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Notebook: JJ on the big stage
Giants Cowboys Footba Heal WEB
AT&T stadium at the start of an NFL football game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in Arlington, Texas. The Cowboys won 36-31. Former Georgia Southern Eagle J.J. Wilcox made his debut with the Cowboys in the game, which was nationally televised. - photo by Associated Press

    It didn’t really hit J.J. Wilcox until he was lined up at strong safety against the New York Giants — this is a dream come true.
    Wilcox, a former Georgia Southern Eagle who was drafted in the third round last spring by the Dallas Cowboys, played in his first NFL game on Sunday as the Cowboys escaped with a season opening 36-31 win over the visiting Giants.
    Wilcox was heavily involved on special-teams plays, but wasn’t too nervous, even on the opening kickoff.
    “The kickoff was exciting. It was intense and emotion was flying high. Adrenaline was pumping. On that first kickoff, it didn’t really hit me. It didn’t hit me until I got across from Eli Manning and he was coming at me and trying to make a play,” Wilcox said over the phone Monday.
    The enormity of the situation —playing in a nationally televised NFL game against a two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback — didn’t occur to him until he relieved starting strong safety Barry Church in the second quarter and lined up across from the Giants’ offense.
    He actually found himself starstruck.
    “To be totally honest, yeah. It’s probably the first time I’ve ever stepped on the field and got starstruck,” Wilcox said. “It’s a Sunday night football game, and I’m actually here. I’m standing across from guys I used to watch on TV. Eli Manning is pointing at me and making signals. It was very exciting and very emotional for me.”
    Wilcox said he shares a special bond with Cowboys players like Tony Romo (Eastern Illinois), B.W. Webb (William and Mary) and Jeff Heath (Signaw Valley State), among others, who played college football in the Football Championship Subdivision and other lower-division programs.
    “We take pride in coming from the small schools, in showing our communities and our families that anything is possible,” Wilcox said. “(Playing in the NFL) was a childhood dream, and I finally made it, and it was great. It was the best time I’ve ever had in my life.”
As for being relegated to a backup role on defense and special teams, Wilcox doesn’t mind.
    “I’m just being patient and filling my role,” he said. “As a rookie, you’ve got to come in as a special-teams hero. I’m just going to play my role to the best of my ability and wait for my chance.”
    He doesn’t expect to be waiting very long.
    “It’s a matter of time before I get to start at strong safety,” he said.
    The Cowboys face the Chiefs on the road on Sunday at 1 p.m.

GSU injury report
    The Eagles (2-0) expect to get a few injured players back for Saturday’s Southern Conference opener against Wofford (1-1, 1-0 SoCon) in Spartanburg, S.C., at 7 p.m.
    Slotback Ezayi Youyoute, who suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason, is hopeful to play his first snaps on Saturday. Fullback Dominique Swope and offensive lineman Dorian Byrd, who each sat out Saturday’s 59-17 win over St. Francis, are also hopeful to return, and fullback James Dean, who was dinged up during the St. Francis game, is also a hopeful returnee to the lineup.
    Fullback Nardo Govan will not play Saturday.

Airing it out
    Georgia Southern quarterbacks Jerick McKinnon and Kevin Ellison combined to go 8 of 10 passing for 245 yards on Saturday, the most passing yards in the Monken era.
    Still, don’t expect the Eagles to become a passing team any time soon.
    “We’re not going to throw it because we just feel like it,” Monken said. “That’s not us. We’re a run team, and I think that’s what we need to be. I was glad to see us throw the ball with some success, and I hope we can continue to do that, some.”

Kicking success
    GSU kicker Younghoe Koo, a 2013 recruit, saw his first action Saturday, making an extra point, a 38-yard field goal, and kicking off into the end zone on a play that ultimately resulted in an un-forced safety.
    Koo said he was nervous in his debut, but it was business as usual by the time he kicked the field goal.
    “You feel the nerves at first, to be honest, you do,” Koo said. “But once you get out there you clear your mind and do what you practice every day. After the extra point and the kickoff, I got my nerves out. I just hit (the field goal) like I hit an extra point.”

    Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.