CP3 FEELS ‘LIKE A KID’ AT COWBOYS TRAINING CAMP

Chris Paul at Cowboys Training Camp

OXNARD, CA – The moment Chris Paul stepped onto the grass inside the Dallas Cowboys’ training complex his eyes lit up.

“I’m like a little kid,” said Paul, a lifelong Cowboys fan, speaking to media near the 40-yard-line after practice ended. “I’ve done a lot of good things since I’ve been in my career, but this is one of the highlights of my life.”

In the past two seasons with the Clippers Paul has attended a Dodgers game with his friend Jay-Z, had his son, Little Chris, sit courtside with pop sensation Justin Bieber, and bonded with some of the best and brightest in Hollywood. None of it, though, likely compared to his three-hour visit to Cowboys camp on Aug. 1. 

“Growing up, just watching the Cowboys all day, every day, these guys probably have no clue what it means to me,” he said. “I saw Leon Lett and big [Nate] Newton and stuff like that. I used to act like I was Ken Norton in the back yard playing middle linebacker.”

Paul actually was a linebacker at one point in his life. The first position he played as a Pop Warner player in Winston-Salem was effectively quarterbacking the defense. But as his football career continued, the superstar point guard preferred to have the ball in his hands. Remarkably, he played two years of varsity football at West Forsyth High while suiting up for the junior varsity basketball team. 

“In high school I played quarterback,” he said. “It was one of those things that was a dream of mine, but it definitely didn’t come true.”

Here are some of the comments Cowboys players, coaches and team personnel made while Chris Paul was in attendance at their afternoon practice Aug 1:

- Wide receiver Dwayne Harris, sporting a dark visor on his helmet, approached Paul and expressed that he was a “big fan” before shaking hands and giving him a hug.

- When young receiver Cole Beasley, who is only listed as 5-foot-8, met Paul, a Cowboys staffer told him that Beasley has put together a dunk highlight video.

- Superstar Dez Bryant, an avid basketball fan, twice referred to Paul as the best point guard in the NBA.

- Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo had one of the longer conversations with Paul. They talked about the similarities between the ages of their children among other things. And Romo played catch with Little Chris.

- Little Chris challenged cornerback Morris Claiborne to a race, declaring that he was “really, really fast.”

- Running back DeMarco Murray ran past Paul and asked about Blake Griffin, who attended the University of Oklahoma at the same time as Murray. Later, Paul told Murray he remembered him in college when he “looked like an NFL player already.”

- Cornerback Orlando Scandrick kidded with Paul that he didn’t want to talk to him because Scandrick is a fan of the Lakers.

- Paul met Stephen Jones and Jerry Jones Jr., both sons of Cowboys owner, president and general manager Jerry Jones. Stephen talked to Paul about the Clippers-Mavericks game he attended last season that went to overtime in late March. When Paul told Jerry Jr. he was a big fan of the team, the Executive Vice President and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer replied, “Well, the Cowboys are big fans of yours.”

- While posing for a picture with Head Coach Jason Garrett, Paul joked, “Just let me know if you need me. They’ll let me out of my contract.” Garrett suggested the Cowboys could easily find a position to utilize him.

- New offensive coordinator Bill Callahan met Paul in the parking lot after practice and said, “We could use you at receiver.”

- Longtime play-by-play announcer Brad Sham concluded a brief interview with Paul by saying, “It’s a pleasure to watch you earn your living.”

DEZ BRYANT, A LONGTIME ADMIRER OF CP3

Instead, Paul has spent most of the last decade redefining the point guard position in the NBA and helping turn the Clippers into perennial contenders. In many ways, it could be argued that Paul, ever the competitor, brings a football mentality to the basketball court.

He spent a portion of the afternoon strolling around the practice field alongside former Cowboys great Calvin Hill, father of former Clipper Grant Hill. They talked endlessly, with Paul addressing the 66-year-old former All-Pro as “Mr. Hill.” At one point as the team was wrapping up on the field, Hill turned to walk away but looked back and said, “This is the year. The Cowboys and Clippers will both win it this year.”

Paul liked the sound of that, grinning before turning to locate Little Chris, who along with his brother, C.J., made the almost 50-mile trip from Los Angeles to the ocean town of Oxnard.

“It’s something I’ve never had the opportunity to do,” Paul said. “I’ve been a die-hard Cowboys fan since I was a small child and for me to come out here today and bring my son and my brother, my mom and dad are probably going to be mad that they didn’t get a chance to come. It’s really a dream come true.”

Paul’s family is made up of generations of Cowboys fans. He even slept on bed sheets adorned with Cowboys logos as a student at Wake Forest. He said he’s often questioned about not having an allegiance to his hometown Carolina Panthers, but Paul was already 10 years old and set on his rooting preference when the Panthers played their inaugural season in 1995.

“When I was a kid I was a huge Chicago Bulls fan because of [Michael Jordan],” Paul said. “I was a Carolina [Tar Heels] fan before I went to college. But one thing that’s never wavered is I’ve been a Cowboys fan.”

It showed with Paul’s reaction to Miles Austin, who Paul spoke with for a few minutes while the receiver was stretching before practice. And it was apparent as he made his way throughout the complex, meeting current and former Cowboys along the way. He shared a moment with Tony Romo, who tossed the football back and forth with Little Chris. He posed for pictures with Dez Bryant, running backs coach Gary Brown, and Super Bowl champions Leon Lett and Nate Newton. He was greeted by DeMarco Murray, DeMarcus Ware, Morris Claiborne and more than a dozen other members of the roster, including superstar tight end Jason Witten, who Paul said he’s known for several years.

At the conclusion of practice, Paul was presented a personalized Cowboys jersey and Head Coach Jason Garrett, a longtime admirer of Paul, invited him to join the team for the post-practice breakdown. Garrett introduced the six-time NBA All-Star as “one of the best in the world as what he does.” He said it was an honor for Paul to be there.  For Paul, the feeling was unquestionably mutual.