Ryan Switzer exchanged a high-five with Dez Bryant, then two more, followed by a shoulder bump and a couple of dance moves with his celebrated Dallas teammate.
The rookie receiver isn’t a typical fourth-round pick cloaked in anonymity. The 5-foot-8 speedster ran with the starters during offseason practices and he cooked up an elaborate handshake with Bryant, who wasn’t the only Cowboys veteran to notice.
“Switz, man, that guy, he’s the real deal. I love little Switz,” Bryant said. “The way that he just loves being around this locker room and these guys, it was meant for him. Dallas was meant for him.”
Switzer is almost a replica of teammate Cole Beasley, a slot receiver whose stature with the team has grown steadily over five seasons. But it’s been Bryant who has taken the youngster under his wing. With Beasley and Lucky Whitehead sidelined with hamstring injuries, Switzer shared the field with Bryant frequently during the offseason, which wrapped up with minicamp last week.
“I think the love for the game is really what’s hitting it off between us,” Switzer said. “We’re both very passionate about the game of football and what this game has done for us. It’s been like that for everyone, especially the receiver room. Everyone enjoys what they do, and that’s why it’s such a close-knit group.”
Switzer has found the spotlight since the day he was drafted as a record-setting punt returner out of North Carolina.
A video of him receiving a draft-day phone call from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones went viral on Twitter. His inner lip tattoo has received as much coverage as his play. And he doesn’t mind talking about his love for “The Office” or romantic movies that have been part of his pre-game routine.
He even worked a case of mistaken identity to his advantage. When a security guard mistook the 180-pounder for a new Dallas kicker, Switzer posted a wildly popular tweet about the incident.
Switzer’s popularity means he is already a regular of sorts in the veterans’ locker room at the team’s training facility, where rookies dress in a separate room nearby. Journalists are not allowed in the rookie locker room and must make requests to interview Switzer with the veteran players. There were days when about a dozen cameras and recorders surrounded him. Again, not typical treatment for a fourth-rounder.
“I think he brings his own certain swag to our room, and it helps us out tremendously,” receiver Terrance Williams said.
While Switzer isn’t likely to take Beasley’s job in the slot right away, there’s a good chance he will be the primary punt returner for the Cowboys, who have struggled since letting Dwayne Harris leave in free agency two years ago.
“I think the reps have really contributed to his development. In addition to that, he has a tremendous work ethic on and off the field,” receivers coach Derek Dooley said. “The combination of those two things has helped him progress probably quicker than most people would.”
Switzer tied an NCAA record with five punt returns for touchdowns as a freshman and finished his career with seven, one off the record.
“Like anything in life, the more you can do, the more you know, the more you’ll be valued,” Switzer said. “I’m just focused on my role and learning the system, whatever that may be. My job is to handle my responsibility and know where I’m supposed to be and make sure those guys can trust me.”
But it would be wise for people not to forget that Switzer is also North Carolina’s career leader in catches and yards receiving.
“He was a productive player in college, both on offense and as a special teams player,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a smart football player, and he’s one of those guys who’s ready for every opportunity. I think when you approach it like that and have that mindset, you get better.”
While Switzer could spend more time on the sideline once the veterans return for training camp, he may not be there for long.
“It’s still an adjustment period, but I’m getting it,” Switzer said. “If I can continue to grow and continue to make strides, it sets myself up for a good season.”