- Associated Press - Thursday, April 28, 2011

IRVING, TEXAS (AP) - Tyron Smith already has a claim to fame in Dallas Cowboys lore. He is the first offensive lineman drafted in the first round by Jerry Jones.

Since Smith is only 20, and the Cowboys took him with the ninth overall pick, they are counting on him to grow into something a lot more special.

And get this, Cowboys fans: Smith is, too.

“I think I have the potential to be a Pro Bowler,” Smith said, pausing for about two seconds then adding, “and be a Hall of Famer.”

Smith’s arrival likely means the departure of right tackle Marc Colombo. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound rookie is expected to start on the right side, with Doug Free remaining at left tackle, but the Cowboys think so highly of Smith there’s at least a chance he steps right in as the protector for Tony Romo’s blind side.

It’s a lot to ask for someone who started only two years in college and won’t turn 21 until two weeks before Christmas.

“I’m willing to take the challenge and work hard for it,” Smith said.

Dallas offensive line coach Hudson Houck is especially thrilled by the pick. He coached Anthony Munoz at USC, and Larry Allen with the Cowboys, and he believes Smith could reach their high level. Houck said there was a big gap between Smith _ the first offensive lineman taken in this draft _ and the other blockers on Dallas’ draft board.

Houck raved about everything from Smith’s height being just right to his long wingspan, from being strong enough to “anchor a bull rusher” to being quick enough to recover when he gets out of position.

“Those are things you can’t teach,” Houck said.

Then there’s that confidence that was so evident in Smith’s conference call with local reporters. Houck said it came shining through during Smith’s two-day visit to Dallas during the scouting process.

“Every coach, every other person who talked to him said, `This guy really seems at ease,’” Houck said.

Speaking from the draft in New York, Smith certainly didn’t sound like a wide-eyed kid. (He also clarified that his first name is pronounced TIE’-run.)

Even though most projections had the Cowboys taking him, he wasn’t sweating it out when their allotted 10 minutes were almost over and his phone hadn’t rung.

“If they didn’t take me, they didn’t take me,” he said.

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