IRVING -- More than 150 high school football players were guests of the Dallas Cowboys this week. They came from schools throughout North Texas, giving them a chance to rub shoulders with professional athletes.
“We really challenged our players,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “We had about five hours with these guys to be the right example to them, teach 'em, coach 'em, and in some way inspire them.”
“It's a lot of fun for us,” Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr said. “It’s a time for us to switch our hats.”
Garrett has hosted similar camps which he started at his alma mater at Princeton University and addressed the kids several times.
“Here is what I’ve found in my life in football,” Garrett told the kids. “There are a lot of guys who look like Tyron Smith, okay. They're not doing what Tyron Smith is doing. They're not. It's because of that other thing they have. It's because of what's inside of him.”
In recent years, Garrett brought his approach to Valley Ranch, giving high school kids a chance to take notes from players at the top of their game.
“In my career, I’ve had more hurdles and stops along the way than I can even remember at this point,” Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. “I've always had a strong belief in myself than the disbelief of others.”
“Try to make yourself better each day,” Cowboys defensive end Anthony Spencer said. “You've got to listen to other people. It's a way to make yourself better to yourself and at the same time you've got to have outside criticism.”
“I do have a chip on my shoulder but a lot of people think failure motivates me,” Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. “Failure is not a motivating factor or what I'm motivated from within by myself because I want to be great."
“You’re going to have a lot of people tell you no, you're not good enough, keep getting better. Just keep grinding away. Wake up every day and get better what you're trying to be great at,” Romo said.
“The main thing is to never sell yourself short,” Cowboys offensive tackle Doug Free said. “Never be like 'wow, I don't know if I can do that.' Just put all your effort into it, everything you can do and roll with it.”
“This is my favorite team so I got to see all the players I love to see,” Gregory Weather from Wilmer Hutchins High School said.
“I see these guys, they made it, and makes me want to make it too,” Michael Best from Wilmer Hutchins High School said.
“After scoring, they get really excited and I like that,” says Newman Smith High School football player Muhammed Amin.
That competitive nature was apparent moments later during an argument about the rules of the game.
“We really believe in passion, emotion and enthusiasm, I think it’s on display here today,” Garrett said. “A lot of controversy. We have some of our assistant coaches acting as officials. Leon Lett, I haven't seen him sweat that much in years.”
“It meant a lot to us that you guys not only took to the coaching but went out there and worked your butt off and got better today,” Romo said.
The day included 6-on-6 round robin games with the Cowboys players acting as their coaches and as you might expect, it wasn't without controversy. Instant replay, using footage from a sideline TV camera, was used to determine a touchdown.
“The ball didn't cross the line,” Romo said. “They went back, looked at the replay, so we're taking it very seriously.”
In the end, it was team Tyron Smith beating team Tony Romo -- and taking with them bragging rights until next year.
“Yeah they did a good job, coach hit us with the lightning,” Romo said. “It feels like an excuse.”
“I'm proud of my teammates and the coaches doing their jobs,” Smith said.