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Cowboys Take Longshot Prospect As First Pick

April 21, 1996

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ The Dallas Cowboys reached into the unknown with their first pick in the NFL draft on Saturday, taking longshot project Kavika Pittman, a defensive end-tackle from McNeese State.

It was not a big vote of confidence for Shante Carver, a first-round pick out of Arizona State two years ago. Carver had a poor season last year backing up Charles Haley, getting only two sacks.

The Cowboys traded out of the first round to get Pittman, giving the Washington Redskins their 30th and last pick for two selections, the 37th and the 67th overall. Later, they also worked a deal with ex-Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson.

``Kavika could take time to develop, but we think very highly of him,″ said Dallas coach Barry Switzer. ``We don’t expect him to be a starter but he could possibly be in the rotation. It’s a test for us to bring him along quickly.″

Scouting director Larry Lacewell said the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Pittman ``is light years ahead of where Leon Lett was when he was picked out of Emporia State.

``Pittman is not as polished as Carver, but he’s bigger and faster than Shante. We needed depth at the position. Tony Tolbert is coming off two knee operations and Charles Haley has had a back operation. Anytime you can get a big guy who can flat run, you take him.″

The Cowboys passed over Tony Brackens of Texas, who was still available.

Pittman was surprised he was taken so soon in the draft.

``I know I’ll be a backup, but I’ll try to learn the system as quickly as I can,″ Pittman said. ``Some people have compared me to Charles Haley. I want to get on a serious weight program and bulk up. I’m just excited to get the opportunity of going from being a Cowboy to a Cowboy.″

Lacewell said Pittman could be moved to tackle.

``Eventually he could play at tackle and it’s hard to find a player who can play both positions,″ Lacewell said. ``I think it’s a great pick. We’ll get help in our rotation. Eventually I think he will play inside. He could be a very versatile player.″

Pittman was a track star at Leesville, La., where he was a 6-foot-11 high jumper and posted a 22.7-second time in the 200-meter dash. He was also an excellent triple jumper.

Pittman had 13 sacks in his senior season for the McNeese State Cowboys.

``I think I’ve always been a pretty good athlete,″ Pittman said. ``I’ll play on special teams or anything to help.″

The Cowboys seemed delighted, exchanging high-fives all around their conference room after the selection was announced.

``We got the player we wanted,″ Switzer said. ``That’s why we took a gamble on him still being available when we dropped into the second round. Washington called us about making the trade and we decided to do it.″

Later in the second round, the Cowboys swapped with Johnson’s Miami team, moving up so they could take Georgia linebacker Randall Godfrey. The Cowboys gave the Dolphins a second- and a fourth-round draft pick.

``The draft makes strange bedfellows,″ Lacewell said. ``But in my mind Randall could be a starter for us. He’s a big guy (6-1, 250) who can run.″

Said Godfrey: ``I’m over my hamstring injury problems now. I’ll be ready to go.″

Dallas needed depth because it lost linebackers Robert Jones and Dixon Edwards to free agency.

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