Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup is ready to get his NFL career back on track. Dallas' third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft burst onto the scene with career highs in receptions (66), receiving yards (1,107) and receiving touchdowns (six) at 23 years old in 2019. Then a gruesome, season-ending ankle injury to quarterback Dak Prescott hampered his development in 2020, and a season-ending torn ACL in Week 17 of the 2021 season against the Arizona Cardinals set Gallup back much further.
The effects from coming back from the severe knee injury showed externally on the field -- Gallup totaled a career-low 424 receiving yards last season -- but he was also dealing with the mental hurdle of trusting his movements, which was nearly as big of an issue. On Monday, a day before the start of Cowboys training camp, Gallup feels like he's all the way back.
"Mentally, it's up to 100 percent," Gallup said, via The Athletic. "Last year, obviously the mentals weren't there. I knew my leg was good. I knew I was straight, but I still had to get over that little hump. … I've already [rebuilt his confidence in it]. That's why we had OTAs and all that good stuff. I definitely rebuilt it."
"I was thinking too much [last season]," Gallup said in May, via The Athletic. "My knee was feeling sore and it was just different. I never really had it like that last year."
A little more than 16 months removed from suffering the injury, Gallup is in a completely different place and confident he can return to form. Dallas is banking on it considering it signed him to a five-year, $57.5 million deal in the 2022 offseason, shortly after the injury.
"It's different," Gallup said when asked about his knee now. "I feel springy again."
The 2023 season will also be different for Gallup because he will be returning to the role he thrived in, as the team's third receiver, when he and quarterback Dak Prescott were last both healthy for an entire season and four-time Pro Bowl wideout Amari Cooper was on the roster. Once again, Dallas has two high-caliber pass-catchers in front of him in 2022 second-team All-Pro CeeDee Lamb and offseason trade acquisition .
The Silver and Blue acquired the soon-to-be 30-year-old in March from the Houston Texans in exchange for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth-round pick. The Cowboys then promptly signed him to a two-year, $20 million extension that locks him in with the team through the 2024 season.
Getting Cooks was a big deal. Since 2014 when he entered the league, he's one of seven players with more than 8,500 receiving yards (8,616) and 45 receiving touchdowns (49). Alongside Cooks in that exclusive club is Davante Adams, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, Travis Kelce, Stefon Diggs and Antonio Brown.
Cooks' six career seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards are tied for the third-most in the NFL since 2014, trailing only Evans (nine) and Kelce (seven). He has achieved the feat with each of his four previous teams: the New Orleans Saints (2015-16), New England Patriots (2017), Los Angeles Rams (2018) and Texans (2020-21). Doing so in 2021 with Houston is especially noteworthy given he was catching passes from 32-year-old Tyrod Taylor and rookie Davis Mills. Gallup could hardly contain his excitement when talking about being able to start alongside him.
"Oh man, Brandin Cooks, I'm talking about a 10-year vet that has [six] seasons over 1,000 yards," Gallup said. "He's just bringing knowledge to the whole group, and we love him in [the wide receivers room]. I ain't going to lie to you. He has been in there every day, working, just trying to win. That's all he wants to do is just win, and he wants to do it as a group. He's a great addition."
The most significant pearls of wisdom Cooks has imparted on Dallas' young pass-catchers have been about the keys to extending their careers: taking care of their bodies.
"Getting your body right, that's all he keeps preaching," Gallup said. "He talks to everybody, 'When you are done with this, you're done with that, make sure you stretch. Make sure you do what you're supposed to do so you can stay in the league as long as you possibly can.' That's one of the biggest things right now. Football, that's going to be there. We got in the league for a reason, but he's over here talking about how you stay in the league. That's the knowledge he's bringing."
Alongside Lamb and Cooks, Gallup and his healthy knees are finally ready to turn the clock back to 2019.