OXNARD, Calif. In public, it's not often that Cole Beasley gets recognized for what he is. Beasley, generously listed at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, doesn't look the part of an NFL player.
"I go under the radar," Beasley said. "People don't really think I'm a football player, because I'm so small. I blend in better than these big guys.
His size is the reason Beasley has been overlooked his entire career, from Little Elm High School to SMU to the Dallas Cowboys. Looks can be deceiving.
"I've dealt with that since as long as I can remember," Beasley said. "It's something I'm used to. I like playing like that. It puts a little chip on my shoulder and gives me more confidence out there. I feel like they aren't expecting it as much from me. I don't feel that way in my head, but every day is just me proving somebody else wrong."
With more playing time this season, Beasley should be more recognized for what he does. The Cowboys, who released Miles Austin in the off-season, expect Beasley to play a key role as their third receiver.
"He's showed what he does best last year, and he did it all season," receivers coach Derek Dooley said. "He's got tremendous short-area quickness and some real clutch play-making production. So on third down, he was just a valuable asset.
"Of course, his challenge this year was to expand his route inventory. Not be a guy who just runs on third down, but can you go in and do what we ask slots to do on first and second down?
"He's really made a commitment to that. He's been blocking great. He's running deeper routes down the field, and he's really progressing the way we want him to."
Beasley played only 128 plays as an undrafted rookie in 2012 and 247 last season as a third-down receiver.
Although he won Tony Romo's confidence and prompted Dez Bryant to call him a "rare talent," Beasley's playing time wasn't going to increase this season unless his blocking improved. He was in for only nine running plays as a rookie and 37 last season.
When asked how he grew this off-season, Beasley joked "not taller, but definitely stronger."
"He's never going to be a devastating blocker," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He's always been willing. That will be a mismatch we've got to be careful of, but he's I think definitely gotten stronger. That helps him when he gets into situations where he's trying to get away from press, where he can not only use his quickness but maybe use some upper body strength as well."
Beasley, 25, calls himself a "chain-mover," with 20 of his 39 catches last season going for first downs. Eight of his 15 receptions in 2012 were for first downs.
"That was kind of what my job description was last year," Beasley said.
He hopes for an expanded role this season, with more plays, more catches, more first downs, more yards, more touchdowns.
"He's probably one of the quickest receivers I've ever seen," Bryant said. "He's going to do some great things."
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