FRISCO - Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch says he's "on a mission.”
His new boss, Dan Quinn, will see Vander Esch - and raise him.
"I've been really impressed,” said Quinn, the Dallas Cowboys' new defensive coordinator. "Every once in. a while you can just see a person who is on a mission, and I think that's what I've seen from Leighton from the time I arrived.”
The stakes are high for Vander Esch, as he enters a contract year. But to some degree, Quinn - fired last season as the head coach in Atlanta and now trying to breathe new life into his career - is on the same side of that poker table.
Vander Esch’s success might now be tied to Quinn. And vice-versa.
“You could just feel the energy and intensity that he's putting into his workouts to change his body, to get as strong as he could,” Quinn said.
You can also feel energy from Quinn, a roll-up-his-sleeves coach who draws passion and devotion from his players.
Said Vander Esch of Quinn: “His intensity and involvement is a total game-changer. He’s right in there with us running plays ... I have so much respect for him already. I love a coach like that.”
Is that a dig on Quinn’s predecessor, last year’s Dallas defensive coordinator Mike Nolan?
Well, in a word, yes.
Quinn said Vander Esch has in meetings and now on the field, continuing with this week’s minicamp at The Star, approached his job with intensity.
“You could feel the urgency to go,” the coach said. “He's been very impressive to me so far."
And as the group - Jaylon Smith, free-agent addition Keanu Neal, rookie draft picks Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox and Vander Esch - grow together, you get the sense leadership can be central to their success.
Said Vander Esch: "I don’t have to use that (Dallas' decision to not pick up his fifth-year option) to be motivated to play better or work harder. I’ve been on a mission since the season was over because we just can’t have a season like we did.”
Dan Quinn gets it. And he and Leighton Vander Esch seem to get each other - a good thing, as in 2021 it’s a good bet that they’ll need each other.