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After initial hesitation, Sicko joins Cowboys to pursue NFL career

IRVING, Texas -- Scott Sicko was undrafted and uncertain about the rookie free agency process. So the tight end from New Hampshire initially turned down offers from teams willing to give him a chance to pursue his NFL dream.

One week after being bypassed several times by all 32 NFL teams during the draft, and after some time to reconsider his decision, Sicko is at the Dallas Cowboys' rookie minicamp.

Sicko said he was "full of emotions" after the draft. He described his feelings as a mix of being disappointed and being nervous about the situation if he wanted to keep playing.

"I allowed myself, my emotions to calm down and step back from the situation and really think what's best for me and what's going to make me happy," Sicko said. "Playing football always has been a dream of mine, so I was just really happy that the Cowboys stuck with me through it."

Sicko created an Internet stir when, after going undrafted, he said he was turning down the NFL to continue his education. Some applauded Sicko's focus on academics, while others blasted him for passing on a rare opportunity.

"I was very surprised, in all honesty," Sicko said. "I'm a 22-year-old kid. It's like I just want to play football and be happy."

Though he wasn't among the six draft picks for the Cowboys, the 6-foot-4, 251-pound tight end was a player whom offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said the team had targeted. Sicko caught 158 passes for 2,004 yards and 22 touchdowns the past three seasons at New Hampshire.

Garrett was among people from the Cowboys' organization who contacted Sicko.

"What you're trying to do with these guys is convince them that this is a good place for them, this place fits what they can do, the numbers are right, whatever the case may be for the specific player," Garrett said.

It also helped that the Cowboys could evoke, among others, the names of Tony Romo and Miles Austin, undrafted rookies from smaller schools who later became Pro Bowl players in Dallas.

"We have a great track record here with this organization of free-agent players making our team and having success," Garrett said. "We tell them right from the start it doesn't matter where you came from, it doesn't matter how you got in this room."

Sicko said Garrett was "very understanding of my nervousness" and quite convincing.

"You can be from anywhere and be a good player," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "(Sicko) looks athletic, he can run and catches the ball well. ... That's what we expected from him."

Only 21 players from the University of New Hampshire have played in the NFL, dating to the mid-1920s. Chicago Bears defensive back Corey Graham and Arizona Cardinals fullback Dan Kreider were the only ones last season.

"I was just completely nervous and a little scared about the whole process just because I didn't know what I was getting myself into in the free-agent process," Sicko said. "I had never really seen anyone go through the process, so I didn't know the exact details of what was supposed to happen. ... Coming from the University of New Hampshire, you really don't see a lot of kids go through that process"

Now that Sicko is with the Cowboys, he said he's "incredibly excited" and will do everything he can to make the team by proving himself in offseason workouts and training camp later this summer.

Later this month, Sicko will receive his undergraduate degree in history from New Hampshire with a minor in political science.

Being with the Cowboys might alter the timing of Sicko's academic plans, but it won't change them. He hopes to at least take online courses to earn a political science degree and possibly a master's in history.

"I look up to people who help people. For me, personally, I've had so many teachers help me throughout my life and really set amazing examples for me," Sicko said. "I wish I could do that for a kid one day. I either want to be a teacher or professor at a college or possibly like a law enforcement officer."

For now, though, he'll try ro pursue his other dream -- playing in the NFL.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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