AP Sports Writer
IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Travis Frederick wants to show critics the Dallas Cowboys weren't crazy when they drafted him in the first round.
The center from Wisconsin figures he will first have to prove to his coaches that he's worthy of a starting job.
"I don't believe the starting line is just going to say, 'Oh, they drafted this guy. He should be the guy,'" Frederick said Friday after his first workout on the opening day of rookie minicamp. "It's not going to be that way. I'm going to have to fight for it. I'm going to have to prove I'm the best guy for it."
And plenty of people will be watching because criticism was rampant when the Cowboys traded down to get Frederick late in the first round of last month's draft. Not only did pundits consider Frederick a second-rounder -- he even admitted the same thing -- but the consensus was Dallas didn't get enough back from San Francisco when it surrendered 13 spots.
Frederick said it at his introductory news conference, and he said it again the first day he put on a Cowboys uniform (No. 70, by the way): He sure thinks he was worth it.
"For me, it's just about going out and playing the way I played in college and the way that I know that I can play," said Frederick, the first center taken in the first round by Dallas since Robert Shaw out of Tennessee in 1979. "If I can just work as hard as I can and take advantage of ... coaching, I think I can prove some people wrong."
Frederick might be under the microscope, but fans won't need one to find him. He's the 6-foot-3, 317-pound guy with the full, bushy beard who's sticking with the look even though 90-plus degree workout days are just around the corner in Texas.
He said the night he was drafted that it was time to shave 10 months of growth, but maybe he got word that Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was impressed by the attitude of the guy who showed up "looking like Santa Claus." He trimmed it a little to make himself look a more "presentable" -- clearly more of an off-the-field concern.
"Not quite so dirty," he said. "We'll see how it goes. We'll see how hot it gets."
Jones has been feeling the heat over getting just a third-round pick -- some said it should have been a second-rounder -- to let the 49ers jump from No. 31 to the 18th pick. The owner said quarterback Tony Romo was "inordinately" interested in upgrading the offensive line, and coach Jason Garrett said Frederick was the highest player on the Cowboys' board at their lower spot.
Dallas is coming off the franchise's worst rushing season since the 16-game schedule started in 1978, and Romo was sacked 36 times -- more than twice a game -- and was on the run a lot more than that.
"Jason says it right when he says there is competition," Jones said. "But certainly there ought to be a spot for him on that offensive line. We think he has the combination of skill and mental ... to play immediately."
Early signs point to center for Frederick, though Garrett says that's a long way from being determined, and assistant head coach Bill Callahan wants to make sure the rookie can play guard. Frederick spent most of his first workout Friday at center, where the incumbent would have been a tossup between Ryan Cook and Phil Costa before Frederick was drafted.
Cook came over in a trade just before last season when Costa missed most of training camp with a bad back. Costa managed to play in three games, but needed season-ending ankle surgery in October. Cook ended up starting 11 games, but could be a salary cap cut. Costa signed a new two-year deal with nearly $1 million guaranteed.
The Cowboys signed two free-agent guards last year in Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings, but clearly felt they had more upgrading to do. Bernadeau also had to fill in at center when Cook was hurt.
"I don't want to say there's been trouble running the ball," Frederick said. "We've just got to clean some things up. Hopefully I can take advantage of the time ... to get a chance to step in and solidify things up there."
As the top pick, Frederick had the strongest pedigree Friday among 30 players who were a mix of draft picks, rookie free agents and one-year veterans, plus another 15 "workout guys," as they were listed on the minicamp roster. So it was a small chance for Frederick to show some leadership, one of the assets the Cowboys valued.