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Mark Nzeocha gives Dirk Nowitzki another reason to be Cowboys fan

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IRVING, Texas -- Dirk Nowitzki is already a big Dallas Cowboys fan. Perhaps the Dallas Mavericks' superstar will be more of a fan now that the Cowboys have drafted a countryman in linebacker Mark Nzeocha.

Nzeocha, one of the Cowboys' three seventh-round picks, hopes to run into Nowitzki at some point.

"It's really cool actually because he's from Wuerzburg, Germany, which is just a very small town that's about 45 minutes from the town [Neusitz] I grew up at," said Nzeocha, who played at Wyoming. "Just that connection is really cool and obviously he is a great athlete [who] had a great, successful career. So it's really exciting to play in the same town representing it."

Growing up, Nzeocha wanted to be a basketball player until he found football -- the American version -- as a teenager even though his father is a big soccer fan.

"I grew up with it right away, and within a few years I was -- I mean athletically better than most," Nzeocha said. "So early on there were times that I could play overseas and come late to jump to the U.S. Obviously, teams in Germany don't really have an idea to manage all that. Fortunately for me, one of my good friends played at Wyoming a couple years before me. He introduced me to the coaches, showed them some of my film, and they really liked what they saw. So that's how I ended up there."

Nzeocha was limited to seven games last year because of a torn ACL. He was cleared by his doctors for full workouts last month and hopes to be able to take part in next week's rookie minicamp but the final decision will be made by the Cowboys.

Even though Nzeocha is relatively new to the game, coach Jason Garrett likes his upside.

"One of the real concerns with our evaluation of him right from the outset was trying to get our arms around not playing American football as much as the other guys have," Garrett said. "You have some concerns about maybe his instincts, his naturalness for the game, but he is a very athletic guy, and ironically, he demonstrates a lot of instinct. He is very good in space, very good on special teams, catches the ball and really makes a lot of plays on the ball."