The Cowboys have taken their talents to Oxnard, California for training camp as preparations for the 2022 season ramp up. Dallas went 12-5 last season but suffered a demoralizing first-round playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, and they should be foaming at the mouth to rectify their shortcomings.

There’s one player who certainly has a voracious appetite these days. Safety Jayron Kearse, who had a breakout season in 2021, wants to fill his belly up and take his game to an even higher plateau.

“I’m coming in hungry with the same mindset that I’ve got to prove everything that I can do,” Kearse told reporters Monday. “I’m a leader now and guys look to me to be that leader. That’s really the only difference, but as far as my approach and how I’m going about things, it’s going to be the same thing as it was last year.”

When looking at the path Kearse has taken in the NFL, it’s not surprising that he still has that hunger for more despite his recent success with the Cowboys. Kearse was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the seventh round in 2016, meaning he was one of the last players from that draft that was selected, which undoubtedly lit a fire in him.

During his four years with the Vikings, Kearse appeared in 62 out of a possible 64 games. However, he only made five starts and registered just 578 defensive snaps (logged 1,015 snaps on special teams).

Things picked up for Kearse in 2020 when he signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Detroit Lions. He appeared in 11 games with seven starts but unfortunately was released before the season finale after violating team rules. Though his departure was somewhat self-imposed, Kearse had to be eager to show his worth going forward.

Kearse would make his way to the Cowboys last March. Initially, the Kearse signing didn’t move the needle as he was not only seen as just a depth piece and special teams contributor but he even got labeled as a possible roster cut before the season. That had to add fuel to his fire because regardless of what players say, they hear the outside noise loud and clear.

The former Clemson Tiger channeled that energy into being an asset for a Cowboys’ defense that was coming off of arguably its worst showing in team history in 2020. Kearse logged 15 starts in 16 games and tallied career highs in tackles (101), interceptions (2), and passes defended (10).

So, after such a big season, why is the hunger for Kearse still so strong?

It’s simple. Kearse has scratched and clawed for six seasons just to prove that he can be one of the better safeties in the NFL. Yes, he balled out for the Cowboys last season and was rewarded with a two-year deal back in March. However, success is addictive, so it makes sense that Kearse wants to keep the mindset that he hasn’t accomplished anything yet, which can aid in him taking his game to another level.

The Cowboys improved by leaps and bounds defensively last season as they lead the NFL in turnovers (34) and were seventh in the fewest points allowed. If they desire to repeat or elevate that performance in 2022, Kearse will be one of the players driving the bus.

Feature image via Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports