INDIANAPOLIS — Ed Oliver projects as a first-round Cowboy.
Oh, you’re thinking the talented defensive tackle who starred for the University of Houston would be a perfect interior complement to Dallas edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence?
Yeah. Sure. Whatever.
Perfect COWBOY, and here’s why.
“As a young guy, one day I seen somebody riding a horse down the street, and I said, ‘Hey, daddy, I want a horse,'” Oliver reminisced Saturday at the NFL scouting combine. “Him growing up in the country, horses was not foreign to him. Probably about a month passed, and I had a horse.
“First horse was named Caledonia, and I loved that horse. He got me another horse named Oreo, and I got into riding Oreo, and I swear that horse tried to kill me a couple times. Fighting with that horse is really the reason I became fearless and why I’m able to go up (against) 6-5 and 300-pound guys, it’s a walk in the park. When you fight with a 1,000-pound animal, I ain’t worried about no 300 pounds.”
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So that’s how Oliver became an elite football player. He still owns Caledonia and three other horses, but Oreo was given his unconditional release. Oliver described him as “stubborn and ignorant” but emphasized that Oreo “honestly stripped me of fear.”
Oliver seemed fearless, engaging and confident at the combine as he looks forward to joining his next team, which he feels will be getting a premier force.
“I definitely feel like I’m the best D-lineman here,” he said while acknowledging what a loaded interior class he’s a part of, along with studs like Alabama’s Quinnen Williams and Clemson’s Christian Wilkins, among many others.
But Oliver isn’t comparing himself to mere college kids. When asked whom he resembled, he went straight to the NFL’s reigning two-time defensive player of the year.
“I have to say (Rams defensive tackle) Aaron Donald just because of his stature and his style of play,” said Oliver. “It’s truly amazing to see what he’s done at his size. I feel like I can come and do the same thing, if not better.”
To be clear, he made the statement in a respectful and boastful way. But Oliver also seems to understand that smaller interior players who can use leverage and speed to create pressure are fast becoming highly desired in the league.
Most comfortable playing the three-technique — a defensive tackle in a four-man front — Oliver touted his high motor, violent style of play, ability to penetrate and versatility (he was asked to go through linebacker drills at the combine), saying summarily that he can “probably change the whole defense honestly.”
And for those who still don’t believe in a 6-2, 287-pound defensive tackle (Donald is 6-1, 280)?
“I mean, I don’t know,” Oliver said. “I feel like teams are going to question you until you actually get there and show what you can do. So I believe I’m going to be questioned all the way up until my first game until I put that to rest.”
He did try to again put to rest his highly scrutinized dust-up last season with then-Cougars coach Major Applewhite, who appeared to try to strip Oliver of a team jacket in a game for which he was inactive while nursing an injury.
“It was what it was — it was a misunderstanding,” said Oliver. “We hashed it out a day later. I still keep in touch with Coach Applewhite still to today.”
As for those who have suggested Oliver mailed in his 2018 season to preserve his health for the NFL?
“It was upsetting to me,” he said, “being hurt and having to watch my team struggle without me.”
But let’s back to the horses and NFL fits for Oliver. And maybe Dallas isn’t so ideal after all given Oliver’s admission that, “I’ve never been a cow guy.”
After all, Oliver already has some ideas about how he might spend that first professional paycheck.
“I don’t think I’m going to get into like horse racing or nothing like that. But I would have a barn with some horses,” he said.
“Maybe some cows? I’ve never been a cow guy, but they’ve got bulls that you can sell their semen, make a lot of money like that. Nah, for real!”
Ed Oliver kept it very real Saturday.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis