NFL's Eric Kendricks and Wife Ally Set Down Roots in Dallas with Son Knight: 'Perfect Place for Us' (Exclusive)

The couple's little one recently celebrated his first birthday as the family works on making Texas their home

<p>Ally Kendricks/Instagram; Courtesy of Eric and Ally Kendricks</p> Eric and Ally Kendricks with son Knight

Ally Kendricks/Instagram; Courtesy of Eric and Ally Kendricks

Eric and Ally Kendricks with son Knight
  • After eight seasons in Minnesota and one in Los Angeles, Eric Kendricks is excited to kick off a new season with his new team, the Dallas Cowboys

  • Eric and wife Ally are having fun preparing for life in Dallas and working on putting down roots for themselves and son Knight, who just celebrated his first birthday

  • The NFL family tells PEOPLE they're looking forward to making friends and memories in their new chapter

Eric and Ally Kendricks are looking forward to their next chapter as an NFL family.

The linebacker, 32, who recently made the move to the Dallas Cowboys, is getting into the swing of things as he settles into his new town. Eric is now moving to Texas with wife Ally, 30, and their baby boy, Knight, who recently celebrated his first birthday.

"We're both California-raised and coming off to Texas, we've heard all the stories. So much to check out and I actually just had my first Texas barbecue the other day, so I feel like that was a big step in getting settled," Eric tells PEOPLE.

While Eric starts establishing roots, Ally is back and forth between California and Texas with Knight, "to check out neighborhoods and find where we want to live."

"My first impression out there is that it's such a slow-paced kind of living, which reminds me of Minneapolis in a lot of ways," she shares. "I love that you can just walk out of your house and go for a walk. There are so many parks! It feels like such a perfect place for us to be for where we're at in life as a new family."

"Going to a new team in a new season, we're trying to find a place to live and figure out what will be our new normal. We have a kid now, so there are a lot more moving parts to that," the new mom explains to PEOPLE.

"We're not just looking for a house, but what's gonna feel most like home for us? Where are we going to be most comfortable, as a family? So I'm working on those things, doing what I can do to make that easier on Eric. He's still involved with everything too, of course, but I just try to support him by taking care of things in that way."

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<p>Courtesy of Eric and Ally Kendricks</p> Eric Kendricks and son Knight

Courtesy of Eric and Ally Kendricks

Eric Kendricks and son Knight

Related: The Most Adorable On-Field Moments Between NFL Dads and Their Kids

Their first year as parents hasn't always been an easy one, but the two marvel at "how fast the year went by."

"Being new parents is so cool," Eric says. "I can't believe that he's 1 and how fast the year went by. Today, I got video of him dunking his little basketball in his little hoop. Things like that are what's making my day when I'm apart from him. I can't wait to go back and see them soon."

The toddler is keeping mom on his toes, "walking and trying to communicate."

"The amount of change that happens in the first year is so crazy, from that sleeping all day, not doing much phase to now, where he's this little person and has a little personality. He's eating meals with us!"

<p>Courtesy of Eric and Ally Kendricks</p> Knight on his first birthday

Courtesy of Eric and Ally Kendricks

Knight on his first birthday

Ally also appreciates the growth in herself and Eric during this time.

"It's helped us. We've grown so much as a couple and as individuals from being parents. I think that having a kid brings back all the excitement for the things that you may have taken for granted. We're clapping away at the fact that he's walking when we walk every day or that he smiles and giggles. It's just like the little things that bring joy back into your day."

For Knight's first birthday, the family celebrated with a race car-themed photo shoot, with the birthday boy dressed up as a race car driver.

"I love that he loves cars just like his daddy," Eric laughs. "It's been one of my favorite parts."

The NFL star appreciates his son for "being the biggest joy among the biggest hardship," two major losses that came just as they welcomed Knight.

"We lost our dog, Blue, and then my dad a week later. So we went through a lot early on, at the beginning of last year," Eric says. "It's been hard but throughout this whole thing, there's been a lot joy in our son, Knight. Life gave us this kind of full-circle experience in such a short time, which was crazy to go through."

Ally agrees, adding, "You're experiencing death and rebirth of life at the same time. We're like so happy having this new human that we brought into this Earth, but then we're also mourning those who are still so important to us at the same time. It teaches you a lot and it's a weird place to be because it's like you're so sad but you're so happy at the same time. You're balancing mourning while also celebrating, and I think that was a really interesting experience for us."

