BEREA, Ohio -- Four years ago, Anthony Hitchens was graduating from Clearview High School in nearby Lorain, Ohio, and now, the former Clipper running back/linebacker is starting another important journey, his NFL career.
Selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Hitchens was chosen to help add depth at outside linebacker. However, an offseason training injury suffered by Sean Lee opened the door for Hitchens being a contributor on both special teams and defense this season.
"I'm just trying to stay up on my playbook and staying in shape," Hitchens said Tuesday at a youth football camp at the NFL Rookie Symposium. "I think shape is going to be big. They've got me running a lot of special teams right now, and two deeps, so I've just got to stay in shape and stay in the playbook. That's all I can do.
"It's been good so far. I'm just getting in the playbook, and it's a different life than college, obviously. Overall, it's been a good experience, and I'm just trying to enjoy every day of it. I'm trying take it all in. There's a lot of good vets on that team that I'm trying to learn from, and it's a great opportunity for me. Hopefully, I just stay focused and cash in."
The 6-foot-1, 233-pound Hitchens feels ready for the opportunity he has with the Cowboys because of the training he had under the direction of head coach Kirk Ferentz at the University of Iowa.
"I had a great coaching staff there and a great system to learn from," Hitchens said. "I was one of those guys that got right into the playbook when I first got there. Whatever they wanted me to play, I was going to try to learn it the best I can. It definitely helped having good players around me and a great coaching staff."
It is the work Hitchens put forth at Iowa that made his NFL dream possible, and now, he is focused on making those closest to him, especially his mother, Norma, proud.
"It's just hard to explain, a bunch of emotions running through you," Hitchens said of the draft. "My family was screaming and stuff. It's a day I'll never forget, and like I said, I'm just blessed to be one of the few to have the opportunity.
"She was crying more than me. That's what she's here for. That's my mom, and I respect everything she's done for me. Really, I didn't care where I went. I just wanted to hear my name, and I ended up in Dallas, so I'm just thankful for the opportunity."