DARNELL LESLIE SIGNS FREE AGENT CONTRACT WITH DALLAS COWBOYS
WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ- Monmouth University defensive end Darnell Leslie (Gaithersburg, MD/Quince Orchard) has signed a free agent contract with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys after competing at their rookie mini camp over the weekend.
“It's a dream come true,” said Leslie. “The Cowboys are a top-rate organization and I am excited to get started with them. The first day we arrived we had a lot of paperwork to fill out and physicals. Right when we woke up on the second day we got straight to film, got our playbooks and then out to the walkthrough with practice in the evening. It helped to be with the Buccaneers the week before to get my nerves out of the way. They also run a similar defense because Rod Marinelli [Cowboy's Defensive Coordinator] was at Tampa Bay, so the concepts are similar.”
Leslie spent May 5-7 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rookie mini camp before flying out to the Cowboys last weekend. He joins former Monmouth wide receiver Miles Austin, who played for eight of his 10 NFL seasons with the Cowboys and currently is a member of the organization in the front office.
“The first day I got there we [Miles and I] had dinner at the facility. He gave me some words of encouragement. Told me to go out there and be the first in every drill, show that I can run and hit and be aggressive. Just go out there and compete and be that guy that stands out on film and in person to the coaching staff.”
Leslie, who is projected at outside linebacker, was a two-time All-Big South selection and finished ranked seventh in sacks despite only playing three seasons. Leslie amassed 152 career tackles, including 35.5 for a loss. He recorded 15 sacks, had four forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in his three years. The Quince Orchard High School product missed the entire 2015 season with an injury and redshirted his freshman year, leaving him only three years of eligibility. Leslie walked in Monmouth's graduation on Wednesday after completing his degree in software engineering.
“Playing linebacker is different but there are blitzes where I am rushing off the edge so that's kind of natural. You have different rush lanes and pass drops so you have to think about that, you can't just rush off the edge every play. At the end of the day it is still football so you just have to go out there and make a play.”
“Darnell was part of a recruiting class who helped us transient from the NEC to the Big South,” said Monmouth Head Coach Kevin Callahan. “He impacted our program in many ways on the field, including defense and special teams but he also impacted our program with his leadership.”
Leslie joins three other former Hawks on NFL rosters, tight ends Neal Sterling (Jaguars) and Hakeem Valles (Cardinals) and wide receiver Chris Hogan of the New England Patriots.
The school will open the 16 million dollar Monmouth Stadium, which is under construction, on September 2, when it hosts Lafayette in the 2017 opener.
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