OXNARD, Calif. (KFDX/KJTL) — For most professional football players, the preseason is a chance to get back into football shape. For most fans, the preseason is a welcomed return of football, even if the games don’t actually count. But for some NFL players, the preseason means an opportunity to earn a spot on a 53-man NFL roster and make what most athletes dream about a reality.
For those players, the preseason means everything. This includes Wichita Falls’ very own T.J. Vasher, a former two-sport athlete at Rider High School.
Vasher is currently signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. He spent his rookie year on the sidelines due to injury. Now, in his sophomore season, the stars seem to be aligning for the former Raider to earn a roster spot on an NFL roster, a feat already accomplished by his uncle, Nathan Vasher, who played for seven years as a cornerback in the league.
Vasher was a stand-out athlete during his time on Cypress Avenue, and not just because of his height. At a towering 6’6″, his combination of both size and athleticism made him a force to be reconned with, both on the gridiron and the hardwood. He finished his senior year with 1,169 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns, and still holds a handful of basketball records at Rider.
KFDX Sports Director Tobin McDuff has been covering high school sports in Wichita Falls and the surrounding area for nearly three decades. He said when it came to Vasher, big plays and spectacular moments were a guarantee.
“Whether it’s playing basketball or whether it’s playing football, he is always a highlight just waiting to happen,” McDuff said.
Vasher is one of the few high school athletes in history to be named a Class 5A All-State athlete in both football and basketball. After receiving several Division 1 scholarship offers for both football and basketball, Vasher ultimately decided to stick with football, taking his talents to Lubbock.
McDuff hosted Vasher live on KFDX when he announced his decision to join the Texas Tech Red Raiders, calling the pass-heavy offense typical of the Red Raiders a “receiver’s dream.”
“I loved watching T.J. play in high school,” McDuff said. “He always made the game look so easy. You knew when you saw him play that he would succeed in college.”
Vasher had a successful college career as a wide receiver for the Red Raiders, finishing with 21 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 receiving yards on 146 catches.
But it was one catch in particular that put Vasher on the radar of NFL scouts.
The spectacular one-handed, full extension, behind-the-back catch Vasher made against Ole Miss in 2018 earned him an ESPY nomination and put him at the top of ESPN Sportscenter’s Top 10.
It also put Vasher on the minds of NFL owners and general managers. His name wasn’t called from the podium in Las Vegas during the 2021 NFL Draft, but his phone did ring after the final selection was made in the seventh round.
Vasher was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, but his injured meniscus kept him sidelined for the year. After spending his rookie season on the bench and with team doctors, the now-healthy Vasher was ready for a new season and another chance to catch the attention of the Cowboys’ coaching staff.
Then on July 29, 2022, as the first week of camp was getting ready to wrap up, Vasher turned heads across the country yet again with another circus-style catch against cornerback Kelvin Joseph.
“I feel like it’s just something that’s always been a part of me,” Vasher said to members of the media following that practice. “It’s nothing that you plan to do, it’s just like playing in the backyard. You just wanna go out there and make plays.”
Since then, Vasher has continued to shine during the Cowboys’ training camp, and sports journalists and reporters haven’t stopped talking about him.
According to the staff at 105.3 The Fan out of Dallas/Fort Worth, on Thursday, August 4, Vasher beat his defender so bad on two routes that the defender was flagged for holding and still wasn’t close to Vasher when he made the catches.
Even his head coach, Mike McCarthy, had nothing but praise for Vasher during a press conference following that catch.
“We all understand the work that is put in,” McCarthy said. “That’s his gift. He’s a big target in the red zone and, ya know, we’ve all been waiting for that and looking for it.”
But that’s not the only factor working in Vasher’s favor as he continues to try to earn a spot on the roster of America’s Team. Injuries have impacted several receivers for Dallas, including the newly extended deep threat Michael Gallup and the former Steeler James Washington.
Gallup is continuing to rehabilitate his ACL, which was torn on January 2, 2022, as the season was winding down. He likely won’t be ready for the season opener. Washington fractured his foot during training camp and is expected to miss up to 10 weeks.
With CeeDee Lamb set to take over as the top receiver following the departure of Amari Cooper, rookie receiver Jalen Tolbert will likely start the season as the second option, and the return of Noah Brown filling another role, the remaining spots on the receiving core are up for grabs.
Marcus Mosher, the host of the Locked OnCowboys podcast, currently has Vasher as fourth on the depth chart. The situation is currently leaning in Vasher’s favor with regard to his hope for making the roster.
McCarthy was asked about Vasher making the roster, and if his lack of experience on special teams will be a factor when the final cuts are made.
“You get a predetermined evaluation on a guy based on his build, but it’s just like anything. If he can play like that in the red zone, he’s obviously got the athletic ability to play,” McCarthy said.
The Dallas Cowboys play in their first preseason game on Saturday, August 13. With a total of three games to play before the season kicks off against Tampa Bay on September 11, Vasher will look to have another head-turning moment before the final roster decisions are made.
Vasher will celebrate his twenty-fourth birthday on Monday, August 29, 2022. The following day, August 30, is the deadline for NFL teams to make necessary cuts to finalize their 53-man roster.
If all goes well, Vasher will have plenty of reason for celebration on both days.