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IRVING Undrafted NFL free agent Ben Malena knows he's a long shot to make the Dallas Cowboys final roster. But the former Cedar Hill Longhorns star has to keep reminding his family.

'They're looking at it from you know, oh my God he's a Dallas kid and he gets to play for the Cowboys,' said Malena, 'and I'm telling them hey, you've got to slow down. I've got to make this team first.'

In 2013, nearly a third of NFL rosters were stocked with undrafted players. The Cowboys like undrafted success stories, so he'll get his chances.

Now he needs to show the same form he flashed as an Aggie. And before that, as a 4-year letter man at Cedar Hill.

Malena won a state a title as a freshman, and was a team captain his junior and senior seasons. Cedar Hill Head coach Joey McGuire says he wants his son to grow up and be like Malena on and off the field. And McGuire remembers a game when he was ready to get on his team after a poor first half, but Malena beat him to the punch.

'It was one of the best halftime speeches I've ever heard,' said McGuire, 'I was fired up. I was ready to go play.'

Longhorn Stadium in Cedar Hill is about 21 miles from AT&T Stadium in Arlington. In football terms, for Malena to get from one to the other, it's much further. But he says some of the same lessons he learned in Cedar Hill will serve him well on that journey.

'One thing that [head coach] Joey McGuire did teach us to do was to work like a pro, so when we got here it's a professional atmosphere, and I was used to it,' Malena said.

Malena is mature beyond his years, and as he fights to make this team, that trait will serve him well.

'To know what kinda kid he's going to be going into that locker room and to know what kind of work ethic, I think its great for that team,' McGuire said.

So, just maybe those odds aren't as long as you may think.

E-mail jtrahan@wfaa.com

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