Friday, July 25, 1997
LaFleur hard not to notice
By LANCE FLEMING
AUSTIN - David LaFleur is a big man, there's no doubt about
And if there were any doubt, Troy Aikman dismissed it very
"He's 6-7, 280 pounds if you haven't noticed," Aikman
joked with reporters after Sunday afternoon's practice.
Why is Aikman so concerned with an offensive lineman? Because
that offensive lineman happens to be the Cowboys' No. 1 draft
pick out of LSU.
Oh, and also because he's a tight end.
That's right, a mountain of a man with big feet, thick neck
and hands as soft as a feather bed is a tight end.
"Well he's big, there's no doubt about that," Aikman
said. "He's a big target and that's good. It'll take some
time, though, for him to get his footing in the NFL. He's going
to have a good career in the NFL, but what his impact will be
this year is hard to predict. I remember being a rookie trying
to play right away and there's a lot of frustrating moments. We'll
see how he handles it."
LaFleur is also anxious to see how he handles the pressure
of being thrown into the NFL fire as a rookie.
He's being counted on to help replace the retired Jay Novacek,
who was Aikman's favorite third-down target for six seasons.
Now, though, Aikman will have to turn his attention to third-year
tight end Eric Bjornson or LaFleur.
"Jay Novacek was one of the greatest to ever play at that
position," LaFleur said. "Anytime a player like that
leaves the game there are big shoes to fill. Hopefully with the
group of tight ends we have we can all step in and get the job
While Bjornson is more of a pass catcher and will probably
see some time as a third wide receiver, LaFleur is a pure tight
end. He's a blocker and pass- catcher, which is something the
Cowboys haven't had since the days of Billy Joe Dupree in the
LaFleur also has enough speed to get open down the seam of
the opponent's defense, creating matchup problems with smaller
But, he admits, doing that as an All-Southeastern Conference
player and doing it as a Cowboy are two different things.
"The level of competition has certainly jumped up a great
deal," LaFleur said. "A lot of times at LSU I was bigger
than the defensive lineman I was blocking. But here the defensive
linemen are as big, or bigger, than I am. Plus I'm used a lot
more in passing routes here than I was at LSU and that takes some
LaFleur said that while growing up in Westlake, La., he didn't
ever expect to play in the NFL, much less be a first-round pick.
"My biggest dream was to play football at LSU, and once
that happened I didn't know what to expect," LaFleur said.
"Now I'm here, though, and I thank the Lord every day that
And if there's not enough pressure in being a No. 1 pick, LaFleur
has the added burden of being Aikman's hand-picked guy. The Cowboy
quarterback worked out LaFleur this past spring, just as he did
California All-America Tony Gonzalez, who was taken a few spots
ahead of LaFleur by Kansas City.
Gonzalez was rated the No. 1 tight end in the draft, but Aikman
"I guess there's some pressure in that," LaFleur
said. "But it all goes back to what you can do on the field.
Troy might have had some influence on the Cowboys drafting me,
but it all comes down to who's giong to play the best on the field."
And that could be LaFleur or Bjornson. Either way, LaFleur
is a guy who just wants to get the job done.
"I think we fit well together," LaFleur said of Bjornson.
"Eric's been showing me things and teaching me. He's a helluva
receiver and whatever I can learn from him will only help me."
All content copyright 1997,
AP, KRT, The Abilene Reporter-News
and Reporter OnLine
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