Despite Leighton Vander Esch being ruled out for the season, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Damone Clark continues to learn valuable life and football lessons from his teammate.
Vander Esch has been ruled out with a neck injury that occurred in Week 5 against the San Francisco 49ers. Questions about the linebacker’s return to the game are still at play, but that doesn’t mean he has stopped supporting the guys filling in the shoes he left on the field.
Damone Clark and Leighton Vander Esch’s Bond
One of those guys is none other than Clark, who sees his locker mate like family. Both linebackers share a bond on and off the field. Vander Esch has mentored Clark as a teammate and through his rehab process last season.
Clark’s recovery from spinal fusion surgery due to a herniated disc was something LVE related to since he had the same surgery for the same injury back in 2019. This showed the second-year veteran Vander Esch’s character since he would sit with him during his rehab sessions to encourage him that his time was coming and to be ready.
Because of this experience, Clark looks up to Vander Esch for the person he is, specifically because of how he treats everyone around him.
“I know at the end of the day, whether I play another with Leighton or not, I know that’s my brother because we had the same obstacles we both came through, and he’s a guy that always been there for me,” said Clark.
He credited Vander Esch for sticking by his side in those dark times and will do the same for the eight-year veteran, no matter his decision to call it a career or not.
“Walking away on your own two feet, that’s more important, but that’s Leighton’s decision he’s gotta make. I don’t know. I just know I’m going to support him,” said Clark.
Vander Esch’s Continued Leadership From the Sidelines
Vander Esch continues to show his support despite being unable to play and has been seen on the sidelines for multiple games. However, his work when the cameras aren’t on defines his leadership and sets a standard for those around him.
Clark said Vander Esch has been mentoring the linebackers in their group chats and still attends team meetings, adding, “Whenever he can be there, he’s there whether he’s on the field or not.”
Also adding, just because LVE hasn’t been playing doesn’t mean he hasn’t been present to help everyone else, describing it as “pouring his heart out” for them on the sidelines as a coaching figure.
The second-year player says having Vander Esch on the sidelines gives the unit another set of eyes, vital for a fairly young LB room.
How the Cowboys’ Defense Has Regrouped
Dallas’ defense has dealt with adversity in losing veteran players like Vander Esch and Trevon Diggs to injury this season. But Clark says the Cowboys’ coaching staff has put everyone in position to succeed despite the losses.
“The coaches make sure everyone is prepared. It’s never a moment you’re going to go out there and you’re not prepared,” said Clark. One of those coaches is none other than defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who Clark says his name speaks for itself.
The “next man up” mentality has also kept the unit from feeling a drop-off at any point since the injuries occurred.
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