- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. – An equipment manager finally found Sean Lee in the media area, about an hour after practice ended, and told the middle linebacker his uniform was needed so the laundry could be started.
Had it not been interrupted, who knows how long Lee’s intense conversation with the San Antonio sports-talk radio host would have lasted?
It looked like Lee could have continued picking Dat Nguyen’s brain all night out there on the tennis courts that overlook the Cowboys’ practice fields.
“You’re talking scheme and technique and everything," Lee said. "You can to try to pick his brain to see what made him successful.”
It was one of a few conversations that Lee and Nguyen have had over the past week, only one of which aired on the ESPN San Antonio 1250 AM drive-time show that Nguyen has co-hosted for a little longer than a year.
Lee looks at Nguyen -- whose smarts keyed a successful, albeit injury-shortened seven-year career as an undersized Cowboys linebacker -- as a role model whose wisdom is a resource. Nguyen, who decided to get out of coaching because he didn’t want his wife and three daughters to have to keep moving, considers Lee to be a blossoming linebacker genius.
“He’s a coach on the field,” said Nguyen, who lists Zach Thomas, Keith Brooking and Ray Lewis among the few linebackers he’s seen with instincts similar to Lee’s. “That’s exactly what you want. He’s like a coach’s dream.
“Man, this dude is smart. He wants to be good. He’s willing to listen. He’s one of those hard workers that wants to be good, and the game is important to him. You don’t find too many guys like that anymore. The game is important to him and he wants to be better at it, and he’s working.
“He’s exciting to watch. I watched that kid out there. He’s all over the field all the time. He doesn’t take a lot of bad steps and he doesn’t put himself in bad situations.”
The Cowboys paths of Lee and Nguyen just missed crossing. Nguyen was Dallas’ defensive quality control/assistant linebackers coach for the first three seasons of Wade Phillips’ tenure. Months before Lee was drafted, Nguyen left to coach linebackers at his alma mater, Texas A&M, where the Aggies legend was fired along with the rest of Mike Sherman’s staff after the 2011 season.
Now, Nguyen humbly carries himself as just another media guy, joining packs of reporters to interview players after practices. Funny, but the former No. 59 is the only media member whom Lee seeks out to discuss the details of playing middle linebacker in a Cover 2-intensive scheme, which Nguyen did for five of his NFL seasons.
“If I can share anything to help, I absolutely would help,” Nguyen said. “He’s a great kid. I want him to succeed. He’s one of the better linebackers in the league. It’s flattering that he would even want to ask me questions.
“He just loves the game. He’s 24/7. He’s just one of those guys that, bring your lunch pail. He’s just going to play football. He loves the game, and he just wants to do everything he can to be successful.”
That includes acting like a sponge around a San Antonio sports-talk radio host.