Posts

Ryan’s Tribute To Landry

In our first pre-season game did anyone notice the defense ran a 4-3 flex defense on the first play?
There were three linebackers on the field and in the middle was a player wearing the No. 54. Cowboys fans were taken back to a time, when the Cowboy’s first and only coach, wearing his suit and his famous hat was standing on the sideline.

On the first play from scrimmage, new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan called for the team’s starters to line up in the 4-3 Flex, a formation conceived by Tom Landry — the legendary coach whose fingerprints are all over this franchise.

“Without living in the past, we try to put that in front of our players to understand what the tradition means, what the star means, what the standard is and all that,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “I think it fits in with all of that. It was Rob’s idea all the way. He brought it up to me and I said I love that. That’s tremendous.”

The Cowboys worked on the formation in practice and didn’t wait long to show it to fans expecting to see one of Ryan’s cutting-edge defensive alignments. Instead, they watched No. 54, reserve linebacker Kenwin Cummings, jump in a three-point stance and play the role of Randy White, the Hall-of-Fame defensive tackle who was the centerpiece of the “Doomsday Defense” that scared opponents in the 1970’s.

It also proved effective. Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware batted down Denver quarterback Kyle Orton’s pass at the line of scrimmage. After the game, he beamed when reminded of the play — one that seemed ripped from the Cowboys’ glorious past.

“It was a tribute,” Ware said.

A tribute that I would of never dreamed would come from Rob Ryan. My hats goes off to you Coach Ryan! It shows that you understand the history of the Dallas Cowboys and respect that. That alone makes this Cowboy Fan have respect for you.

54 Chuck Howley – Linebacker – 1961-1973

When you talk about Cowboys who have beaten the odds, Chuck Howley is one of the first players to come to mind. His story is a remarkable one when you consider that for a time, nobody ever thought he would be able play football again after suffering a devastating injury in only his second season as a pro.

Howley was a tremendous athlete and one of the most versatile college players in history, being able to play at every position before deciding he wanted to focus on being a guard and center for West Virginia University. He was a three-time All-Southern Conference selection and was the Southern Conference Player of the Year in 1957.

In 1958, Howley was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the NFL Draft, but after a season ending knee injury in 1959, he was forced to announce his retirement believing he would never be able to play football again. It was a sad end to what started out as very promising career… or was it?

However, in 1961 with his knee fully healed, Chuck Howley decided to make a comeback, but the Bears believing he was finished had no interest in bringing him back. Big mistake. Tom Landry was very interested and the Dallas Cowboys traded a couple of draft picks to the Chicago Bears for his rights, and thus began his remarkable career as one of the best defensive players in team history.

Chuck Howley had a punishing style of play and was known for his ability to impact a game with his deceptive speed and blistering tackles. He was one of the best outside linebackers in the league and certainly one of the best ever to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

He teamed up with Dave Edwards and Lee Roy Jordan to form one of the greatest linebacking corps in NFL history and helped form what would become the legendary “Doomsday Defense“.

He played 14 seasons for the Cowboys tying him for the second longest tenure in franchise history, and was selected to six Pro Bowls during that span.

Howley helped lead the team to five Eastern Conference Titles, two NFL Championship games and two Super Bowls. He holds the distinction of being the first defensive player ever to win a Super Bowl MVP, as well as being the first player from a losing team ever to named MVP in Super Bowl V.

In 1976, Chuck Howley was the fourth player to be inducted into the Ring of Honor at Texas Stadium.

21 Deion Sanders – Cornerback – 1995-1999

When you ask any football fan to name one of the most exciting, colorful, entertaining and outspoken players ever to play in the NFL, the one name that is sure to come up is that of Deion Sanders.

Neon Deion was, and still is, one of the most brightest and entertaining personalities in the NFL, only these days he does most of his entertaining straight from the broadcast booth.

Deion was destined for stardom from day one. He started out his career in 1988 when he was drafted by New York Yankees. He was then drafted the following year by the Atlanta Falcons with the fifth overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. He showed up wearing thousands of dollars of diamonds and gold including a flashy silk shirt embroidered with the words “Prime Time.” The name stuck with him.

Sanders had a very successful baseball career and went on to have an even better football career. He became a rare two sport star who made headlines with his play as well as his very controversial comments. He was loved and hated by millions of fans across the country.

