Andrew Sendejo became the third member of the 2008 Texas Bowl Champion Owls to play in the NFL when he made his debut on special teams with the Dallas Cowboys on national television Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. Sendejo was not drafted last April after coming off surgery for an injury that ended his Rice career prematurely in 2009. Undaunted, he worked out during the summer with the Owls and was signed by Sacramento of the UFL. After leading the team in tackles and earning All UFL honors, Sendejo's dream of reaching the NFL became a reality with the Cowboys signed him in mid-November. The R Blog caught up with Andrew for a few quick questions after his debut with the Cowboys.
As you were getting dressed Sunday night, getting ready to make your NFL debut, did you have a minute to pause and reflect about how far you had come in one year?
I found out on Saturday I was going to be active, so that was when I started to think about the journey I had been through to get to where I am and just took it all in and was thankful to be given such a great opportunity. But on Sunday, I was just trying to focus on the game and not let all the other things get to me
When you were sitting on the table in the training room at Rice, having just gone through your surgery, was there ever any doubt in your mind that this day would come?
There definitely was some doubt. It's hard enough to make it to the NFL at all, much less when you don't play your the last part of your senior season and are coming off an injury. That didn't mean I wasn't going to try. My coaches at Rice were very supportive and told me that I would still have my chance. I just made up my mind I was going to get here by any means necessary. I was able to take advantage of my opportunity in the UFL and get signed by Dallas.
How valuable was the experience of playing in the UFL? I know when we spoke in the summer, it was a point of pride for you that you were going to start ahead of some players who had NFL experience. Did the level of competition and the coaches you played for help prepare you for the NFL?
The UFL was definitely a great experience and helped me to get to the NFL. I am very thankful I had the opportunity to develop there, my secondary coaches (Martin Bayless & Robert Griffith) both played safety in the NFL for a long time so I learned a lot from them. It was good to be able to compete against NFL-level talent every week and see that I could compete on that level. It also helped me to getting accustomed to the lifestyle of being a professional football player.
Do you think that Chase Clement earned himself a ticket to an NFL camp with his performance when he got to play?
Yes. That kid is a winner. He might not have all the physical attributes that NFL teams look for in quarterbacks, but when the lights come on he usually finds a way to win. I watched him do it in high school, college, and the UFL. All he needs is an opportunity and he proved that this past season in the UFL.
You got your hands on the returner on the opening kickoff on Sunday night and slowed him up for the tackle. How good did it feel to get right in the middle of the action on your very first play?
It felt good to get in there and slow him up a little bit, but it would have been better if I would have made the tackle. Nothing is guaranteed in this game so you have to take advantage of the opportunities you get.
What's it like to go to work at the Cowboys new stadium? Is it hard to not get caught looking around at all the unique features, including the massive TV screens?
It's great being able to play at a venue like that. I try not to get caught up everything going on around me, but I look at the screen all the time, sometimes you can't see what's going on when you're on the sidelines and you can see everything on that big screen
Have you heard from any of your Rice teammates? I know that you and James Casey are pretty active on Twitter. Did any of the Owls in the league give you any advice?
Yeah I speak with James every now and then and when I first got signed to the practice squad he just told me to go all out every day because everything you do is evaluated.