- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- It’s usually Rod Marinelli who assigns a unique nickname to each Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman.
However, head coach Jason Garrett beat Marinelli to the punch with Zach Minter, the fresh-off-the-street defensive tackle who surprisingly starred during Saturday night’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens.
“You remember Flounder from ‘Animal House’?” Garrett said, referring to the 1978 comedy hit. “He’s got a little bit of that Flounder look to him. He didn’t have a Flounder look to him when the ball was snapped, though. He really showed up.”
Minter, a defensive tackle from Montana State who played two games for the Chicago Bears as a rookie last season, racked up four tackles, two sacks, a hurry and a forced fumble while playing against third-stringers in Saturday’s loss. It was an impressive enough performance for the coaches to give him some work with the starters during Tuesday’s practice.
Minter’s performance was reminiscent of defensive end George Selvie’s starring role in last year’s Hall of Fame game the week he was signed by the Cowboys. Selvie not only earned a roster spot, but he started all 16 games for the Cowboys last season and ranked second on the team with seven sacks.
“That’s what we’re all about,” Garrett said. “Here’s the opportunity. Here are your plays in practice. Here are your plays in the game. Show us what you can do.”
The 6-foot-1, 307-pound Minter made a name for himself, sort of.
“Players were coming up to me and literally hit me, ‘Don’t take 79 out,’” Garrett said. “They didn’t even know who the hell he was.”
Minter will now forever be known as Flounder, at least at Valley Ranch. That’s fine by him, although he’s never seen “Animal House,” which was released a dozen years before Minter was born.
“No, but I looked him up,” Minter said with a laugh, noting the difference in skin tone. “I thought that was kind of funny.”
Minter’s bid for playing time is quite serious. With Dallas’ defensive line depleted by injury, the coaches are more than willing to give a good look to anyone who shows playmaking ability.
Minter earned a nickname and a shot against better competition with his dominant Dallas debut. It’s up to Flounder now to prove that he can do more than flash a few times.