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Hambrick may lose starting job in Dallas

Darren Hambrick, voted the best football player in Pasco County history, is disappointing the Cowboys aftermissing off-season workouts.

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 1, 2000


Arguably the greatest football player Pasco County has ever produced, no one has ever questioned the athletic ability of Lacoochee's Darren Hambrick.

His work ethic, apparently, is another question.

While Cowboys officials have sung the praises of most of the team's off-season workout results, Hambrick, a third-year linebacker, has fallen into disfavor for not participating.

Last week at the team's camp in Wichita Falls, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hinted that Hambrick was losing the battle for a starting position with new signee Joe Bowden after his less-than-stellar workout schedule.

"He didn't have the off-season we wanted him to have," Jones told the Dallas Morning News. "He's paying the price for that. But I believe he's going to overcome it. He's really in a challenge for his job."

Hambrick, a fifth-round pick in 1998, seemed to take umbrage at Jones' comments.

"I don't know what he means by that," Hambrick told the Morning News. "I'm ready to play football, and I will be ready to play football. I'm ready to win championships."

The job was Hambrick's for most of last season as he started 12 games for Dallas, compiling 58 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions. He also played on special teams. Prior to the final regular season game last year, Quentin Coryatt, who had retired, was coaxed back and replaced Hambrick in the starting lineup. He ended up getting hurt and Hambrick started the Cowboys' playoff loss to Minnesota.

Heading into the last year of his contract, Hambrick was expected to be the front-runner for a starting position, though the signing of Bowden and Hambrick's lack of off-season work have put him on the bubble.

He played one series in the Cowboys' exhibition opener Sunday.

Strength and conditioning coach Joe Juraszek remains convinced that the 6-foot-2, 227-pound Hambrick could have a bright future, saying "if he ever goes through a full off-season program, he'll be a phenomenal player."

According to the Dallas Morning News, Hambrick does not have an off-season workout clause in his contract and didn't take part in his first two season in Dallas either. Some of his teammates, like Troy Aikman, are paid for their participation. Hambrick told the Morning News that "personal problems" took up most of his time this summer, causing him to miss workouts. Those "problems" included fighting a paternity suit in which Hambrick denied being the father of a 5-year-old Lacoochee girl.

According to court records, Hambrick is already paying $1,500 a month to support a Hernando County child.

Hambrick pleaded no contest to running from a Pasco sheriff's deputy who tried to stop him after speeding in January of 1999.

Chosen as the best football player in Pasco County history by the Times last year, Hambrick was an all-state linebacker and track star, as well as a basketball player.

He was the leader on the Pirates 1992 state championship football team.

After signing with Florida and being dismissed from the team for a pre-Sugar Bowl fight in 1995, Hambrick transferred to South Carolina where he was an All-SEC second-team selection in '96.

Hambrick's younger brother, Troy, who also starred on Pasco's 1992 championship team, is also in camp with Dallas and trying to win a job as a running back.

Troy Hambrick (6-1, 235) is trying to win a roster spot amid a solid corps of rookie running backs. He had one rush for no gain in the preseason opener.

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