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Cowboys Rookie Goal: Make 'Moose' Proud

Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson is ready to follow in the footsteps of Daryl "Moose" Johnston, in his blocking and his uniform number.

It doesn't exactly belong alongside 22 and 88 as one of the most hallowed numbers in Dallas Cowboys history, but rookie Jake Ferguson appreciates the significance of his new No. 48.

"Moose and (No.) 48," Ferguson said recently. "Some guys are like, 'Oh, he's (wearing) 48.' I'm like, 'You guys don't know who wore 48.'"

Ferguson, Dallas' fourth-round pick in last month's NFL Draft, wore No. 84 at Wisconsin. But when he arrived at The Star in Frisco that number was already taken by Michigan third-year tight end Sean McKeon. Since he's a student of the game - and projected to be a pretty snappy blocker - Ferguson simply inverted the numbers and this season will attempt to channel his inner Daryl "Moose" Johnston, the best No. 48 in Cowboys history.

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Dalton Schultz

The Cowboys don't retire numbers, evidenced by Emmitt Smith wearing Bob Hayes' No. 22, No. 88 being passed along from Drew Pearson to Michael Irvin to Antonio Bryant to Dez Bryant to CeeDee Lamb, and Larry Allen's No. 73 being given this year to first-round draft choice Tyler Smith. Even if they did, 48 likely would still be in rotation.

Johnston was the first Cowboy to wear it, and he spent 11 seasons winning three Super Bowls as the NFL's all-time leading rusher's lead fullback blocker. Linebacker Jabril Cox wore 48 last season, but this year has switched to 14. While Ferguson's old 84 has been a fixture for Cowboys tight ends - Jean Fugett, Doug Cosbie and Jay Novacek - his new number has never belong to a pass-catcher.

Ferguson's grandfather, who happens to be former Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez, was quick to remind him of the standard that comes with that number.

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"He actually texted me and was like, 'You better not be throwing shade on 48,'" Ferguson laughed.

Ferguson isn't playing the same position as Johnston, but blocking is an important duty for NFL tight ends.

"Going to Wisconsin, that's first, second, pretty much third down we're blocking. If it's six yards, we think we can get it on the ground and we're going to go for it," Ferguson said. "Finally getting through those five years at Wisconsin, that's something I love doing. That's all it is - a mindset in the trenches. You've got to love it."

As a receiver, Ferguson had a career-high 46 receptions in his senior season and averaged 11.2 yards per receptions over his four years at Wisconsin. With the Cowboys parting ways with Blake Jarwin this offseason, there's opportunity for Ferguson to see significant playing time as a rookie behind Dalton Schultz.

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"Just watching him and especially all the other tight ends that have been through here, they're all smooth," Ferguson said of Schultz. "They're not the fastest guys, they're not the strongest guys, but they're smooth, and smooth is fast and fast is smooth. You watch those guys, they're smart, they know where the holes are in the defense, they know what to do in the trenches, their technique is there. So just being able to try to perfect my craft and get to that level is something that I really pride myself on and really try to get to."

And who knows - with fans craving a player with an "oo" in his name and Amari Cooper now gone - perhaps Ferguson will even hear some "Mooooooose" calls.