Tuesday, May 28, 2024

For Ottawa’s Gallimore, ‘everything is bigger and better in Texas’ playing for iconic Dallas Cowboys | TSN

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Hailing from the nation’s capital, defensive tackle Neville Gallimore is coming into his own and getting used to life playing in the Lone Star State for America’s Team.

Growing up in Canada, a country synonymous with hockey, basketball was the sport of choice for Gallimore before being introduced to the gridiron.

“I was shooting hoops and I saw a few of my friends, they were playing tackle football barefoot and guys were just picking each other up, throwing each other around and nobody was complaining and crying about it,” Gallimore recalled to TSN.

“I was always big for my age and I wasn’t a bad kid, but was just playing rough because of my size. So when I was playing against those kids, one of my friends, his dad happened to see me running somebody over. I was in the fourth grade they were in the seventh.”Luketa

“He’s like, ‘Yo, man, you play football? I’m like, no, not at all.'” He told Gallimore he needed to come play for him and the rest was history.

Gallimore started his football career with the Canterbury Mustangs and played for St. Patrick’s High School before transferring to Canada Prep Football Academy in Welland, Ont. It was his time there that presented Gallimore the opportunity to compete against American schools.

“I feel like when I was back home, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was already the biggest, strongest, fastest guy,” Gallimore said while acknowledging the strides Canadian talent has made in recent years.

“When I crossed the border in America, there were guys that were my size: bigger, stronger, faster. The standard of football is night and day. As big as I was, these kids were just as fast. But the knowledge of the game is that much more.”

Gallimore shined during his time at Canada Prep. So much so that he received an offer from dream school in the University of Oklahoma.

“I just remember being in ninth grade with two of my best friends watching ESPN All Access and it was OU,” Gallimore said. “There was something about the culture. Something about coach Bob Stoops, something where I felt like Oklahoma was going to be the perfect fit for me and I wanted to be a part of that tradition.”

Gallimore played five seasons for his beloved Sooners (2015-19). In his 2016 freshman season, he played in 13 games, making 21 solo tackles and a sack.

Gallimore finished his collegiate career with 68 tackles, 148 total tackles, nine sacks and five forced fumbles in 52 games. He earned Second-Team All-Big 12 honours in his 2019 senior season and credits his time in Norman for preparing him for what life would be like just a mere months after his final snap against Joe Burrow and the No. 1-ranked LSU Tigers in the Peach Bowl.

“The one thing about Oklahoma… it’s going to make you better. You’re going to be bigger, stronger, faster; it’s going to give you what you need,” said Gallimore.

Thinking back to draft night and the moment he found out he was going to don the iconic star logo on the side of his helmet, Gallimore said it was the “worst best day of my life.”

“I don’t know if it’s like the feeling of failing a test or a breakup or a lost puppy – all I know is that I had to tell people to stop calling me because I’m thinking it’s a team.”

Then it was a team calling. America’s Team, with owner and general manager Jerry Jones on the other line.

“When I finally got that call, it’s like the weight was lifted. It was a surreal moment because that dream you had when you were a kid just happened.”

Gallimore was selected with the 82nd overall pick in the 2020 draft and made his NFL debut against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1. He made his first solo tackle four weeks later against the Cowboys’ forever rival, the New York Giants, in a 37-34 win. He has since played four seasons with the Cowboys (2020-23), making 40 solo tackles, 90 combined tackles, 11 tackles for loss and four sacks in 52 games.

A fixture in the Cowboys’ defensive line now, Gallimore has gotten used to life in Dallas. Most aspects of it, that is.

“When people come up to you and ask for an autograph and are excited to see me, I’m looking around like, ‘Me? Really, you’re a big fan? This is crazy. I’m just like it’s regular me.'”

Though some 2,700 kilometres apart, the now 27-year-old Gallimore sees some similarities between his hometown of Ottawa and his new home in Texas.

“I feel Like Dallas, DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) is a little more dynamic than I thought,” he said. “Texas is definitely more country, I will say that. The barbecue reigns supreme out here. It’s true what they say, everything is bigger and better in Texas.” 

His favourite BBQ spot? Hush Hush Barbeque in Fort Worth.

“Hush’s Barbeque with that Frank’s Red Hot, nothing like it. It’s a different ballgame.”

When not delving into the mouth-watering southern cuisine, Gallimore is dipping his toe, albeit slowly he admits, into Western fashion and music.

“The cowboy boots are on the way,” he said laughing. “I haven’t gotten down with it yet. The cowboy boots, the big belt buckles and the plaid, I’m still going through growing pains on that.”

“I got the chance to go to a country concert a little while back, which was probably the most fun I’ve ever had. I never knew they got down like that.”

Gallimore is just one of the many Canadians in the NFL during a point in time that is seeing more and more Canucks embraced by The Shield, with a record five of them being selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.

His relationship with fellow Canadians brings him back to his youth in Ottawa and growing up with Arizona CardinalsJesse Luketa.

“That’s my brother,” Gallimore said of Luketa. “I’ve known Jesse since we were kids.”

“I’m just excited to see more and more Canadians,” he added. “I try to do my best to make sure I identify the Canadians that are on a team, the ones I’m close with and the ones I’m not because I think what we’re doing is so special. I think what we’re doing is not only great for where we come from but really the whole country.”

“Speaking as a Canadian, we’ve got a lot of talent and football is going to continue to grow and get to the point where you won’t have to travel as far to get the exposure you need.”

Gallimore’s Canadian roots stretch beyond his passport and into his passions and personal life as he proudly partnered with Diabetes Canada during the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign.

“The significance stems from my father,” Gallimore said. “He was somebody who’s been working with taking control of diabetes and working with it since the time I was young. Just to see him battle and persevere and go through that, it led me to shine a light on him and Diabetes Canada.”

“Being raised and living in Canada, I feel like his story, although very unique, I’m sure there are quite a bit more people that are going through the same thing or going through a version of it.”

“I just want to celebrate him and bring more awareness to Diabetes Canada and hope that people may be more willing to help those going through it.”

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