Former Quince Orchard standout Darnell Leslie has signed a free agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
Leslie, a former All-Sentinel defensive lineman, went undrafted after a stellar career at Monmouth University. He participated in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie minicamp in early May.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Leslie, a former Monmouth defensive end who signed with Dallas on his 23rd birthday last month. “The Cowboys are a top-rate organization, and I am excited to get started with them. The first day we arrived, we had a lot of paperwork to fill out and physicals. Right when we woke up on the second day, we got straight to film, got our playbooks and then out to the walkthrough with practice in the evening. It helped to be with the Buccaneers the week before to get my nerves out of the way. They also run a similar defense because [Cowboys Defensive Coordinator] Rod Marinelli was at Tampa Bay, so the concepts are similar.”
Leslie joins former Monmouth wide receiver Miles Austin in Dallas. Austin, who spent eight seasons with the Cowboys, is now a member of the organization’s front office. Leslie and Austin have already forged a relationship.
“The first day I got there, we had dinner at the facility,” said Leslie, who earned a degree from Monmouth in software engineering. “He gave me some words of encouragement. Told me to go out there and be the first in every drill, show that I can run and hit and be aggressive. Just go out there and compete and be that guy that stands out on film and in person to the coaching staff.”
Leslie, who is projected at outside linebacker, was a two-time All-Big South selection and finished ranked seventh in sacks despite only playing three seasons. He compiled 152 career tackles including 35.5 for a loss. He also registered 15 sacks, four forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries in three years. The Quince Orchard product missed the entire 2015 season with an injury and redshirted his freshman year.
Although he played on the defensive line in high school and college, Leslie is projected to play linebacker at the professional level.
“Playing linebacker is different, but there are blitzes where I am rushing off the edge so that’s kind of natural,” he said. “You have different rush lanes and pass drops, so you have to think about that. You can’t just rush off the edge every play. At the end of the day, it is still football, so you just have to go out there and make a play.”