- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- Last season, Dallas Cowboys players received a baseball bat from coach Jason Garrett for a solid job during the week.
The bats were displayed outside the locker room with the players' names on them.
This season, the Cowboys will hand out boxing gloves to the best performers; on Monday afternoon, safety Barry Church picked up the first set.
Church led the team with seven solo tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in Sunday's victory over the New York Giants.
"I think he’s a good football player," Garrett said. "You’ve heard me talk about him a lot before. He was a free agent coming in here, and it’s hard to make teams in the NFL as a college free agent -- and he came in and just showed us each and every day that I deserve to be on this football team and at every turn he’s always kind of overachieved. He makes the football team. Now, I’m going to be a contributor on special teams. He becomes one of our best special-teams players. He can’t really play defense, and now he’s a defense player, and then he’s a defensive starter -- and now he’s a productive defensive starter."
Church, beginning his fourth season after entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent from Toledo, hadn't forced a fumble in his pro career until the second defensive possession of Sunday's game. Church stripped running back David Wilson after a two-yard loss and George Selvie recovered the fumble.
In the third quarter, defensive tackle Nick Hayden stripped Wilson after a three-yard run, and Church scooped it up and ran 27 yards for a touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 20-10 lead with 12:31 to play.
"He’s certainly gravitated toward everything we’re teaching in this system and he’s a guy who’s become a leader as a young guy," Garrett said of Church. "He’s one of those guys who loves to play football. Watch him play. He’s got a great passion for the game and he just loves being out there, loves practicing, loves playing, and he’s getting better and better every game."