Cowboys take OT Tyron Smith with No. 9 pick

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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.

Jones was well aware of the fact he’d never taken an offensive lineman this high. However, “I got comfortable that he was unique enough in his skills can get better _ big upside, all those things.”

Picking a blocker also is a bland move for an owner who often talks about spending first-round picks on guys with “a wow factor.”

“I think our fans are sophisticated enough to know how important a really talented offensive lineman can be,” Jones said. “I think we’ve got one here. I’m not at all dismayed about not making a big splash. In the last few years we’ve opened a stadium, hosted a Super Bowl … done a lot with splash. So we should be doing what you expect me to do, which is make a decision to win football games.”

Dallas offensive line coach Hudson Houck was 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.

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