For his first five seasons in the NFL, Deion Sanders played for the Atlanta Falcons and was the best cornerback in the league and one of the best return specialists in NFL history. He was as dynamic a player as there ever was in the game. He then signed a one-year deal with San Francisco, and became the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. His four tackles and interception helped the 49ers beat San Diego 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX.

Soon after that, in 1995, Sanders signed a huge contract to play with the Dallas Cowboys. He was to get a $13 million dollar signing bonus, but because Jerry Jones was superstitious, he received $12,999,999.99, a penny less. With that contract, Sanders became the highest paid defensive player in the NFL and he earned every single penny of it. He could have signed for more money with the Eagles and the Raiders, but he chose the Cowboys because Jerry Jones promised Sanders that he would be able to play on offense as well as defense, the one thing Sanders wanted more than anything.

“Playing in the NFL is the ultimate high. When I get my hands on that football something crazy comes over me, it electrifies me. When I get on that field, I don’t ever want to come off that turf until the game is over and I scored the winning touchdown. I’m prime time, baby.”

Sanders was an immediate sensation on both sides of the ball. His speed and elusiveness was too much for opposing teams to handle. He was a game-breaker and helped the Cowboys march to another division title. His presence at cornerback helped the Cowboyss win the Super Bowl that season.

In that game, he became the only player in NFL history to catch a pass and make an interception in the Super Bowl.

In 1996, Sanders started all 16 games at cornerback and eight at wide receiver to become the first two-way NFL player in 34 years. But make no mistake, with eight Pro Bowl selections as a cornerback, defense is where Sanders really shined.

During his 14-year NFL career, Deion Sanders was a perennial All-Pro and one of the most feared pass defenders to ever play the game. He is still the only player to have appeared in a Super Bowl and a World Series.

On February 5, 2011, Deion Sanders reached the pinnacle of his football career and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was his first year of eligibility.

The following day, at Super Bowl XLV in Cowboys Stadium, the NFL chose Deion Sanders to perform the pre-game coin toss. Needless to say, as soon as he emerged to perform the honor, the Cowboys Stadium crowd went wild and he nearly brought the house down.

“They almost did it. They almost made old Deion cry.”

He will forever be remembered as one of the greatest athletes in all of sports, and one of the most electrifying players the NFL has ever seen. Sanders certainly lived up to his name – he was and will always be “Prime Time”.

22 Emmitt Smith – Running Back – 1990-2002

The Cowboys have had no shortage of legendary players and all-time NFL greats in their history, but only one of them comes to mind when you are asked to name the greatest player ever to wear the Dallas Cowboys uniform – yes, I’m talking about the legendary running back, Number 22, Emmitt Smith.

Easily one of the fiercest competitors of his era, Smith was the ultimate warrior on the gridiron. He was epic in stature and unsurpassed as a player.

The NFL’s all time leading rusher had it all and I’m not just talking about his enormous athletic ability. He was a great and charismatic leader, a passionate player who loved the game, a positive influence who made those around him better, and one of the classiest players that football has ever known.

Emmitt Smith burst onto the national scene while playing running back for the University of Florida. He set many school records as a Gator including their single game and season rushing records, and all of their scoring records. After three years at Florida he had scored 37 touchdowns, had 23 100-yard rushing games, was a NCAA All-American and still holds 58 school records. Emmitt opted not to complete his senior year and decided to enter the NFL draft.

After posting the worst record in franchise history at 1-15, the Cowboys drafted Emmitt Smith in the first round of the 1990 draft. Head coach Jimmy Johnson felt that Emmitt was the kind of player who could be the cornerstone of the team’s offense. He was right.

Over the next twelve seasons, Emmitt captured the hearts of Cowboy fans everywhere with his intensity and hard-nosed style of play. Together with Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman they formed the most lethal offensive punch that the game had ever seen. Emmitt Smith had real nose for the end zone and was nearly unstoppable inside the ten-yard line. During his career in Dallas, he was able to help lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowl Championships, lead the NFL in rushing four times, was the league MVP in 1993, and MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII. He was selected to eight Pro Bowls and was the first player in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards in 11 consecutive seasons.

Emmitt Smith now holds the NFL record in career rushing yards with 18,355, breaking the previous record held by his childhood idol, and former great, Walter Payton. Besides this prestigious record, Emmitt holds over a dozen other NFL records including the all time career rushing touchdown record with 166 scores. He is one of only two non-kickers to score over 1000 points in his career, the other being Jerry Rice.

On September 19, 2005, Emmitt Smith was enshrined in the Cowboys Ring of Honor along with his former teammates Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin – The triplets.

