Nobody has to tell Deon Lacey about the obstacles he faces to be successful in the NFL.
Heck, it has been hard enough for a University of West Alabama football player to even reach this point. Nobody from the school has earned a roster spot since Kendrick Office (Buffalo Bills) in 2001.
This year three players from UWA will be involved in a NFL training camp and potentially preseason games and beyond. Lacey is proud to be one of them.
Out of the three, he is the only one who had been with the program since freshman year. He was not even heavily recruited in high school. So you could imagine how much this opportunity means to him.
In fact, when Lacey arrives for Dallas rookie mini-camp next week, he will instantly be labeled as "one of those guys."
One of those guys who played for a Division II-III school that very few around the U.S. have heard of. For that reason, players like him supposedly did not face the type of elite talent typically found in Division I. So can this guy hang with the best of them?
One of those guys who, because he did not dominate a lower division and stand out among the crowd like 2013 NFL draft picks Brandon Williams, Rufus Johnson, Armonty Johnson, Ty Powell and David Bass, you are anxious to see if he turns out to be a diamond in the rough.
Questions similar to that surround rookie players in every sport, especially those who are undrafted.
The biggest obstacle is that Lacey lacks the size (6'1", 211) of a linebacker. Obviously being undersized would seemingly hurt his chances. So he will need to spend time getting bigger.
Dallas, however, will likely try him out at safety at some point.
While playing at UWA, Lacey started off at defensive end, which was his position in high school and earned him All-State honors as a senior. He switched to outside linebacker as a sophomore.
Lacey made an immediate impact as a redshirt freshman in 2009. He finished that season with 67 tackles (48 solo), three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. He also blocked a field goal.
Lacey provided his best collegiate performance during junior year.
He was named the 2011 Gulf South Conference Defensive Player of the Year after recording 97 tackles, nine tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions, four broken passes and a fumble recovery.
Lacey is no scrub. He can ball.
Still, unless his current size changes, a position change to safety might be what takes him far in the NFL.
Lacey has this aggressive and relentless style of play similar to what a coach expects out of a linebacker and safety.
The Cowboys currently have a need for depth in the secondary. So the potential fit is there if Lacey does not pan out at the linebacker position.
His tackling ability could also be useful in Lacey starting off his NFL career as a special-teams guy.
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