By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
OXNARD, Calif. -- When nose tackle Jay Ratliff came to Dallas as an unknown, seventh-round pick in the much-ballyhooed 2005 draft class that featured first-round picks DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears, the Cowboys didn't know what to do with him.
He was moved back and forth from end to nose tackle.
Now, the Cowboys don't know what they would do without him.
A first-team All-Pro in 2009, not only is Ratliff the best at his position in the NFL but he might arguably be the Cowboys' best player.
He is certainly the heart and soul of the defense, because the only thing that surpasses his talent is his work ethic and unyielding desire to succeed.
But if the Cowboys are going to realize their Super Bowl dream and stop the trend of being a talent-laden team that can't get over the hump, it might be because of the quiet emergence of Ratliff as a leader off the field and in the locker room.