By MICKEY SPAGNOLA DallasCowboys.com Columnist May 25, 2004, 5:55 p.m. (CDT) IRVING, Texas - Here, found someone you're going to like. Someone you're going to pull for. Someone with long odds who is going to make you think of Woody Dantzler. Meet Patrick Crayton, the 25-year-old from DeSoto, Texas - a southern suburb of Dallas - the Cowboys selected with their second of three seventh-round draft choices. The hometown guy, if you will. Maybe the next Everson Walls or Michael Downs of this day and age when very few guys fall through the cracks as those guys once did. Now it's hard to say what he really is since he's one of those jacks of all trades, except that to me, after watching him in a few rookie mini-camp practices, what he seems most to be is a football player -- and one who had no business at Northwestern Oklahoma State University except for circumstance. He can play a little wide receiver for you. He can play a little quarterback. Runs the ball pretty well, but probably not from the tailback position. Can return punts for you. Can returns kickoffs for you. And he says he once played defensive back in high school, too, which means he probably can cover kicks, too. Just my opinion, but if Bill Parcells told the not-so-kid anymore to line up his 6-foot, 207-pound frame at linebacker, he'd say, "Weak or strong, coach?" Gotta love that. Lovin' this already, aren't you? But hey, this isn't the half of it. Of course, Crayton is an underdog to make the Cowboys' final 53-man roster, another quality that probably already has endeared him to folks in these parts, and will endear himself to you, too. Seventh-round picks usually aren't even 50-50 to make a roster. Guys from Northwestern Oklahoma State University would be considered long shots, although, don't tell Lynn Scott that. Same for NAIA athletes. Or anyone else playing in the obscurity an Alva, Okla., provides. Plus, Crayton unlikely is to have a true position. He played quarterback his senior year for the Rangers, but that was more out of necessity for the NAIA school than Crayton being a prototype NFL quarterback. He played wide receiver, too, and that's what the Cowboys have him listed as, but to make this team as a wide receiver, the best he could hope to be is the fifth or sixth receiver, if Parcells even keeps six. He's played a little DB in his day, but probably not enough to make it at this level. So that leaves special teams player, and you know all about how hard it is for those guys, trying to make a team as a kick-off and punt-return guy. Go ask Dantzler, although, in Crayton's case, he should know Parcells is not opposed to keeping a return guy if he can just do a little something at another position. Those guys have to be extremely special. Most of all, though, you'll like his story and his attitude, and the way he'll look you in the eye to tell you without blinking that the chance to play for the Cowboys "is a major opportunity. Just the chance to stay home and play is the opportunity of a lifetime." He knows about opportunities. Maybe even second chances. Crayton said he didn't have the grades coming out of high school to get into a major college, which after talking to the guy, made you believe he might have been more academically lackadaisical than challenged in high school. So he went off to Tyler (Texas) Junior College for a year and then sat out of year. Not doing much of anything, he gets a call from his former high school coach saying the coach at Northwestern was looking for a defensive back. "I jumped on it to get an opportunity to play ball and get my education," said Cryaton, who would go on to play four full years at Northwestern Oklahoma, which explains why he has just turned 25. So did you get it? The education? "I'm finished," Crayton said with a measure of accomplishment. "Getting my degree in Health Science." Seemed more proud of that degree than the 46 career touchdowns he scored, not to mention the 21 more he threw for in just two seasons of playing quarterback for the Rangers. Of those 46 touchdowns, 10 were by punt return, only three short of the NAIA career record. His career punt-return average is 20.8. Two more of those touchdowns were kick-off returns. And get what really impresses me: His senior year, not only did he throw 19 touchdown passes, he ran for 13 more, caught four touchdown passes - and I'm assuming he did not throw those to himself, but hell, who knows - and returned two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns. That folks, is having a hand in 40 touchdowns while leading Northwestern Oklahoma to the NAIA Championship game. Good stuff, huh? But wait, there's still more, and it gets better. Early on the second day of mini-camp practice I noticed Crayton limping, favoring his right left. Appeared as if he pulled a hamstring, maybe strained a groin. He didn't come out, though. Just continued to run his routes the best he could during individual drills. Parcells moved the practice into team period, and still there was Crayton, running his routes. And when practice was completed, by golly he stayed out there with the other guys catching punts under Parcells' watchful eye. He knew the score. He knows he's a seventh-round pick from an NAIA school without a true position, already placing him on the roster's bubble. He knows he can't be hurt, even if he's hurting. "Never been in so much pain on a football field," Crayton admitted. This was no simple muscle pull or strain. Oh no, Crayton, that very first practice "heard something . . ." when he was breaking out of his cut. When he finally gave in, asking the trainers what was up, it was discovered he had strained his plantar fascia, a broad band of fibrous tissues running along the bottom surface of the foot, attaching at the bottom heal bone and extending to the forefoot. Stretching the tissue causes what's called plantar fasciitis, and you might as well be running with a pocket knife stuck in the bottom of your foot. He says starting to run was no problem. It was the planting and slowing down, occupational necessities of a wide receiver, that we're the killers. But he didn't miss a practice. Not even so much as a play during the three-day mini-camp. "You got to deal with it . . . got to suck it up," Crayton said. The injury did not go unnoticed. Parcells knew what was going on, but gave Crayton no quarter, even going as far to point out "that sprained foot would cost him his job in training camp." Crayton already knew that. "There, you go, you can't get hurt," Crayton said. So you were trying to impress Parcells, even now, with your toughness? "If you miss a practice, and you can go, you're letting your team down," Crayton said. "It's not so much letting Coach Parcells down, but letting myself down." What'd I tell you? You're already pulling for him, aren't you? The good news for Crayton is he didn't tear the plantar fascia. Only a strain, so he figures to be good to go if invited to participate in the team's third mini-camp, June 8-11, and for sure by the time training camp begins the final week in July. On top of that, special teams coach Bruce DeHaven took notice of his athletic ability, saying, "I think he's a good enough athlete, he might have a chance" to make the team as a special teams guy. So hey, what more do you want? Hometown guy. Small-school athlete. Underdog. Made the most of his second chance. Tough. Versatile. Head screwed on straight. Not to mention obviously talented in a Cowboys' position of great need. Yeah, like I said, keep an eye on Patrick Crayton. You're going to like this guy.