Adam Henry is a realist.
He knows a pipe dream when he sees one.
In late February, at the NFL combine, the Cowboys wide receivers coach had a dance card of receiver prospects to interview. His questions were fairly standard, including get-to-know-yous like "Where are you from?" CeeDee Lamb was on Henry’s card.
The Cowboys weren’t necessarily targeting a wide receiver in the first round. And if they were, Lamb seemed sure to be unavailable by their No. 17 overall pick; come draft day, he was the sixth-highest ranked player on the club’s board.
Henry and Lamb met in Indianapolis anyway.
"In the back of my mind, I was like, ‘There is no way I’m going to get this guy,’ " Henry said.
He got him. With Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and now Lamb, a pipe dream materialized into what has the potential to be the most dynamic receiver trio in the NFL. Whatever anticipation surrounded the group in April when the trio was assembled has only grown by how the three have since come together.
Each player is different, but an unselfish desire to be great unites them. They share a goal to help Dallas become the sixth offense in NFL history to produce three 1,000-yard receivers in the same season.
Cooper and Gallup totaled 1,189 and 1,107 receiving yards in 2019, respectively.
"When we drafted (Lamb), I’m thinking already Amari going over 1,000 yards," Gallup said. "I went over 1,000 yards. And then you pick up one of the best wide receivers in the draft coming out. That’s a three-headed monster.
"Everybody up top did a good job drafting this year. CeeDee, he’s a good dude. He’s smart. He’s quick. He’s ready to learn. He’s a funny guy. He’s a good person to have in the locker room. So, great pick."
For Henry, the excitement began at the combine.
At that point, Dallas had Gallup under contract. Cooper’s deal was scheduled to expire in a few weeks. If the Cowboys were successful in re-signing him, they were all but certain to invest their first-round pick on a defender.
Henry sat with Lamb and worked down his questionnaire. He didn’t make it far before a bond developed.
Where are you from?
"He’s like, ‘Well, Coach, I was born in Opelousas, La.,’" said Henry, whose parents were born in Opelousas. "I was like, ‘Really?’ You don’t hear that too often, especially he went to school in Houston. I grew up in Beaumont. ... My dad spoke Creole French until he was 10. He didn’t speak English until he was 10. I have a big Creole culture that’s there in Louisiana. I grew up in Beaumont, though. Just the commonality of growing up and the upbringing. He was actually raised in Texas also.
"And we just had this connection. So he was smiling like he does. He has that charismatic smile. We just kind of clicked together. (When) I probably had one or two more questions, I put (the form) down, and we just start talking. He’s like, ‘Coach, there’s something about you. I don’t know what it is. We’ve just got this connection.’ You know, it was a great meeting, and I was telling everyone about it. ... And then fast forward that to the Draft Day. It actually comes to a reality."
Cooper and Gallup quickly took to Lamb as well. And vice versa.
The three receivers did not have a conventional opportunity to congregate this spring, as the NFL required all franchises to shut down most operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were no minicamps. There were no organized team activities. Cooper, Gallup and Lamb could not meet in a traditional, organized setting.
Quarterback Dak Prescott helped bring them together.
He had a large field installed at his home, providing teammates a private setting at which to run routes.
Cooper, 26, is very much a student of route-running and its nuances. He can appreciate a young receiver who wants to learn. At Prescott’s house, Lamb peppered Cooper with questions about certain routes in the Cowboys’ playbook.
The student was happy to become a teacher.
"Obviously, I’ve been in this system for a little bit of a while now," said Cooper, whom the Cowboys acquired during the 2018 season. "So when we were practicing at Dak’s house, (Lamb) was asking me, ‘OK, how’s this route? How do you guys run this route?’ Like the option route we have in the slot. He’s asking me how to run it and a couple of other routes, too, just so that he can be really detailed and aware of the way he was running it.
"I’m an open book. Give him everything that I have, all the knowledge that I have about whatever question he has. And hope that he runs with it and hope that it’s helpful."
Expectations are high.
As they should be.
Cooper is one of 20 players to NFL history to record at least 350 receptions, 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns combined in his first five seasons. He did demonstrate some inconsistency in 2019, not at his best during some of the season’s biggest moments. But between his precision and explosion, he has the proven ability to take over a game any given week.
Gallup, 24, is quickly coming into his own. Last year, he joined Bob Hayes and Drew Pearson as the only players in Cowboys history to record 1,000 yards in their second season.
"Let’s make it clear: Michael Gallup is a No. 1 receiver in my view," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think we’re very fortunate to have three players with that level of potential to play at that level. ... I was so impressed with what Michael did on film last year. He was definitely one of the players that really jumped off the video during the offseason study because I didn’t know a whole lot about Michael.
"He’s primed to take that next step. You look for your younger players in their second or third year to take that next step, not only in their production but in their overall awareness, their football IQ, their emotional IQ, all those things. I think he will definitely be one of those players for us."
Then, there is Lamb.
The 21-year-old has impressed coaches and veteran teammates with his consistency. He has learned multiple receiver positions, making him a more dynamic weapon to implement in the offense. He’s capable of lining up in the slot and outside when the Cowboys are in a three-receiver set.
In franchise history, no rookie has ever achieved 1,000 yards.
Lamb hopes that he, Cooper and Gallup all top that mark.
"We all set a goal for each and all three of us to have a 1,000 yards," Lamb said, "and we’re going to work until it’s done.
That goal of three 1,000-yard receivers might seem like a pipe dream to materialize.
It wouldn’t be the first one.