Arlington — "I was the missing piece of the puzzle."
The Dallas Cowboys selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with the 19th pick in the NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium.
"I have no doubt in my mind, this is where I was supposed to end up," Vander Esch said late Thursday night. "To actually be picked where I've always wanted to go, I'm super thankful and couldn't be more blessed to get the opportunity.
At 6'4" and 256 pounds, Vander Esch notched 141 tackles and four sacks as a redshirt junior for Boise State last season. He was named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
"I've always wanted to play in Dallas my whole entire life, but that doesn't mean anything unless I show it on the field," Vander Esch said.
Vander Esch comes from the small Idaho town of Riggins, with a population of only a few hundred. His high school wasn't big enough to field an 11-man football team. He played eight-man at Salmon River High School.
"We've got Super Bowls to win," Vander Esch told the NFL Network's Deion Sanders in an interview after he was selected. "A lot of them."
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott showed his support of the pick, tweeting "Let's Go Chase 6!" at Vander Esch.
With the Vander Esch selection, Dallas passed on the opportunity to draft a receiver following the release of Dez Bryant.
Receivers Calvin Ridley and DJ Moore were both available at the 19th pick. Moore went 24th overall to the Carolina Panthers. Ridley went 26th overall to the Falcons.
Cowboys officials also said they didn't consider trading up to get Florida State safety Derwin James, who was picked 17th by the Chargers.
The Cowboys' next pick will be in the 2nd round Friday night at 50th overall.
Mayfield goes No. 1
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield went No. 1 overall to Cleveland, followed by Penn State running back Saquon Barkley to the New York Giants.
Four quarterbacks went in the first 10 picks -- Mayfield, USC's Sam Darnold to the Jets at No. 3, Wyoming's Josh Allen to the Bills at No. 7 and UCLA's Josh Rosen to the Cardinals at No. 10.
The Super Bowl-champion Eagles traded the final pick of the first round to the Ravens, who picked Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.