Spagnola will you know no. 43’s name by time the season begins dallas cowboys 6 gas laws


Or L’Damian Washington, the wide receiver from Shreveport, La., who made a name for himself at the University of Missouri, but went undrafted in 2014, breaking his heart because his goal was to support his brothers since mom and dad had both already passed away.

Heck, we can even add one La’el Collins to that list, the projected first-round pick from LSU in 2015 who fell through seven rounds of the draft once the league learned authorities in Baton Rouge, La., wanted to question him during the investigation of his former girlfriend’s murder.

His name in Joel Lanning. Linebacker, Iowa State. He, too, went undrafted, one of the 20 rookie free agents here on Friday for the start of the Cowboys’ three-day rookie minicamp, which appears to be closer to college freshman orientation than it did to anything significant about football.

Most of you probably haven’t heard of him, an all-state player in football, baseball and wrestling from Ankeny, Iowa, a suburb just north of Des Moines. While there as a senior in 2012, won state championships in football and baseball. Spent five years at Iowa State. Started 22 of the final 25 games he played over his final two years.

If you are from Oklahoma, or a fan of the Sooners, you darn well remember this kid, Lanning, Joel. He had two huge hands in downing the then third-ranked team that eventually advanced to the College Football Playoffs, 38-31, in Norman, Okla. Previously, the Cyclones had only beaten the Sooners five times in 81 meetings, and not once in Norman since 1990.

I distinctly remember watching the game, and was greatly confused since I wasn’t up on my Cyclone football. Here was this No. 7 making tackles. Eight of them to be exact, sacking Baker Mayfield once and recovering one fumble at the Iowa State 6-yard line, setting up the Cyclones’ game-turning 94-yard touchdown drive.

“He’s meant so much to the team,” Manning says during Liberty Bowl week. “I think he’s had an effect on everybody in our organization. I think he’s been such a refreshing, inspiring kid to our coaching staff, to our young coaches and to all of us.

As a dual-threat QB, Lanning ends up passing for 1,290 yards and nine touchdowns while running for 518 yards and 11 touchdowns to lead the team. In fact, in a 66-10 win over Texas Tech, Lanning carried the ball 17 times for 171 yards and five touchdowns.

But in the 2017 offseason, head coach Matt Campbell told Lanning he needed more of a passing quarterback than a running quarterback and that he was wanting to go with Jacob Park and Kyle Kempt as the top two QBs. So, Joel, would you mind moving to linebacker? Middle linebacker? A position he had not played since the eighth grade.

Well, I’ll be, the guy ends up leading Iowa State with 114 tackles (third in the Big 12), finished second with 11 tackles for losses, had three passes defensed and picked one. But that was not it. The Cyclones still needed him some at quarterback, mostly running the ball out of what was named for him, the Lan-Rampackage, usually on short-yardage, goal-line and fourth-down plays.

Now that Oklahoma game. It was reported Park took an undisclosed leave of absence from the team for personal medical reasons. So Campbell went with the senior walk-on Kempt against the Sooners. But late in the week, they called Lanning in to inform him they might need him some at quarterback, too, for that game.

So Lanning starts at middle linebacker, but with the offense needing a jump start and no previous game snaps at quarterback that season, he enters the game in the second quarter with Iowa State trailing, 14-0. That’s when the fourth-down run picked up the first, then driving the Cyclones to the OU 11 for the field goal.

Well, the Cowboys will now hope to put amazing in their bottle. Lanning didn’t receive an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine, didn’t get drafted. But he’s here just the same, one of the 20 undrafted free agents the Cowboys signed. And unless you knew, No. 43 was just another name on the roster – maybe just a camp guy.

And as Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett says, “It really doesn’t matter where you came from or what you’ve done to this point, the only thing that matters is what you do now. … We have great examples where free agents have come in and played prominent roles. Just go back to the history of this team. …

Yep, he’s talking to the Joel Lannings of the world. Just as the Cowboys talked to Miles Austin at one point and Barry Church and Cole Beasley and Dan Bailey, and uh, Tony Romo. We could go on and on, all the way back to the days of Cliff Harris, the safety from tiny Ouachita Baptist.

So keep an eye on Lanning. The Cowboys need depth guys at linebacker. He’s begun working on the weakside this weekend, and says, “but they also want me to learn the middle.” Plus, you know darn well he’ll do whatever they ask on special teams, and treat the opportunity like the job of his life. And tuck this away for safe keeping: The Raiders worked him a little at fullback during his pro day workout.