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Legends of the Star: Mr. Cowboy, Bob Lilly

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”. However, a strong case can be made that if not for Bob Lilly, it may have never happened.

Many of the newer and younger Cowboy fans have all heard of the great  Bob Lilly at one time or another. They may have even heard that he is considered by most 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.

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.

Aside from football, Bob Lilly went on to become a noted photographer, a career that stemmed back to the day he began using the camera he won as an All-American. His interests included photographs of magnificent sunsets, majestic mountain ranges and scenic landscapes that captured all the natural beauty of the Midwest. He has launched a successful business where people can buy some of his most famous photographs.

www.boblilly.com

Cowboy Tidbits

Fullback Deon Anderson could find himself jobless. Currently he is on the injured list after having arthroscopic knee surgery but is expected to be back in uniform by opening day. However his backup Julius Crosslin has been doing a good job filling in for Anderson. The Cowboys are not expected to keep more than one fullback on the roster because they plan on using more two tight end formations. If Crosslin continues to impress, Anderson could be the one looking for a new team, after it was expected Crosslin was the one to be cut.

Sporting News Today is reporting that Crosslin has been solid at the point of attack, playing with good pad level and leverage that opens running lanes. The coaches are also impressed by his hands and say he is doing a good job catching the ball. This was evident on a converted third and 1 play in Friday’s preseason game against Tennessee. Still a bit early to tell how this position battle will end but Crosslin has made the most of his opportunity with Anderson on the sidelines.

We all know and love Jason Witten, one of Tony Romo’s favorite targets. Sporting News is giving fans the opportunity to ask him a question with a chance to have it and Jason’s answer published in an upcoming issue of the magazine. For those interested send your question along with your hometown to yourturn@sportingnews.com.

Know Your Cowboy

With training camp coming to an end and the Boys departing San Antonio for the comfy confines of their new palace, I thought this would be a good time to write the first of what could be many brief bios of current Cowboy players. Just a little something to help the fans get to know your Cowboys a little better.

As I sit here and try to pick one of the many Cowboys to start with, I am watching Fridays preseason game versus the Titans. I just watched a beautiful nine minute eleven second, 90 yard drive end in a Marion Barber 1 yard plunge into the end zone for the first score of the game. This was a thing of beauty, a long drive mixing in a bit of Romo to Roy Williams and some pounding by the Barbarian, a sign of things to come for the season no doubt.

So it would seem the obvious player to start with would be Marion Barber after taking his stroll into the end zone. But … yes I did say but, I am also reading up on some of the players on the roster and I realize I do not know much about this years first draft pick, albeit a third round draft pick, but still our first draft pick.

With their first overall selection of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys chose Jason Williams in the third round (69th overall). This 6 foot 1 inch 238 pound Linebacker out of Western Illinois is expected to be a starter (and a good one) on Special Teams and compete for the Nickle and Dime Linebacker positions, as well as be in the mix for substitutions in the regular defense.

In his college career he was a disruptive player tallying 14 forced fumbles, 289 tackles and 15 sacks. In 2008 he set a school record with 6 forced fumbles in one season and was voted an All-America first-team selection by The NFL Draft Report, The Sporting News, Associated Press, the Sports Network, College Sporting News and the American Football Coaches Association.

In his senior year last year he recorded 67 of his tackles (39 solo) and 4 sacks, showing that as he got older he got better. Hopefully as he transitions into the NFL he will continue to improve his game play and his numbers. This kid has strength and speed and in a few years you probably will see him replace Brookings or someone else as a starter in the defense. The Cowboys may have gotten themselves a steal with this stud.

Oh and by the way, another rushing touchdown, this one by Felix the Great, has the Cowboys up 14-10 at half time.

Protect That Ball!

One thing the Cowboys and Tony Romo are concentrating on in training camp this season is cutting down on his turnovers, especially his fumbles. Romo’s case of Slippery Pigskin syndrome last year made any fan cringe at the sight of him carelessly running around the pocket with the ball unprotected in one hand trying to make a play. Don’t get me wrong we love the heart and effort, but he has to recognize when to eat the ball or throw it away.

