IRVING, Texas -- As the seconds ticked off the clock, Jerry Jones did something Thursday he had never done since becoming the Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager. He passed in a name of an offensive lineman with the team's first-round pick.
Southern Cal's Tyron Smith became the first offensive lineman to be picked by the Cowboys in the first round since Tom Landry and Tex Schramm selected Howard Richards with the 26th pick in 1981.
The Cowboys made no secret of their desire to move down in the first round, but they could not find anybody willing to make a deal. Jones said the Cowboys entertained three offers. One phone call came in with 70 seconds left on the clock and the Cowboys passed. At No. 10, however, Washington received Nos. 16 and 49 from Jacksonville so the Jaguars could take quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
"We didn't want to risk losing him," Jones said.
In Smith the Cowboys have a young, athletic tackle who offensive line coach/running game coordinator Hudson Houck said will improve the run-blocking and pass-blocking as a starter in 2011.
Smith has even higher sights.
"I think I have the potential to be a Pro Bowler and be a Hall of Famer," Smith said.
Earlier this month Smith was among 30 visitors to the team's Valley Ranch facility. In between a dinner with the coaches and front office and an hour-long tour of Cowboys Stadium, Smith impressed the Cowboys with his knowledge of the position and demeanor.
"Every coach and every other person in the organization talked, 'You know this guy really seems at ease. He's very comfortable,'" Houck said. "I think he's a confident guy. I think that it's important he plays that way. I think with that confidence he's going to be a good player."
Smith started just 24 games at USC but was a first-team All-Pac 10 player in 2010 and was named the conference's best offensive lineman. He decided to forego his senior season because he felt he would be selected high.
At 6-foot-5, 307 pounds, he can move with the dexterity of a left tackle but deliver the power of a right tackle. The Cowboys are not sure where they will kick off Smith's career but they do have Doug Free, who performed well in his first year as a starter at left tackle.
"I think I can get better every year," Smith said.
The youngest player in the entire draft, Smith does not turn 21 until December, which was another notch in his favor over Boston College's Anthony Castonzo and Colorado's Nate Solder, the other top tackle candidates.
Smith will join a line that needed to get younger. He is the first player drafted by the Cowboys to be born in the 1990s. Center Andre Gurode and right guard Leonard Davis are 31 and 32. The Cowboys want to re-sign left guard Kyle Kosier, but he will turn 33 in November. Right tackle Marc Colombo, whose future is in doubt with the acquisition of Smith, turns 33 in October.
"I always use the test, 'Can I live with a missed opportunity, which is what a trade would've been, and project out what may have been? Can I live with passing on that missed opportunity than I can go on ahead and made the decision and lose him?'" Jones said. "For me I can live with the missed opportunity but losing might affect me personally. I can't handle that as much as I can the missed opportunity."
Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.