Even with recent upgrades, every Dallas Cowboys fan is concerned about the offensive line. It has been the team’s most glaring hole for the better part of this past decade, and one solid game against a half-battered Giants defense does not prove a thing. Finally, there looks to be some young, promising pieces in Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick; plus, the recent addition of Pro-Bowl G Brian Waters should provide the veteran leadership this unit has been missing since the likes of Andre Gurode. It is, however, the young man starting at the other guard spot who is rightfully turning heads: Ronald Leary. After a year of practice squad duty and only one game of pre-season action, Owner/GM Jerry Jones accurately predicted a week 1 start. The 24-year old fought his way back from minor knee-surgery in just two weeks and performed admirably.
An undrafted free agent out of the University of Memphis, the Cowboys guaranteed Leary $200,00 to sign – a very lucrative amount for a player not actually picked in any of the seven rounds. So what did the Cowboys see in Leary, and what can fans expect of him this season? I spoke with Memphis U’s NFL Liaison Jeff Kupper, who works closely with scouts leading up to the draft, as he was able to provide some insight on the kind of player Leary was for the Tigers and what made him such an attractive prospect.
Kupper immediately remembered walking off the practice field with several players one day as Leary, the Memphis Football Leadership Award-winner two years in a row, admitted to the bunch: “When we lose, I can’t watch football for three days.”
Coaches, staff, and players alike always knew Ron Leary to be a hard worker with a good attitude, but most importantly, as someone who really cared about each and every snap. “I remember a game with Mississippi State where we were out of it, but Ron never stopped fighting;” recalled Kupper, “he constantly beat the guy in front of him, the whole game, just never let up.” Kupper would show tape of this game to scouts and they all agreed: Leary was one of the hardest working on the field.
Kupper also called him the Tigers’ “first and sixth option”, for as the best offensive lineman on the team, Leary would play wherever he was needed. He has a tendency to punch and be aggressive, all while maintaining quickness and flexibility. His athleticism allows him to be versatile, and on the Dallas Cowboys O-line, adaptability is invaluable.
Ronald Leary is far from proven, and a knee condition he has dealt with since college calls his long-term durability into question. Yet one thing is clear: the Cowboys have found themselves a hard-nosed, athletic lineman who is always a professional and takes real pride in his work. Such qualities are exactly what this team needs.