However, the ultimate honor would come five years later when Canton came calling and Emmitt Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010. His legacy and his greatness will now be etched in the annals football immortality.

48 Daryl Johnston – Fullback – 1989-1999

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.

74 Bob Lilly – Defensive Tackle – 1961-1974

Many great players have worn the Dallas Cowboys uniform with pride and distinction during the teams glorious 50 year history. None however, can lay claim to the ultimate team nickname, “Mr. Cowboy” save one, the great Bob Lilly.

Though there are many current and former Cowboys who deserve their due recognition for helping the Dallas Cowboys become and maintain the title of “America’s Team”, a strong case can be made that if not for Bob Lilly, it may have never happened.

Bob Lilly is considered by most fans to be the best Defensive Tackle in Cowboy history. A fact that cannot be disputed.

That said, it’s only a small part of Lilly’s amazing legacy and the impact he made on a young franchise that would soon become one of the juggernauts of the NFL.

Bob Lilly was born in 1939 and went to Texas Christian University where he became a star defensive end and was named to the All-America team. As part of this honor he received a camera as one of his awards, a gift that would surely impact the rest of his life.

In 1961 Bob was drafted with first overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys, thus becoming the first ever draft pick in franchise history. He would not disappoint.

Though he was originally drafted as a defensive end, in his third year with the Cowboys, coach Tom Landry switched his position to defensive tackle where he would become one of the best at his position in the NFL for many years to come.

“The competition is what I love,” Lilly once said. “That makes me a lot more intense. Personalities don’t enter into it at all. My objective is to get the man with the ball. Nobody better get in my way.”

Lilly was a punishing defender and his tough demeanor and sheer determination made him the undisputed leader of the Cowboys’ famous “Doomsday Defense’. Lilly was so unstoppable, that he was regularly double and triple teamed for the majority of his career.

He was selected to the Pro Bowl a then record 11 times between 1962 and 1973, and Lilly was also a seven time first team All Pro selection.

During his long 14 year Hall of Fame career he was as durable as they came missing only one game to a leg injury.

Lilly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility, and was the first player who spent his entire career with the Cowboys to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He is a member of the All Century Team and in 1999 was ranked number 10 on the “100 Greatest Football Players” by the Sporting News. Sports Illustrated calls him the greatest Defensive Tackle in NFL history.

In addition to being the Cowboys’ first ever draft pick, when all was said and done, “Mr. Cowboy” would also become the first player ever to be inducted into the “Ring of Honor”. He is the only Dallas Cowboy to wear the #74, and is the only number unofficially retired by the team.

“A man like that comes along once in a lifetime,” late Cowboys head coach Tom Landry once said. “He is something a little bit more than great. Nobody is better than Bob Lilly.”

A true iron man, Lilly is the Cowboys’ all-time leader in consecutive games played at 196, is tied for second with 14 seasons played and second all-time with 194 games started. Lilly led the Cowboys in sacks three consecutive years, beginning with his rookie season. No player ever to wear the Cowboys uniform was more deserving of the name Mr. Cowboy.

70 Rayfield Wright – Offensive Tackle – 1967-1979

Many people never thought Rayfield Wright had any chance of making it in the NFL. For Rayfield, this was nothing new. He has been defying the odds ever since he was a child growing up in poverty in the deep south.

After lettering in basketball in high school, he went to Fort Valley State University where he was named All-American. In 1967, he was drafted by the Cowboys in the 7th round and his prospects of making the team were slim at best. However, he forced his way onto the team through his hard work and sheer determination, and for the first three years of his career, he was used in a variety of roles that included tight end, defensive lineman, and offensive tackle.

In 1969 he got his big break when he replaced an injured Ralph Neely at offensive tackle. He would never look back. For the next 11 seasons Rayfield Wright started at right tackle and became one of the best players at his position ever to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

He was selected to the Pro Bowl for six straight seasons, but Cowboys fans best remember Rayfield for helping to lead the team to five Super Bowls and winning two of them. Only one other player in NFL history has appeared in more Super Bowls than Wright, and he is one of only 13 players in NFL history to have played in five Super Bowls.

While he was on the team the Cowboys led the league in offense five times. He was the co-captain of the Cowboys for seven years and helped the team win ten division titles and six conference titles.

