Football was never like this for Fred Cornwell.
Cornwell still plays tight end, but the Dallas Cowboys figured out right away that he’s an eligible receiver. During his school days at Canyon High and USC he felt like an extra tackle.
“I’ve always been primarily a blocker,” Cornwell said while relaxing in his dormitory at the Cowboys’ training camp at Cal Lutheran College in Thousand Oaks. “The Cowboys used several different types of blocks, but it wasn’t all that difficult to learn them because of my background.
“But I was really behind as a receiver. My sophomore year at USC, I played every down and they threw me four passes. I caught three.”
One of them was a play to remember--a seven-yard touchdown pass from John Mazur with two seconds left to give the Trojans a 28-24 victory over top-ranked Oklahoma on national TV.
That impressed the Trojans so much that they let Cornwell catch eight passes for 69 yards as a junior. He got his chance as senior a in 1983, catching 22 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown.
The Cowboys made Cornwell their third-round draft choice last year. He made the squad as No. 2 tight end behind Doug Cosbie but rarely played. However, when Cosbie was injured against St. Louis, Cornwell came off the bench to catch a 10-yard touchdown pass from Danny White.
Although slowed by a pinched nerve in his neck in training camp, Cornwell says he’s making progress--but not enough to challenge Cosbie.
“Doug’s so far ahead of me as a receiver it’s not even comparable,” he said.
“I’m just trying to improve my skills and get more playing time. I figure I’ll get to play as the extra tight end in all short-yardage situations. When I go in for Doug, I know I can do a suitable job.”
The Cowboy and Raider rookies played to a 13-13 tie in their Tuesday scrimmage before about 2,000 fans at Cal Lutheran.
Dallas scored on a four-yard run by Robert Lavette and a 12-yard pass from second-year quarterback Steve Pelluer to free-agent tight end Chris Corley.
The Raiders struck on a 51-yard touchdown pass play from Rusty Hilger, sixth-round draft choice from Oklahoma State, to free-agent running back Robert Johnson of San Jose State, and on a 44-yarder from NFL veteran Rich Campbell to Rod Barksdale, a free agent out of Arizona.
The biggest play was provided by a pair of Dallas free agents when Dana Thyshen of Central Florida hit world-class sprinter Mel Lattany of Georgia on a non-scoring 53-yarder.
The Raiders came out with a 12-6 edge in the scrimmage Saturday in Oxnard. Free-agent fullback Gary Wilkins of Georgia Tech scored for Dallas on a two-yard run. The Raiders scored on a three-yard run by fifth-round draft pick Dan Reeder of Delaware and a 12-yard pass from Campbell to DeWayne Jett, a free agent from Hawaii.
The Dallas rookies will scrimmage against the Ram rookies Thursday at Fullerton.
Tony Dorsett didn’t arrive in camp with the rest of the backs and receivers and is in Los Angeles with his agent, Whit Stewart, trying to sort out some financial problems.
Two homes belonging to Dorsett were seized Tuesday by the Internal Revenue Service in an effort to collect more than $400,000 in income taxes owed for three years, an IRS spokeswoman said.
“It could be a concern,” Coach Tom Landry said. “It’s not mandatory that he be here yet. It could be a problem for some of the other players who are here, wondering why he isn’t. It shouldn’t be a problem for Tony, with his personality. Once he gets to camp, it will be business as usual.”