that’s when Brandon Williams and Smith entered the picture. They quickly got us out of the way and managed to lift the object just enough for Archer to slide out.

See, the Cowboys didn’t just draft players who could play their position. They didn’t draft players who could help on special teams. They also drafted guys with high character – guys who not only played the game the right way, but do the right things off the field, too.

It might be a while before they prove themselves as players. But you can put a checkmark by the “character” category right now.

Those are the images I’ll always remember from the players. But, they weren’t the only heroes.

As I’ve said many times this week, the classifications come off in a matter of seconds. One moment we’re watching practice and you’ve got players, coaches, scouts, trainers, team personnel, guests and then media.

Just like that, it turns into 80 people trying to survive. There are no distinctions anymore. Brandon Williams didn’t care whose feet were hanging out from the bottom of that debris. John Phillips didn’t know what two scouts and what strength coach were underneath the side wall that was nearly suffocating them.

In an ideal world, we’d take it for granted that this is how college educated, physically fit young men would react under these circumstances.  In reality, it’s something pretty special.  These weren’t cops or firefighters or EMTs specially trained to cope with crises, just decent human beings whose instincts too over.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Triumph says:

    In an ideal world, we’d take it for granted that this is how college educated, physically fit young men would react under these circumstances. In reality, it’s something pretty special.

    Yes, we must commend the reaction of these kids.

    It makes me wonder, however, what a more “seasoned” celebrity-infused veteran would do under the same circumstances. Had Terrell Owens, for instance, not been cut by the team and was at that practice I’m SURE he would have saved everyone!

  2. Our Paul says:

    I saw a brief account of the collapse of the practice facility that reported that no player had been injured, and that some staff members had suffered injuries that required hospitalization. Sorry to hear about Rich Behm and Joe DeCamillis and thank you for this post.

    As you may recall, this correspondent bleeds blue for Big Blue, and sky blue (for there are no limits) when it comes to health care. I do hope both Brandon Williams and DeAngelo Smith make the team. The Giants prefer playing against a team with character, which is sorely lacking in the Eagle’s and the stumble around group from Washington…

    The one thing that should bring hope to Rich Beham and his family is that animal models of spinal chord injury have shown significant improvement with stem cell therapy. That a special fund has to be set up to ensure high quality health care for Mr. Behm, education for his kids, and support for his wife, speaks to how dangerous “socialized medicine”, day care for children, and help for his daily care by his wife truly are. Praise the Lord for we have folks with “principles”, and please pass the football…