Caleb Hanie is living the dream

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
12:00
PM ET
He doesn't know what's going on with Kyle Orton.

He's moved on from his four seasons in Chicago.

He's going to bring what he learned from Peyton Manning to Dallas.

[+] EnlargeCaleb Hanie
AP Photo/Steven SenneCaleb Hanie, who last played with the Cleveland Browns, is excited for the opportunity to suit up at QB for the Cowboys -- his favorite team as a kid.
And, Caleb Hanie is living the dream.

The Dallas Cowboys' newly signed quarterback is from Forney, Texas, and Hanie said the Cowboys were one of his favorite teams growing up.

"It's a blessing," Hanie said to ESPNDallas. "It's surreal. A little big, it's a childhood team. You dream about playing (for the Cowboys)."

The Cowboys signed Hanie to compete for a backup quarterback position with Orton's status uncertain. Orton hasn't reported to the Cowboys for offseason workouts, almost forcing the team to add another quarterback to the roster.

Tony Romo is recovering from back surgery and despite the presence of Brandon Weeden, the Cowboys need quarterbacks to throw the ball around this summer.

“I don't think anybody is really sure what Kyle's doing," Hanie said. “I think it's one of those deals that he's either on the fence. I haven't spoken to him about it, but I'm not really sure what's going on. I do know I get to compete for a third string or second string. It's a good opportunity for me."

It seems Hanie is a perfect fit for the Cowboys, particularly for coach Jason Garrett.

Here's Hanie -- a local kid, undrafted free agent, who fought through the ranks to get signed by a NFL team. Sounds like Garrett and Romo? The Bears signed Hanie after the 2008 NFL draft as a backup quarterback. Hanie had some moments in Chicago while backing up Jay Cutler, but it was a four-game stretch in 2011 that was too much to overcome.

With Cutler out with a broken thumb, Hanie lost all four games. The Bears had enough and didn't re-sign him when the 2011 season ended.

“You can't dwell too much on it," Hanie said of his time in Chicago. “I just relied on my family, my wife, Andrea, my faith and not take it too serious. It's just football, you know, there's a lot at stake but it can get grueling on you if you let it. It can weigh down on you a lot and it did a little for me in Chicago and after that I got to Denver with Peyton (Manning) and that was a great experience and that refreshed me a little bit."

Hanie spent the 2012 season watching and learning from Manning. He learned how to become a better pro on and off the field. He gained practice habits, improved communication skills with the offensive line and learned another offense.

Hanie also understood patience.

He wasn't going to play over Manning, so he wanted another chance to prove himself. He didn't return to Denver last season and spent the summer with the Baltimore Ravens before he was released in August. He was signed by Cleveland in early December, only to get cut after a week on the job.

In late December, Romo gets hurt in the Washington game, and the Cowboys bring in Hanie, along with several other quarterbacks, for a workout/tryout.

Hanie thought he had a solid workout, but Dallas signed veteran Jon Kitna, who came out of retirement to backup Orton for the regular-season finale.

The only question this offseason regarding the quarterback position was whether Romo would return from back surgery. But now Orton's absence from the offseason program has caused other issues.

Weeden was signed as a No. 3 early in the free-agency period, and with Orton out for the time being, the Cowboys brought Hanie in for another workout on Tuesday for insurance.

He impressed them enough to sign a one-year deal.

"I got to take a step back and observe, still get to stay in shape and work on my game," Hanie said. "But learn a lot about the mental side and learn from the guys who do it well and learn how to be successful and hope to get another chance and get another opportunity to show what I've learned."
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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