The receiver and a few mates have been simply visiting his buddy, Bubba Thompson, an outfielder within the Texas Rangers farm system, who was taking part in primarily throughout the road from the Cowboys’ facility for the Frisco RoughRiders. They stood on the turf discipline exterior Ford Middle, watching highlights of quarterback Dak Prescott and working again Ezekiel Elliott play on a loop.
“It was at all times a purpose to have the ability to play on the highest degree, regardless of the sport was, soccer or baseball,” mentioned Thompson, who was Tolbert’s quarterback at McGill-Toolen Excessive College in Cell, Alabama, and is now with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in Spherical Rock, Texas. “We’re working to play on the highest degree. Any workforce could be superior, however it’s loopy that he acquired an opportunity to go to the Cowboys. That’s fairly neat.”
Thompson was the Rangers’ first-round choose in 2017, whereas Tolbert was the Cowboys’ third-round choose final month, however their chase of their professional sports activities dream started the identical manner: fixed days and nights working routes, throwing passes, lifting weights, taking swings within the cage and figuring out within the sand to enhance their power and quickness.
“We’ve at all times been like that,” Thompson mentioned. “We’re attempting to be the very best. That’s what the very best do. Simply acquired to be ready. It ain’t going to only come to you.”
Tolbert didn’t play soccer till his sophomore 12 months in highschool. He was extra of a baseball participant, like Thompson, and even attended a non-public exercise for the Rangers held in Atlanta. However he acquired hooked on soccer, jokingly saying he had extra bother with the slider than the curveball. He caught 14 passes for 135 yards as a junior in highschool. As a senior, with Thompson as his quarterback, he caught 37 passes for 696 yards and 9 touchdowns, making all of it the way in which to the State 7A Championship.
He was removed from a sure-fire prospect. He acquired curiosity from Michigan State however selected to remain near dwelling at South Alabama within the Solar Belt Convention. In 4 years, he set faculty data in receptions (178), yards (3,140), landing receptions (22) and 100-yard video games (10).
It’s work he began with Thompson and continues now that has gotten him so far. On the Cowboys’ latest rookie orientation, he was the final participant to depart the sphere, catching passes off the Jugs machine.
“I really feel such as you’ve acquired to do greater than all people else if you wish to be increased or higher than all people else,” Tolbert mentioned. “You’re to get what you place in, mainly, so get 1% higher each day. I’m trying to put within the additional work in order that it might come again to me on the again finish.”
In the summertime previous to his remaining school season, Tolbert went to the Senior Bowl places of work and met with its govt director, Jim Nagy, a former NFL scout.
“The final 12 months and a half, he’s actually ready like a professional,” Nagy mentioned. “I feel that’s what made him totally different on this receiver class. I can attest to it. I can really feel actually good about saying that Jalen is actually going to have the ability to hit the bottom working. He actually dove into the tape research a part of it.”
Particularly, Tolbert checked out Tennessee cornerback Alontae Taylor, figuring out he would want an enormous recreation to reply questions on taking part in towards higher competitors. He caught seven passes for 143 yards towards the Volunteers final season.
However Nagy additionally picked aside a few of Tolbert’s recreation, too.
“We’re watching my Southern Miss recreation and he’s telling me, ‘Hey, I feel proper right here you possibly can take yet another revolution. You are able to do this and possibly get slightly bit extra separation,’” Tolbert mentioned. “Me taking that from him, I can take to my recreation in follow and work on it.”
After assembly with Nagy, he labored out with former NFL receiver Yo Murphy in Florida, spending time with different present NFL receivers. Maybe an excellent larger profit to Tolbert was Main Applewhite turning into South Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2021 after two years as an analyst at Alabama.
“So I used to be seeing how they have been maneuvering and the way they have been setting themselves as much as win on routes,” mentioned Tolbert, who completed with 1,474 yards and eight touchdowns on 82 receptions as a senior.
For the primary time, Tolbert lined up inside and outside, shifting across the formation. It opened his eyes extra to the whole image of an offense, and the Cowboys really feel comfy he’ll be capable of line up wherever they want him.
After the Cowboys drafted him, Tolbert mentioned Prescott despatched him a playbook.
“He’s instantly attempting to get each piece of fabric he can get and seize all the things,” offensive coordinator Kellen Moore mentioned. “We’re like, ‘We’ll take this daily.’ However you possibly can inform he desires (to be taught) and values that. You’re going to win on this league with all the small print.”
With receiver Michael Gallup recovering from a torn anterior ligament in his left knee, the Cowboys will want Tolbert to be productive, particularly early within the season. It’s an enormous request of any rookie, particularly from a smaller faculty, however one they really feel comfy making.
“Frankly, one of many issues he made an enormous level of in our preliminary dialog was he’s fairly younger to the sport of soccer,” coach Mike McCarthy mentioned. “He hasn’t performed quite a lot of soccer. To me, that’s thrilling. Utilizing his phrases, he mentioned, ‘I don’t understand how excessive my ceiling goes to be, however I feel it’s going to be fairly rattling excessive.’ I used to be like, ‘Oh, yeah, you possibly can see it.’”