When Jameill Showers was a kid, he always wanted to be Steve McNair in backyard football games.
He wanted to be like the quarterback who led Alcorn State to national attention and played 13 seasons in the NFL.
But unlike McNair, who finished third in the 1994 Heisman Trophy voting and was drafted in the third round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers, Showers had to take matter into his own hands to get noticed.
He isn’t one to wait for life to come to him.
During his first two seasons at Texas A&M, it felt like the opportunity to be an NFL quarterback was slipping away. That’s what happens when you fall down the depth chart behind Johnny Manziel. So Showers transferred to Texas-El Paso in 2013.
“I would have had a year to (start), if I had stayed,” said Showers, won the starting job for the Miners. “I’d probably be working (a job) right now, if I didn’t leave (A&M). If you don’t have any kind of starting experience in the college, you won’t get a chance” in the NFL.
And really, a chance is all the 23-year-old Showers thinks he needs after signing with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent last month.
He started the first seven games of his junior season after transferring to UTEP before getting injured, and 13 games as a senior, completing 159 of 286 passes for 1,858 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Now in minicamp with the Cowboys and behind one of the NFL’s marquee quarterbacks, Tony Romo, Showers feels opportunity has once again presented itself.
“Wherever they want to put me, I consider myself a football player,” Showers said. “I am not close-minded to any position.”
But from the Cowboys’ perspective, Showers will be competing for a spot on the roster as the third-string quarterback behind Romo and backup Brandon Weeden.
“Right now it’s a competition between him and (second-year pro Dustin) Vaughn for the third spot,” said quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson. “In training camp, he’ll get a chance to get some reps. That will be a chance to see how he does.”
Wilson sees a bright, athletic, energetic professional in Showers based on the limited reps at rookie camp, OTAs and minicamp.
“He takes good notes, he’s not afraid to ask questions and it’s really hard to do that without doing it physically on the field,” said Wilson. “When the other guys are doing reps, we’ll talk and he’ll get some mental reps in. But it’s tough. He’s been showing a great work ethic, the way he approaches things, the way he works in the weight room, all of those things show how he has a professional work ethic.”
It is that work ethic, along with his love for the game that endeared Showers to UTEP coach Sean Kugler, who believes his protégé will make the most of any opportunity the NFL throws his way.
“The best thing about him is his competitive nature,” said Kugler. “I do feel he can play at the next level. He loves football, he loves the entire process. Those types of guys are the ones that succeed in the NFL.”
And success is the plan. Showers has been absorbing as much as he can for as long as he can remember. He started playing quarterback in youth football, when he described himself as “shy,” but he grew into the position and all these years later, he has come to love the demands of being the on-field coach.
“I’m used to the pressure, of being in charge of the offense,” Showers said. “All eyes are on you. If things go well, the quarterback is praised and if they don’t, the quarterback is blamed. That’s all the pressure on the quarterback.
“When I was little, I didn’t like it that much, but sticking with it and with my dad pushing me, I really love it.”
More important, though, is Showers’ general affinity for the game. At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, he is certainly built like a quarterback, but he could also play at receiver, halfback, fullback or even running back. And he has experience at multiple positions, both from his prep and Texas A&M days.
As an undrafted free agent – the draft he says, was the most stressful three days of his life – Showers knows he has his work cut out for him. The Cowboys called him late in the seventh round, just before the last player was drafted to offer him a spot as an undrafted free agent.
Beyond finding a spot as a position player, Showers may well fit into the Cowboys’ more immediate plans on special teams.
“Our special teams coach (Rich Bissacia) has seen him on the field and wants to get him out there on the field working those reps,” said Wilson. “He has a future (but) I think his best chance will be to be a quarterback.”
Despite his love for being the man in charge, Showers is ready to embrace – and work for – whatever the Cowboys have in store.
“The coaching staff here is pretty patient, actually,” Showers said. “They’re giving me a chance to learn and I’m getting a chance to play a little special teams. The door is open. I’m trying to take advantage of the opportunity. My dream was to make it to the NFL.”
Just like Steve McNair.