"Although it was extremely challenging, our son brought so much joy. He honestly kept us going in such a hard time," she continues. "So, the timing of that, it was really tough — a new team as new parents going through these unexpected losses. I mean, everything happens for a reason, I really believe that. He was our gift, knowing that we were going to be going through a lot of trials and tribulations in the months that followed."

In that time, Ally saw the beauty of the sisterhood that she shares with other NFL wives.

"Some of these women didn't really even know me that well and they were checking in on me. Texting me, asking me if I was okay, and the same with Eric's teammates. I think having that community, it made a huge difference," Ally says, looking back.

"For us to be the newbies, we felt like we had been a part of the team for years — and we felt like that with both teams we've been on. So that's why I'm excited for another new team because we've found lifelong friendships with every single team that we've been on."

<p>Courtesy of Eric and Ally Kendricks</p> Knight celebrates his first birthday

Courtesy of Eric and Ally Kendricks

Knight celebrates his first birthday

Both are excited for the new relationships that come with a new team, with Ally again pointing out how much the community around them meant during their year in Los Angeles.

"Last year, the community and the family that we built in that one year with the Chargers was so amazing. It was probably one of my favorite years in the NFL. I enjoyed being with all the women and how welcoming they were and how supportive everyone was of one another. So, that really meant a lot for me and it made my transition to a new team a lot easier," Ally shares.

"We were so lucky to be on the same team for eight years and I don't think that that's the norm," she points out. "So, last year was a testament to how important having that community in the NFL is, because when you're thrown into a new environment where you don't really know anyone and you're starting anew, it is scary. It feels like you're going like to a new school for the first time."

The couple is reveling in the fact that "we're in a different place in life than before."

"We're thinking about where we want to really settle down and put down roots and what that's going to look like. We've talked about potentially moving out of California at some point. Now, is that going to be Texas? Is it going to be somewhere else? So, I think football is a great way to experience different places," Ally says.

"It takes you to takes you to cities that you maybe never would have lived in before otherwise. So I'm excited to embrace Dallas and everything that has to offer. We're so fortunate to already have some family there and friends. so I think that it's going to be such an easier transition already having a little community there. I'm really excited for that."

The couple has heard "amazing" things about the community within the Cowboys team.

"I'm so excited. I think it really makes your experience so much more enjoyable to have that sisterhood in that community with other girls because no one else really, fully understands what you go through. They don't really get that you can pick up and move at any time and you could live in a different place every single year," Ally shares.

"They see the behind-the-scenes of what the guys go through and like what they put their bodies through. So just having the support from those people, it really, really, really means a lot. It makes the seasons a lot better for me. having girlfriends that I can rely on that are in that same world."

Ally is particularly excited to be getting into the Cowboys world, admitting she has "low-key always been a huge fan of Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team, and Eric would always ask me why I'm watching that when he wasn't on that team. So I'm excited that I now get to watch that and he doesn't get to question it."

"I'm honestly so excited to experience the games people think of when they think of football; they think of the Cowboys."

<p>Courtesy of Eric and Ally Kendricks</p> Eric Kendricks walking with Knight

Courtesy of Eric and Ally Kendricks

Eric Kendricks walking with Knight

With Ally's focus on setting up their family up for success on the homefront in Dallas, Eric is making sure he has the support he needs on and off the field for a positive and healthy season.

"Right now, I'm getting to know the new team and meeting the guys we're installing the defense, taking care of playing and some of the football things. I think, for me, personally, I've also been going around the city searching for people to who could work on my body. Because I think one of the most unconsidered things about changing teams is that you have to find a whole new team of people to keep you healthy throughout the season," he shares.

"So I feel like I spend a lot of time doing that outside of looking for places to live, reuniting with friends and family that we do have in Texas, and trying to find balance in it all."

Eric says he couldn't be more excited to get on the field with his new team.

"First and foremost, I'm excited to play football, you know? I'm still having so much fun doing it. There are always new challenges, but the fact that I can bring my family with me to experience this, and for the Cowboys, is just kind of unreal."

He continues, "I never thought growing up that I'd be playing for the Cowboys, but here I am. I'm just going to take advantage of the opportunities. I'm having a great time doing it with my family and excited to see how we can get this thing going."

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