By Kelby Wingert, Sentinel Sports EditorMarch 2, 2017
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The final round of the inaugural Cowboys Military Combine wrapped up at AT&T Stadium on Saturday March 02, 2017.
The all day event featured two dozen Fort Hood Soldiers and a handful of Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets from University of North Texas competing in four events that aspiring professional football players complete at NFL combines -- 40-yard dash, L-line drill, two minutes of pushups and vertical jump.
The combine was the result of a partnership between the Dallas Cowboys and Caliber Collision to find a way to give back to the military community and give Soldiers a fun event to participate in.
"It's just a way for the Cowboys and us to honor military heroes and it's a way for me to activate my guys," said Greg Clark, chief marketing officer for Caliber Collision. "Because one of our core values is to be inspired to serve."
In November, Hood Stadium played host to the first, qualifying-round of the combine, where the top 50 finishers were eligible to continue to compete at the second event.
The competing Fort Hood Soldiers, along with some of their Families and friends, took several busses up to AT&T Stadium for the combine. The group received a tour of the stadium before lunch and Cowboys alumnus Darren Woodson shared a few words with the crowd before signing some autographs and taking photos with fans.
As the Soldiers entered the field to compete, Family, friends and fans loaded into the stands to watch and cheer.
At the end of the day, Spc. Tevon Johnson, Company F, 2nd Squadron, 227th Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, and Sgt. 1st Class Shonta Tucker, Co. A, Warrior Transition Unit, were the victors and have won the opportunity to announce a Dallas Cowboys draft pick at the Cowboys' draft party in April.
For Tucker, a life-long "die hard" Cowboys fan, the win was a little extra special, she said.
"It feels great. It's like the hard work paid off," Tucker said. "Back at Fort Hood, I was doing a good bit of training -- I would go out to the track at Hood Stadium and I would run and practice on my broad jump. And at home I would practice on my vertical leap and my 40-yard dash. My girls would be out there helping me with timing me to make sure that I'm meeting the standard, so it feels good to have practiced and then be able to bring the goal home."
A friend, knowing Tucker liked to compete in athletic events, told her about the combine last fall, and that's how she found herself registering and training for the combine.
"I thought (the event) was overall awesome," she said. "Just being able to be in the stadium and visit the locker rooms where all the famous players lay their helmets … it was really cool."
She added that she, as a Soldier, appreciated how welcoming the staff and event organizers were.
1st Sgt. Daniel Purdom, 15th Military Intelligence Battalion, was another life-long Cowboys fan competing in the combine. He even wore an autographed baseball cap with the Cowboys' iconic star on it during the events that the hat wouldn't hinder his performance.
"It's been awesome," he said. "It's been absolutely amazing … the camaraderie between the Cowboys and the military (here) has been absolutely amazing."
When the Cowboys' logo on a poster hanging up at the gym last fall caught his attention, Purdom decided to enter the competition to have fun, set an example for his Soldiers and hopefully get to take the trip up to Dallas for the second combine.
"My goal was just to make it past the first phase and to be able to come up here, which I met," he said. "It was just basically me being a huge Cowboys fan and the opportunity to compete and meet some players."
In addition, as a 1st sergeant, he wanted to show is Soldiers that Fort Hood has community events and encourage them to get involved whenever there's something going on.
"I was hoping that by me being able to participate, it would definitely help (Soldiers) to see 'If the 1st sergeant's doing it, we can get involved as well and we can start doing these events,'" he said.
In fact, one of Purdom's sergeants was competing alongside him throughout the day. Purdom and Sgt. Ben Wing, 15th MI Bn., shouted encouragement to each other during the two minutes of pushups.
Next year, Purdom hopes to get more Soldiers in his unit signed up and involved in the combine.