Sports

HIS TO WIN

THE COMING FOOTBALL SEASON WILL BE A CRITICAL ONE FOR FORMER EAGLE GAVIN ESCOBAR, NOW A DALLAS COWBOY

By GREG HARDESTY     7/13/2015

It wasn’t exactly a confidence builder.

When the Dallas Cowboys drafted Santa Margarita Catholic High School product Gavin Escobar in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft (No. 47 overall), most of Cowboys Nation believed the selection was very questionable.

Why, fans wondered, was the team drafting another tight end when there was a bigger need on the offensive line — and when the team already had a very productive tight end in Jason Witten, and another promising one in James Hanna?

Raising eyebrows further was the fact that the Cowboys had mixed results after using two previous second-round draft choices on a tight end, an offense hybrid position that requires the skill of a receiver with the strength and blocking ability of a lineman.

After being used sparingly in his rookie season in 2013 but making some highlight plays last season, Escobar is facing a critical third year this season, which begins Sept. 9 in a matchup with the New York Giants.

Football pundits say Escobar, at 6 feet 6 inches and 260 pounds (and recently sporting a stylish Rollie Fingers-like moustache), has the potential and skill to make a mark in the NFL.

But the 2015 campaign, they say, could be a make-or-break season for the 24-year-old native New Yorker nicknamed “Pablo.”

Writing for CowboysNation.com, Ben Grimaldi, in a column in mid-June, says Escobar has yet to cash in on his potential, but that there is hope.

“[Escobar] can still play his way into a bigger role…,” Grimaldi writes. “His athletic ability and hands make him a match-up nightmare for any defense….

“He’s got too much talent to not make his mark with the team. Escobar can silence any talk about him being a bust by having a great year in 2015. It’s now or never for Gavin Escobar.”

As an Eagle, Escobar — who moved to California as a child — was a star in both football and basketball. He lettered twice in both sports.

As a football player, Escobar competed as an 185-pound defensive end and tight end during his junior season, catching 11 balls for 163 yards and a score, notes Sean Zeitler, a sports information specialist at SMCHS and head coach for boys track and field.

Escobar earned All-Trinity League second-team honors as a 215-pound wide receiver during his senior season, making 37 catches for 492 yards and six touchdowns, Zeitler says.

The highlight for Escobar’s senior season was when he had seven receptions for 130 yards versus St. Bonaventure, the eventual state Division III champion, earning player-of-the-game accolades for his performance.

Escobar received just a two-star prospect rating in football and was ranked the 79th-best tight end in the nation by Scout.com.

He also placed 20th on the “Top 20 Orange County Recruits for the Class of 2009” list by ocvarsity.com.

In basketball, he lettered as a junior and senior. His first campaign in hoops came for an Eagles team that ranked sixth in the state of California after compiling a 30-5 record in 2007. The team produced a 22-9 mark during his final season.

After graduating from SMCHS in 2009, Escobar attended San Diego State University — the only college to offer him a football scholarship (he received interest from Boise State, Oregon State and Utah). While with the Aztecs he was named All-Mountain West Conference three years in a row, including first team in his last two years. In 2011, he was named Honorable mention All-American by SportsIllustrated.com.

He entered the NFL draft after his junior season at San Diego State, where during his career he caught 122 receptions for 1,646 yards and 17 touchdowns (Escobar went on to finish his degree in public administration while a Cowboy).

One of Escobar’s biggest moments as a rookie professional football player — he finished the season with nine receptions for 134 yards — came during the last game of the season for the Cowboys in 2013.

In a spectacular play, he took a short pass from Kyle Orton, hurdled over Philadelphia safety Nate Allen at the 3-yard line and did a cartwheel into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown.

Highlight stuff.

And in the 2014 season, when he was used more, finishing with four touchdowns and nine receptions, Escobar logged a two-touchdown performance against the New York Giants.

Plays like these three, football pundits say, are why Cowboy fans shouldn’t write off Escobar.

And why all eyes will be on him in the fall.

“The talent is there for Gavin Escobar to be a play maker,” Grimaldi writes. “Why he hasn’t become a bigger part of the offense is a mystery.”

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