1938 – 2010
Yesterday, all of Cowboys Nation was saddened over the tragic loss of a Dallas Cowboys icon, Don Meredith.
Dandy Don, as he was best known, died at the age of 72 after suffering a brain hemorrhage and lapsing into a coma.
Meredith started playing for the Dallas Cowboys in 1960, and was the original Dallas Cowboy, signing with the team two months before the franchise officially was admitted into the NFL.
He wouldn’t become the starting quarterback until 1965, but quickly led the Cowboys to their first winning season, 10-3-1, in 1966. He guided the Cowboys to the 1966 and 1967 NFL title games, both defeats to the Green Bay Packers, but he abruptly retired from pro football the following year at the young age of 31.
Longtime Cowboys president and general manager Tex Schramm once said of Meredith:
“He had a wonderful sense of humor and a very laid-back personality. But he was an absolutely intense competitor who could rally a team. He was very charismatic, maybe the most charismatic player we had.”
Though, his time as a Cowboy was short-lived, it was Meredith who helped Dallas become one of the best and most exciting teams in football.
The NY Times had a fitting quote that best described his sheer toughness on the field.
More than anything else, Meredith earned respect by repeatedly exhibiting one attribute: toughness. Few had more guts and courage, inside and outside the pocket. In his era, the rules didn’t protect the quarterback as they do today, and those that did weren’t strictly enforced. In those early years, the Cowboys’ offensive line wasn’t very good. Meredith often took a beating, but he never complained about it. According to Brandt, Meredith played a game against Washington in 1966 with broken ribs.
Don Meredith is probably best remembered for his remarkable broadcasting career which began in the broadcast booth with Howard Cosell and Keith Jackson and the birth of Monday Night Football. Funny, warm and knowledgeable, America fell in love with Dandy Don, and many credit him for MNF’s immediate success which also led to the widespread popularity of the NFL.
Who can ever forget hearing Meredith sing the Willie Nelson classic, “Turn Out the Lights” whenever a team was facing imminent defeat.
Meredith blazed his own path, as one paper put it, it was one that was followed by John Madden a few years later – by retiring early from football after great success and finding even greater success in broadcasting, accentuated by his larger-than-life personality.
I’m really gonna miss Dandy Don. He was one of the best personalities of the game, but more important than that he was a charitable person who always gave back to his fans and his community.
I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to end this post, than with the line from the song that he sang to us so many times.
“Turn out the lights, the party’s over. They say that all good things must end.”
Rest in Peace, Dandy Don. You will be missed.