So now if he can take what he is working on in camp into games he should be able to cut down on the 21 total turnovers he had last season, 14 being interceptions, 7 LOST fumbles and another 6 that were recovered by Cowboys.

It really hurt Dallas last year in the last game of the season against the Eagles with the winner heading to the playoffs. Romo fumbled twice in that very important painful game, and one of them was returned for a 73 yard touchdown.

Of course he did have a broken Pinkie finger part of last season that may have attributed to some of the fumbles but prior to that he had already lost 3 in the six games before his injury. The seven lost fumbles last season was more than he had as a starter in his first season and a half so I am willing to put most of the blame on that little broken digit.

The Associated Press reported on Sporting News that “early in off season workouts, Romo started talking about cutting down on risky throws and being quicker to take a sack or throw the ball away. He also said he was serious about getting a better grip on the ball while scrambling”.

This became evident on one play in practice when “surrounded in the pocket on one play, he pulled the ball in tight until just before throwing a completion. Romo did the same thing while rolling out to his right near the goal line a few snaps later, instead of holding the ball away from his body with one hand while running like he so often has done in the past”.

Head coach Wade Phillips is pleased on how his quarterback is progressing with this, as well as how he is maturing as a player.

“He’s a natural. He sees so many things and he has such a quick release, and he’s so accurate,” Phillips said. “He just makes fantastic plays. We see it every day on tape. … He makes a throw that you say, `Wow, what a play.’ That’s what the great ones do.”

Its a long season, but lets see how he does this Friday night against Tennessee in the Cowboys new stadium. We should see him play a few more series than he did in the Raider game, which will help him get ready for the games that count.

Another Day In Cowboy Land

For the Dallas Cowboys and their fans the crack of pads, the ear splitting screech of whistles followed by the hollering of instructions usually signifies the approaching end to summer and the beginning of a new season. We are well into training camp with one pre-season game under our belts (shhh lets pretend that didn’t happen).

Roy WilliamsAs is expected and normal across most camps, the Cowboys have had their share of bumps and bruises but (knock on wood) nothing serious. We all held our breaths with the news of Roy Williams’s wrist injury, but the sprain only kept him out of practice for a day. His status for Friday night’s second pre-season game is unknown right now, but I would be surprised if he doesn’t get in for a drive or two.

The secondary got stronger as well with Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins back in practice. Jenkins missed about a week with a sprained right ankle.

Sporting News Today is reporting that backup quarterback Jon Kitna and center Cory Procter have been having trouble with the snap through out camp and it actually carried over to the game against the Raiders which resulted in a 16 yard loss on one play, and a missed field goal on the drive. Obviously it is still early and is something they will continue to work on. Let’s cross our fingers and hope Kitna wont be needed this season anyway.

Bradie James is looking to become a nice compliment to DeMarcus Ware and help take some pressure of him when they attack the quarterback. The Dallas Morning News reports that James had two sacks against the number two offensive line and showed some speed in doing so.

With the dismissal of Terrell Owens the offense is looking to use a two tight end set as another weapon this season. We all know what Jason Witten can do, and now with second year man Martellus Bennett as the second tight end these two make it very hard for opposing defenses to cover. Bennett is a big strong target with good hands and knows how to block as well. This duo is going to be hard to stop, watch out!!

Let’s see how things fare for the Boys on Friday night in their new stadium against the Titans. It will bring us one step closer to the regular season and the hopes and dreams of the Super Bowl.

Former Cowboy Wide Receiver Terry Glenn Arrested

Sporting News is reporting that former starter Terry Glenn was arrested last week for public intoxication and possession of marijuana.

The Dallas Observer reports Irving (Texas) police were called on January 25 after alleged reports came in that Glenn had been spotted roaming the halls of an Irving hotel naked.

The report indicates that he spent the night in jail and posted bail the next morning.

Glenn played for the Cowboys from 2003-2007 and is currently a free agent.