OXNARD, Calif. — Terence Steele wasn't baptized by fire when the Dallas Cowboys asked him to take over at right tackle for an injured La'el Collins in 2020.
The undrafted free agent from Texas Tech was anointed with gasoline and given a baptismal gown made of kindling. The flames of the pro game were more mental than physical.
"I didn't really get a chance to sit back and think about it until after the season really," Steele said. "Because I showed up and I was just playing football. So, everything felt normal to me."
Regardless of how many licks Steele took at right tackle during the 14 starts over his 16 game day activations amid a dismal 6-10 campaign, the Cibolo Steele High School product made note of the experience he gained and wanted to capitalize on it.
In the offseason, Steele went straight to work with offensive lineman developer Duke Manyweather.
"He does a lot of work with guys in the field, a lot of guys come to Dallas and train with him, and I was lucky enough to get the opportunity in the offseason to work with him," said Steele.
The 24-year-old was overlooked coming out of high school, and was overlooked in the draft as Dallas signed him as a rookie free agent after 255 other names were called. Steele prefers to fly under the radar as it allows him to focus on one of his better assets to excel: his work ethic.
"I put that to the back of my mind," Steele said. "I just try to outwork everyone really. So, that's my mindset around it."
Even though the game is slowing down for Steele, he probably won't get as many chances to start for Dallas in 2021 as Collins has recovered from his hip injury and is fully healthy. All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, who played just two games last year, is also expected to man his position.
Nevertheless, Steele has dedicated himself to the improvements necessary to be a solid starter for the Cowboys if the need arises again.
"Physically, I shed about 10 to 15 pounds last season, and been working on my core, working on my lower body, my legs. My feet. The feet are part of everything. So, I've been working on that."
Steele says he is "310-ish" after a week and a half of training camp in California. The second-year tackle says that Smith, Collins, and guards Zack Martin and Connor Williams have been helpful in his development during the advent of his second season, where his focus will be more on the mental side of the game.
Said Steele on how he hopes to open the mental door: "Really just about learning, knowing what you're doing on offense. Just having the playbook down, the little nuances here and there that you got to know, and then defensive wise just what they're trying to do, what they're trying to disguise."
While the focus is on how the offensive line is regaining its starters, Steele will return to the background, a familiar abode, and get back to doing what he does best.
"I just try to outwork everyone," said Steele. "That's my motto. That's my motto since I came out of high school. Outwork everyone and that takes care of itself."
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