Hunter Niswander will have to postpone his battle to becoming a Dallas Cowboys starter for a while longer. After suffering a back injury on Monday’s Cowboys Night practice in The Star, the 26-year-old punter has been placed on the waived/injured list. In a corresponding move, the Cowboys have signed Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu.
On Thursday, the @dallascowboys made the following transactions:— Dallas Cowboys Public Relations (@DallasCowboysPR) August 19, 2021
– Signed K Lirim Hajrullahu (Western Ontario, Can.)
– Waived/Injured P Hunter Niswander (Northwestern)
During the Dallas Cowboys preseason, Niswander was dealing with a few more responsibilities beyond punting. With Greg Zuerlein on the PUP list dealing with a back injury, Niswander was handling the Cowboys’ field goals and kickoff duties.
Despite playing in eight games for the Cowboys in 2020, Niswander was expected to be replaced by veteran Bryan Anger this season. Special teams coordinator John Fassel named Anger the favorite for the job early in the offseason. However, Niswander has stood out as a fan favorite on social media as a big portion of Cowboys Nation was rooting for him to take over the job.
The good news is, they might have another fan favorite to root for coming their way.
Get to know the new Dallas Cowboys kicker
After Niswander’s injury, the Cowboys turned to former CFL All-Star Lirim Hajrullahu (pronounced HIGH-roo-lah-hoo). The Kosovan-born Canadian kicker will handle kickoffs and field goals versus the Houston Texans on Saturday.
Hajrullahu, 31-years-old, has yet to make a debut in the NFL even though he’s spent some time with the L.A. Rams and the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers waived him in 2020 due to work visa issues.
But he’s no stranger to professional football. Between 2014 and 2019, he attempted 287 field goals for an 83% efficiency in the CFL. His career-long FG in the CFL was a 56-yard field goal, but he holds an All-Time record for The Spring League with a 59-yard FG.
This isn’t the first time Dallas Cowboys K Lirim Hajrullahu has been somehow linked with Greg Zuerlein. After Zuerlein’s eight seasons in L.A., the Rams signed Hajrullahu to battle for a roster spot. Now, he’ll handle kicking duties while Zuerlein gets back from injury.
Beyond the football field, Hajrullahu is no stranger to adversity. According to an interview with John Vogel from NFL Sapient, Lirim’s family fled from Kosovo when he was nine years old as his homeland erupted in war:
“My family and I were able to escape after seeing snipers surrounding our village, soldiers preparing to come in walking the streets with AK47’s and as we were leaving our town, tanks started rolling in on the opposite side of the road, burning houses as we fled for our lives.”
The Dallas Cowboys are hoping for Greg Zuerlein to be ready for the regular season, as the veteran had a perfect eight-for-eight kicking session before the Arizona Cardinals game last Friday.
In the meantime, Cowboys fans will get the chance to watch a player who’s way too easy to root for in Lirim Hajrullahu.
Featured image via John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports