Cowboys Star Has Dangerously Close Encounter with Wild Bear [WATCH]

Leighton Vander Esch

Getty Leighton Vander Esch of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a tackle.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch described it as accurately as he could: “it’s not often” you cross paths with a wild bear.

The life on an NFL linebacker isn’t for the faint of heart, and Vander Esch is well aware of that. The Cowboys’ former first-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft has four years of pro experience under his belt, but it’s clear he has a hunger for thrills.

So when the 26-year-old linebacker uploaded a video of him putting his fingers inches from a bear’s mouth on July 4th, it didn’t really come as a surprise.

“Definitely a couple firsts this weekend,” Vander Esch wrote in the video’s caption. “Not often you get to feed a wild bear and get a picture with two sturgeon in the same frame. Amazing weekend with family making memories that will last a lifetime! Thank you @killgoreadventures for an awesome trip.”

The video shows Vander Esch lifting a fish with his hands and getting the bear’s attention. It slowly gets close before reaching up for the delicious meal, as Vander Esch’s crew gets excited and responds. Based on the comments heard in the video, the bear was apparently a female.

For the Idaho-born Cowboys star and avid hunter, wild animal encounters are clearly something he enjoys.

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Vander Esch Loves to Hunt

It’s clear that the former Boise State star wasn’t looking to hunt when he and his crew fed the bear, but it’s something Vander Esch does enjoy extensively. Last October, the Cowboys’ bye week arrived at the perfect time to allow him to return to his home state of Idaho and go bull elk hunting.

It’s a true blessing getting to come home and hunt these amazing animals,” Vander Esch wrote. “It’s been years since I’ve been able to hunt for a bull elk. This doesn’t just make memories that will last for a lifetime, this is how we provide for our families.”

Vander Esch hails from Riggins, which lies in the mountainous, northwest part of Idaho. Considered a destination for outdoorsman, the town is even called the “Whitewater Capital of Idaho.”

It’s rare that players have time for any extensive adventure or trip in the fall, so the Cowboys having a during bull elk season in Idaho was a huge deal for Vander Esch.


Cowboys Star Looking to Return to Rookie Form

After four years on his rookie deal, Vander Esch could have tested free agency this offseason but elected to stay in Dallas and fight for his future. Signing a one-year, $2 million deal, the linebacker is entering a “prove it year.”

After a stellar rookie season that featured 102 solo tackles, two interceptions and seven passes defended, injuries have limited Vander Esch’s playing time and impact. As PFR shows, the linebacker only played 19 games between the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

2021 saw the former Boise State star play in every game, but in a “platoon” role where he shared snaps and responsibilities with Keanu Neal, Jaylon Smith and others. His play encouraged Dallas, as Vander Esch brought down his first interception since 2018, registered a career-high four TFLs, and also added a sack.

It’s unclear what Vander Esch’s future holds. The lack of depth at linebacker means that there is more responsibility and weight on LVE’s shoulders, but it also could leave the Cowboys in a bad spot if he is unable to return to the levels he showed in 2018.

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