FARGO — The story with the Dallas Cowboys this season has been the immediate impact of their first-year players, with defensive end Micah Parsons the early front runner for a rookie of the year award. Last weekend, the Cowboys added another player to its impressive newbie class.
Linebacker Jabril Cox, as one Dallas publication put it, “has arrived.” His brother couldn’t be happier. North Dakota State senior linebacker Jasir Cox doesn’t get a chance to see most of the Cowboys games, but he did catch the entirety in the convincing win over the New York Giants.
“He made a big play on Daniel Jones and my family was ecstatic,” Jasir said. “I FaceTimed him after the game and he was happy to tell me he finally got to make a play as a Dallas Cowboy.”
Much farther north, Jasir has been making plays for a Bison defense that leads Division I FCS in scoring defense heading into Saturdays’ Missouri Valley Football Conference clash at Illinois State. NDSU is giving up 8.6 points a game, ahead of Princeton (8.8) and Montana State (11.2).
He had six tackles and a pass breakup last week against Northern Iowa, playing the same outside linebacker position Jabril did at NDSU. His spot on the field requires him to be physical near the line of scrimmage while also having the ability to cover a receiver in a pass route.
“I think it comes with the job description as a ‘SAM’ linebacker, knowing that my brother played this position and you’re going to be out there in the slot,” Jasir said. “But being able to tackle in the box is a big thing for us so I think we pride ourselves on both things.”
The linebackers usually work on one-on-one pass coverage situations on Tuesdays and bang it out at the line on Wednesdays.
“It’s a lot to take in, but I think I’m ready for it,” Jasir said.
He’s been more ready this fall with tackling than he was last spring, said NDSU head coach Matt Entz.
“That was one of the strikes with how he played in the spring,” Entz said.
Pass coverage has rarely been an issue with Cox, due in part coming into the program as a safety out of Bishop Miege High School in Kansas City. He played mainly on special teams as a true freshman in 2018. He was moved to linebacker in 2019, playing a backup role on the undefeated 16-0 national championship team.
Like his brother with the Cowboys, his role with the Bison has trended up since taking over as a starter last spring.
It was also a season that was subpar by NDSU standards. The defense had its holes in a three-loss season.
“I’d say everyone is more mature this year,” Jasir said. “The spring caught us all off guard and for us to lock in and see what we did last year, it took a toll on us. We knew we didn’t want the same outcome this year so we made sure we dialed down and stuck to our rules and principles.”
It appears that’s what Jabril did against the Giants. The Cowboys released another linebacker last week to make room for Cox.
“He’s prepared for these moments,” Jasir said. “It’s something he’s been doing since we’ve been growing up. His number was called and he stepped up to the plate and I’m really excited for him to see what the future holds.”