IRVING, Texas (Sept. 1, 2005) -- Bill Parcells is tough to impress. That's what makes his gushing over Tyson Thompson almost as spectacular as the undrafted rookie's performance this summer.
Thompson capped his bid to make the Dallas Cowboys by running for 57 yards and two touchdowns, including the winning points in a 27-20 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason finale.
The hometown kid was returning to the bench when Parcells called him over, tapped him on the head and told him he'll be suiting up next weekend for the opener in San Diego.
"I was just overwhelmed," Thompson said. "I felt like I was floating a little bit."
Thompson will become the first player raised in Irving to make the club. The team brought him in for a visit on its "Dallas day" scouting event and he wound up distinguishing himself despite a crop of runners that also featured starter Julius Jones, veteran acquisition Anthony Thomas and fourth-round pick Marion Barber III, whose roster spot might now be in jeopardy.
"He's a threat, so we're going to take him," Parcells said. "Quite a story. I'm proud of him."
The Cowboys (3-1) jumped ahead 10-0 with Drew Bledsoe, Jones and the rest of the first-string offense having their way with Jacksonville's second-team defense. The Jaguars (2-2) got a 14-yard touchdown pass from Byron Leftwich to Reggie Williams -- only the second TD in four preseason games by their starters -- then things got tight once the game became a battle of backups.
Jacksonville went ahead 17-13, then Thompson scored from the 1 to put Dallas back in front late in the third quarter. After the Jags tied it at 20 on a field goal, Thompson gained 43 of 61 yards on the winning drive. He had runs of 3 and 20 yards and 15-yard reception, followed by a 5-yard touchdown in which he kept churning his legs after running into a pile of blockers.
Both teams came out of the game with the most important thing -- no injuries. Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio was so careful that he sat nearly the entire starting defense and starting running back Fred Taylor. Leftwich led only two drives and took a total of seven snaps.
"The important thing is to come out healthy for a 16-game season," Del Rio said. "At the same time, we have to be true to the evaluation process and give our backups some playing time. So it was a valuable time for us."
Dallas opened the game by feeding the ball to Jones, and he responded with 75 yards on 11 carries. His early success helped Bledsoe hit his first seven passes, including a 40-yarder to Terry Glenn for a touchdown on the opening drive.
The second series went 68 yards to the Jacksonville 8, with the Cowboys settling for a field goal. Then most of the offensive stars called it a night.
With both teams in low-key modes, the game drew a sparse crowd, although it included about 100 people from the Tulane football team as guests of the Cowboys. The squad is living in Dallas after fleeing New Orleans to avoid Hurricane Katrina.
A moment of silence was held before kickoff in honor of storm victims and the team encouraged donations to the Salvation Army throughout the local TV and radio broadcasts. The Cowboys also said they are preparing a major fund-raiser tied to their Sept. 19 home opener, a Monday night game against Washington that also will feature the Ring of Honor induction of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.
Another interesting member of the crowd was free-agent receiver Peerless Price, whom Atlanta waived this week. Price had his best season while playing in Buffalo with Bledsoe. Price watched the second half from the luxury suite of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and is scheduled to meet with club officials the morning of Sept. 2.
Jacksonville's backup quarterback David Garrard was 7-for-12 for 61 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass to Ernest Wilford.
Tony Romo, practically a lock to be Dallas' backup quarterback, was 8-for-13 for 91 yards in two-plus quarters. Thomas had 64 yards on 11 carries and 28 yards on three catches in his bid to solidify himself as Jones' backup.
The Cowboys' defense got a boost from the debuts of nose tackle Jason Ferguson and first-round draft pick Marcus Spears. Spears, a defensive end, had a sack in the third quarter.
- In the battle for Dallas' kicking job, Jose Cortez made a 26-yarder and newly acquired Nick Novak hit from 49 but missed from 40.
- The Jaguars struggled to run the ball. Alvin Pearman had nine carries for 26 yards and Derrick Wimbush had a team-high 58 -- 55 on one play.
The Associated Press News Service
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