Fresh off a Week 13 victory over the struggling Seattle Seahawks last season, the Dallas Cowboys were 8-4 and had a firm hold of their own destiny.
Dallas was in the middle of a four game winning streak, including a win over the defending champion New York Giants, and a season that looked to be near-over only a few weeks earlier was suddenly showing promise.
There was only one slight concern: the health of starting running back Marion Barber, who went down to injury during the Seattle blowout and would end up missing significant time in the final quarter of the season.
With three of the toughest defenses in the NFL on their upcoming schedule—Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia—the Cowboys were faced with the prospect of starting little known rookie running back Tashard Choice, who had only 30 NFL carries to his name.
Cowboy fans began to lose their newfound confidence, and concerns again began to creep up about Dallas’ playoff chances.
While the concerns of the fans turned out to be justified, Choice most certainly was not a reason for that. The rookie stepped in and performed admirably.
In the final four games, he rushed 62 times for 325 yards and 2 touchdowns, a total that, if projected over the course of a full 16-game season, would have made him one of the top 10 rushers in the league. He also chipped in 163 yards through the air during that same time span.
Although December ultimately turned into yet another disappointment for Cowboys players, coaches, and fans, the emergence of Choice also provided reason to hope for the future.
Choice proved in those final games that, if they can remain healthy, the Cowboys’ three young running backs can make up one of the best backfields in the NFL for years to come.
A great player and person, I would be honored to be able to sit down and ask a few questions to one of the Cowboys’ bright young stars, Tashard Choice.
(Below are seven questions I would be interested in asking Choice, followed by what I would hope to learn from his answers to each of them.)
My first exposure to you was when I came across a YouTube clip of a goose bump-inducing pre-game speech that you delivered before your Georgia Tech football team took the field and upset the 13th ranked Clemson Tigers.
It was obvious to anyone watching that you were the heart and soul of that team, both on and off the field (he rushed for 142 yards in that game, and led the ACC in rushing in his junior and senior seasons). What do you think it takes to be a great leader, and who, in your opinion, are some of the best leaders in the Cowboys’ locker room?
This YouTube clip was one of the main reasons I would love to talk to Choice. As soon as I saw it, I knew that the Cowboys got an absolute steal with their 122nd pick in 2008.
With the leadership of this team being a major area of concern heading into the 2009 season, I think that this is an important area to address.
A proven leader—and, in my opinion, a future leader of the Dallas Cowboys, I believe that Choice’s answer to this question can shed some serious light on the leadership questions that surround this team.
Speaking of Georgia Tech, your head coach there was former Cowboys’ coach Chan Gailey. What did you learn from him in your time there, and did he give you any words of advice—or warning—about coming to play for the Dallas Cowboys?
While I certainly wouldn’t expect Choice to reveal anything too incriminating or controversial, I also know that there is a greater than zero chance that Gailey had at least one humorous story or word of advice for his sensational running back. I would love to hear it.
How do you feel about what you accomplished in your rookie season, and what do you expect from yourself in 2009?
With the likes of Marion Barber and Felix Jones in front of him on the depth chart at the beginning of last season, Choice far and away exceeded any expectations that might have been laid upon him by the average Cowboy fan, and probably the coaching staff too.
However, I also know the guy is a great competitor and a fiery guy that is definitely not satisfied yet. I would love to hear the expectations that he has set for himself next year.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference in last year’s roster and next year’s roster is that Terrell Owens is no longer with the team. How do you think his absence will affect the Cowboys’ offensive philosophy next season?
Like him or not, Terrell Owens was a massive part of the Cowboys’ offense last year, and without him on the roster next year, change in philosophy is inevitable.
It is my belief that this move will allow the Cowboys to move to a more balanced offensive attack that can feature all three of their young and talented running backs.
Which brings me to my next question...
The Cowboys have three very promising running backs in you, Felix Jones, and Marion Barber. How do you feel the Cowboys coaching staff can best utilize the three of you next year?
The perfect answer to this question (for me) would be Tashard starting the game, Barber closing the game, and Felix being used as a change-of-pace back throughout the game.
That being said, I would be happy just to hear confirmation that the Cowboys’ staff plans to use all three heavily.
If you were not playing football in the NFL, what do you think you would be doing right now to earn your living?
We, as fans, oftentimes get wrapped up in the players of our favorite teams, and we forget that they have passions and desires outside of the sports they play.
I already know that one of Choice’s passions during his time at Georgia Tech was umpiring youth baseball games, but I would be interested in learning what else makes him tick.
Have you ever witnessed a point in time when your fellow second-year running back, Felix Jones, was not smiling?
Just for grins.