Canadian Lirim Hajrullahu has been putting distance between himself and rookie Jonathan Garibay to win the Cowboys placekicking job.
The 32-year-old signed in July after Dallas had already signed Garibay as an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech University. Garibay made 23-of-27 field goal attempts with the Red Raiders following a two-year stint at Riverside City College where he made 15-of-20 field goal attempts.
The six-year CFL veteran has spent the past three years in the NFL, signing contracts with the Cowboys, Carolina Panthers and Washington Commanders. He finished last season playing three games with the Panthers making four-of-five field goal attempts along with all three of his point-after attempts.
“I’m just focusing on myself and trying to work on our timing with [long snapper] Jake [McQuaide] and [holder] Bryan [Anger] and as of right now, I feel like I’m doing a good job,” Hajrullahu said.
“My whole goal is to be able to perform and be able to have both [head] coach [Mike McCarthy] and [quarterback] Dak [Prescott] and our team depend on me and if they need me, I can come on the field and make the kicks that I need to make. That’s my No. 1 goal is just to be that guy that’s dependable.”
According to Todd Archer of ESPN NFL Nation, Hajrullahu has connected on 42-of-56 (75 percent) kicks in training camp while Garibay has made 34-of-57 (59.6 percent). Dallas Morning News reporter Michael Gehlken recently classified the battle as a “runaway” in favour of Hajrullahu, though the preseason has yet to get underway.
“I’m just worrying about what I can do and what I can control. When we’re working pre-practice or post-practice on snap-hold-kick, I’m just trying to make sure our operation is good,” Hajrullahu said.
“I know it’s a competition at the end of the day. I really truly want this, so for me, I’m just trying to focus on myself and how I can make myself better so I can help my team be better.”
The Western University product signed with the Cowboys this summer after spending three separate stints with the team last season. He dressed for one game with Dallas in November 2021 when veteran kicker Greg Zuerlein tested positive for the coronavirus and made all five of his point-after attempts. Zuerlein was released by the team in March 2022 after two seasons with the Cowboys.
Hajrullahu has been endearing himself to teammates who already have a nickname for him.
“Some of the guys call me ‘Hallelujah,'” he said with a laugh. “I know it’s very difficult for people. I enjoy it and it’s all fun for me.”
Dallas opens the preseason on Saturday, August 13 against the Denver Broncos. The Cowboys will visit the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday, August 20 and host the Seattle Seahawks on Friday, August 26.
“I’ve just been so focused on being able to play in the NFL,” Hajrullahu said. “My No. 1 focus is the team, being able to provide and be an asset to them.”
Through his time in the NFL so far, Hajrullahu has earned over $191,000 USD and he could make more than $800,000 with the Cowboys during the upcoming season.