Dallas Cowboys say Sanjay Lal‘s coaching style is a good fit for receivers

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones couldn’t have been more ecstatic about a coaching hire than

Jones raved that Lal was a “real find” for a team that struggled in its passing game a season ago.

“He was one of the most sought-after coaches in the off-season that I’ve seen in a long time,” Jones said at the Senior Bowl. “He is outstanding at coaching receivers and designing routes. Just a great receiver coach.”

So who exactly is Lal?

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He is an Indian-American who grew up in different parts of the world and is now one of the most respected wide receivers coaches in the country. He has coached just one 1,000-yard receiver (Buffalo’s Sammy Watkins in 2015) and one Pro Bowl receiver (Indianapolis’ T.Y. Hilton last season), but he’s built a reputation for having physical, tough receivers in all facets of the game.

For a Cowboys team that is expected to run the ball significantly with Ezekiel Elliott, the receivers must have a mindset that Lal likes to instill.

“My philosophy for just general receiver play is you have to play violently,” Lal said at . “You have to run off the ball. You have to attack in all phases, run/pass, attack the ball, attack the DB at all times. That never wavers.”

What does he mean by receivers being violent?

“If you’re trying to press me, I’m going to break your arm … figuratively,” Lal said. “That’s what I think. I always tell them – a guy pressing you should be no different in your eyes than you walk into your front door and there’s a guy sitting on your couch, watching your TV, eating your food. What would you do? You’d probably do something to them, right? Well, it’s no different.

“You’re in my path of team glory, my personal success. I’m going to get you out of the way – instilling that into the receiver.”

Lal pointed toas someone who played violently throughout his career.

That type of mindset is something that Lal developed early in his life. One of his most important learning moments happened when his family lived in North Texas and he went to middle school in Plano. Lal spent the seventh, eighth and ninth grades in North Texas, where he discovered a love for football. But he wasn’t the most athletic or best.

“I was a skinny, no one on that team. I was on the ‘B’ team freshman team,” Lal said. “Not the last guy on the depth chart, but close to it.”

So Lal naturally thought he’d be overlooked and would be among the last to get a locker in the – as freshman thought back then – prestigious “sophomore locker room.”

Still, that didn’t deter Lal from showing up every day to the off-season program and working with the rest of his teammates.

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“I didn’t know it, but [the coaches] had a deal where whoever worked the hardest – if it was one guy, or three guys or two guys – would move into the sophomore locker room,” Lal said. “Two weeks in, they go, ‘OK. We’re moving in these guys and I was in that first group. I’d never had any success or been pushed or any encouragement until that day. That simple act – I was a no one – and I am in the first group.

“It just taught me, to this day, work ethic. How my teammates looked at me differently because of that. It changed everything, honestly. I haven’t talked to [the coach] since, but I always thought that he’s important. That kind of molded me the way he did that.”

That work ethic and drive has stayed with Lal ever since. His family moved from Texas to California shortly after that. He hated leaving that Texas team, which went on to win the 1987 Class 5A championship as seniors.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Lal didn’t mind leaving the Veer offenses that Texas high schools ran back then for the more pass-friendly offenses of California.

“I was happy when I went to California that I got to catch some passes, but I still missed that Texas team,” Lal said.

Lal went on to have a standout career at the University of Washington, earning induction into the school’s Hall of Fame. He then impressed NFL scouts when he ran routes for his college quarterback, Mark Brunell, who went through workouts leading into the 1993 NFL Draft.

Injuries ended Lal’s chances of making the NFL as a player, but he has found his way to football’s highest level as a position coach. He couldn’t be happier to land with the Cowboys, one of his favorite teams growing up.

“For me, there were two teams that I had always wanted to be a part of – the Raiders and Cowboys,” Lal said. “I got to coach at the Raiders [from 2007-11] and now the Cowboys.

“It’s sort of a dream come true. Both the Raiders and Cowboys have a strong owner and there are a lot of similarities, which I just love.”

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