In 2004, the Dallas Cowboys inducted Rayfield Wright into the Ring of Honor, and two years later in 2006, he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

55 Lee Roy Jordan – Linebacker – 1963-1976

Lee Roy Jordan began his amazing football career playing linebacker for the University of Alabama from 1960-1962. While he was there he led his team to winning seasons each year, including a perfect season that culminated in a National Championship in his sophomore year. During his senior year, he was a first team All-American and had his most memorable game while playing in the Orange Bowl when he made an amazing 30 tackles against the University of Oklahoma. For all of his stellar achievements, Jordan was enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

In 1963, Lee Roy Jordan was drafted by the Cowboys in the first round of the NFL Draft and was the sixth overall pick. He became one of the key members of the Cowboys’ famed “Doomsday Defense.” He was an excellent defender against the run and the pass, and had great instincts that made him one of the best linebackers of his era. He also had a great nose for the ball and is currently second all-time in fumble recoveries for the Dallas Cowboys.

Late Cowboys head coach Tom Landry, knew he had something special in Lee Roy Jordan who he loved for his tremendous leadership on and off the field, and for his fierce competitiveness.

“He was a great competitor,” Landry once said. “He was not big for a middle linebacker, but because of his competitiveness, he was able to play the game and play it well. His leadership was there and he demanded a lot out of the people around him as he did of himself.”

Jordan played 14 seasons for the Cowboys and during that time, Jordan became a two-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler while playing in three Super Bowls and five NFC Championship games.
Jordan also holds the Cowboys record for career solo tackles with 743, a record that has now lasted over 35 years. He is also second in career assisted tackles with 493. His combined tackles of 1,236 is still a franchise best!

His leadership and competitiveness was legendary and in 1989 he became the seventh member of the Cowboys Ring of Honor.

88 Drew Pearson – Wide Receiver – 1973-1983

One Cowboy who is always near and dear to my heart is wide receiver Drew Pearson who is best known as the player who caught the famous “Hail Mary” pass thrown by the great Roger Staubach.

Drew Pearson, or “Mr. Clutch” as he was commonly called, didn’t start his career out as wide receiver, and in fact he replaced Hall of Famer, Joe Theismann, at quarterback, when he began his football career at South River High School.
Soon after, he attended the University of Tulsa and graduated in 1972, but not before winning the university’s President Award given each year to their best athlete.

Unfortunately, Drew was not selected in the NFL draft, mostly because he was a wide receiver in a run based offense while in college. However, that did not stop the Cowboys from signing Pearson as a free agent in 1973. They didn’t know it at the time, but Pearson would blossom into one of the greatest wide receivers ever to play the game.

Drew got his nickname because of his many game-winning catches and his ability to make a clutch play whenever his team needed one. Legendary Cowboys head coach, Tom Landry, had this to say after the famous “Hail Mary” game,

“It was amazing, unbelievable. I can’t believe the ball stuck on Drew’s hip like that. It was a thousand-to-one shot, but I tell you, I’ll take it. The game was out of my hands.”

Drew Pearson helped the Cowboys to three Super Bowl appearances and a victory in Super Bowl XII in 1978. He was named All-Pro 3 times and made Pro Bowl appearances in 1974, 1976 and 1977. He led the NFC in pass receptions in 1976 with 58.

Pearson was also a great leader and served as a captain for the Cowboys for four years.

He ended his marvelous career with 489 receptions and 7,822 receiving yards, and 50 touchdowns, and was recently named to the NFL’s 1970′s All-Decade Team by Sports Illustrated.

Since his retirement in 1983, Drew has gone on to become a sports broadcaster for CBS and HBO; and he also hosted the Dallas Cowboys post-game show.

He will always be remembered as one of the greatest receivers ever to wear the Dallas Cowboys uniform, but unfortunately his story is not one with a happy ending.

Despite all of Pearson’s amazing accomplishments and a wonderful and storied career as a Dallas Cowboy, he has yet to be inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor because of a dispute with team owner Jerry Jones.

It was Drew Pearson who originally gave fame and notoriety to uniform number 88. Later on, a kid by the name of Michael Irvin chose that number to honor him and added even more magic and mystique to the number 88. Irvin’s name is deservedly enshrined in the Ring of Honor, while Drew Pearson simply watches and waits.

Regardless of what Jones’ off the field differences are with Pearson, his refusal to acknowledge and honor one of the greatest players ever to wear the Cowboys uniform is both petty and sad.

Luckily, die-hard Cowboys fans across the country, already regard Mr. Clutch as one of the all time Dallas Cowboys, it’s too bad the Dallas Cowboys don’t see it that way.

Portfolio Items