When Leon Lett was a seventh-round draft pick from Emporia State learning the nuances of professional football, players such as Jim Jeffcoat and Charles Haley taught him as much as he could handle.
So did his various defensive line coaches during his career with the Dallas Cowboys. All of those experiences made Lett want to become a coach.
“I really started thinking about it when I was playing because I loved getting coached and learning about the game,” Lett said after a recent practice. “I love helping guys get better, especially the late-round guys or the undrafted free agents.”
He spent a year as a volunteer coach at UNLV before joining Louisiana Monroe's staff in 2010. In 2011, he joined the Cowboys' staff as a volunteer assistant before getting hired full time.
“He just made guys better,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "You could see it, and he really connects with the players."
Lett has lost about 50 pounds since his playing days. He’s lean, athletic and works seemingly as hard as the players during practice. But it’s after practice when he gets into the details of the job.
You can usually find him at the end of the field working one-on-one with a player. One afternoon he spent about 20 minutes working furiously with Caesar Rayford on hand placement while rushing the passer.
When it was over, each man drenched with sweat, walked off the field.