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FRISCO, Texas --  The Dallas Cowboys and their first round pick (29th overall) Tyler Guyton had eyes for each other seemingly the entire draft process

That was not the case for their second-round pick, Western Michigan defensive Marshawn Kneeland, the 56th overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft

Kneeland categorized his level of communication with the Cowboys leading up to his second-round selection, 56th overall as "decent." The fifth-year senior, who is 6-foot-3, 267 pounds with 34 1/4-inch arms and a 4.75 40-yard dash, possesses the ideal build for an NFL edge rusher. Dallas' front office sees a lot of their own four-time Pro Bowl edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence in Kneeland, which is some lofty praise.

"The number one thing about him is the high effort and motor that he plays with," Cowboys VP of Player Personnel Will McClay said Friday night. "Then to be talented, physically talented enough to play at this level. We noticed him early on. [Brett] Maxie is the area scout who brought him to our attention early, and the more you watched him, the more you see NFL traits and the traits that we are looking for on the defensive side; playing hard all the time and having the ability to rush the passer outside and inside. We've talked about it before, as hard as DLaw [DeMarcus Lawrence] played at Boise State, there are some similarities there. That is what we thought about him."

An informal visit at the NFL Scouting Combine and a Zoom call made up all of his communication with Dallas during the pre-draft process. Kneeland had a short and sweet answer when asked if he was surprised to receive the draft night call from the Cowboys.

"Yes," Kneeland said with a laugh on a conference call with local media. 

However, once the surprise faded for the 2023 Second-Team All-Mac selection, excitement kicked in.

"Excited, definitely excited," Kneeland said. "Surprised because obviously it's always a surprise. You're like 'whoa, I just got picked.' [I'm] Just excited. Just happy to be here."

He is now set to join the NFL's top pass rush (45% quarterback pressure rate in 2023), led by three-time All-Pro Micah Parsons who totaled a league-best 103 quarterback pressures last season. 

"Very excited, glad to be able to go there and get to work with some obviously talented, hard-working guys, and I'll be able to go and expand and do what I can to impact the team," Kneeland said.

"We didn't specifically go over it too much," Kneeland said when asked if head coach Mike McCarthy or general manager Jerry Jones mentioned what his role in Dallas will be. "I'm assuming probably defensive line; move around there. Wherever they need me."

Kneeled was close to transferring to Colorado for his fifth year of college football, but he returned to Western Michigan after the team's director of strength and conditioning, Grant Geib, and assistant strength and conditioning coach Kyle Murray were retained in Kalamazoo. The loyal pass rusher described his style of play as "violent, physical, high motor, high motor, high effort." The Cowboys concurred, which is why they drafted him. 

"The thing that attracted us to D-Law [DeMarcus Lawrence] back when he was coming out [in 2014] was the incredible effort that he played was that same effort that you see on Sundays now still, after as many years as he played. That shows he loves the game. When that attracts you, it's something that you put in your rolodex and go if I see that, I know what it looks like and what it can do. Just watching him play, he's bouncing off of people and he's chasing screens down. All of those things are some of the things that D-Law [DeMarcus Lawrence] did when he was at Boise State. Plus, there's rush upside, there's the ability to play outside and controlling the C gap and the rush ends. There's a lot of things that you can count on because that motor is always going to be there."

Now, the player Cowboys hope can be DeMarcus Lawrence 2.0 gets to spend his rookie year with the all-star, original version.

"I mean there's nothing like veteran leadership and veteran leadership carries you so much further than you've ever been," Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think that's a really strong focal point for us. We have the rookie orientation here in two weeks. We spend a lot of time just make sure that the rookies are ready to be acclimated to our environment and how we do things. From the day they walk in there with the veterans on that Monday, that's the biggest door that they'll walk through. The connection that they'll have with the locker room. Yes, definitely. To have the D-Law's ... On the other side of it, talking to [Cowboys first-round pick] Tyler [Guyton] before the press conference this morning, the ability to be able to sit next to Zack Martin and Tyler Smith to ask those questions. There's nothing like veteran leadership, and I think we have an incredible group to lead them."