With the ninth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected Tyron Smith, offensive tackle out of the University of Southern California.
Smith, 20, was the highest rated offensive tackle in this year’s draft and the first offensive lineman selected.
He is described as a highly athletic lineman, good in pass protection and, many believe, primed to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
"I can't wait to get started," Smith said. "Basically, I'm ready to start playing ball again."
He said he had talked to a number of teams but didn't know where he was going to go in the draft.
"I wanted to be surprised on the day, and it worked out pretty well," he said.
Smith is the first offensive lineman to be drafted by the Cowboys in the first round since Jerry Jones bought the team.
"I feel like it's a privilege, and I won't let him down," he said. "I'll work my butt off to earn that spot and basically, running hard, basically."
Smith's family members at the draft said they were proud of him.
"This has been a long journey, and it's, just, it's overwhelming," said Detra Perkins, his cousin."I'm excited for him, I'm very proud of him. He's worked hard."
Smith said all the struggles when he was growing up are now paying off.
As for what number he'd like to have?
"I would love to keep my same, college number but whatever's available, I'll take," he said. "I feel like the number doesn't make the player; you make it yourself."
He told North Texas reporters in a conference call that his family rooted for the Cowboys and the Rams but didn't really have a favorite team growing up, The Associated Press reported.
"I think I have the potential to be a Pro Bowler," Smith said during the call, pausing for about two seconds then adding, "and be a Hall of Famer."
Smith weighed 285 pounds last season, way too light by NFL standards. He's worked with a nutritionist to bulk up while staying lean -- he's built sleek, more like an NBA power forward than a Nate Newton-esque lineman -- and has met the challenge of maintaining his new weight.
"It feel healthy, it feels like natural weight for me," he said.
Jones said the Cowboys' initial evaluation of Smith was that he needed to gain weight. The fact he put it on, kept it on and remained svelte was what shot him near the top of our draft board.
"The more he was evaluated by our scouts, the better grade he got," Jones said.
Dallas hadn't picked an offensive lineman in the first round since 1981, when the Tom Landry-Tex Schramm leadership took Howard Richards at No. 26. He didn't pan out, and neither have most of the linemen Jones' Cowboys have taken in the early rounds in recent years.
The Cowboys have the eighth pick in the second round and the seventh pick in the third round on Friday. On Saturday, Dallas has single picks in the fourth through sixth rounds, then two in the seventh.
NBC DFW's Matt Barrie and The Associated Press' Jaime Aron contributed to this report.
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