Mooo-ooose… That was the sound that filled a packed Texas Stadium whenever Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston got his hands on the ball or laid down a key block for Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. Johnston was built like a moose and as strong as one too.
He first gained national attention while playing for Syracuse University. He rushed for 1,830 yards and caught 46 passes during his collegiate career and once gained 138 yards rushing, the most by a Syracuse running back since Larry Csonka rushed for 154 yards in 1967. He was an All-American and All-East pick in 1988.
Johnston was drafted by the Cowboys in the second round of the 1989 NFL Draft.
On the day he arrived for his first mini camp, he was nicknamed “Moose” by former teammate Babe Laufenberg. Babe remarked, who’s that big ol’ moose over there during his first team meeting and the name stuck.
Johnston started out as a reserve, but became a full-time starter in 1991 and was a key member of the Cowboys’ three Super Bowl winning teams in 1993, 1994 and 1996. He played 12 seasons for the Cowboys before retiring in 2000. He was a fierce ball carrier but was best known for being the lead blocker for all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith.
He was also a true iron man, having never missed a game in his NFL career, playing in 143 straight games. Every time Johnston touched the ball, “Moose” chants can be heard resonating at Texas Stadium.
He finished his career catching 294 passes for 2,227 yards and 14 touchdowns, as well as 232 rushes for 753 yards and eight touchdowns. He had a career-high, 50 receptions in 1993.
In 2010, when Emmitt Smith gave his Hall of Fame induction speech, he saved his highest praise for Daryl Johnston while trying to fight back the tears and the emotion of explaining just how important Johnston was to Smith’s career.
I was happy for both Emmitt and Daryl during that emotionally charged speech that tugged on our collective heart-strings. It felt like they were both being enshrined in Canton, Ohio on that very memorable and unforgettable day.