The Dallas Cowboys‘ 60-year history splits into two chapters: Tom Landry and Jerry Jones.
It’s much more than that, of course, but the eras are marked by the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach with his fedora and the Hall of Fame owner and general manager with a never-ending twinkle in his eye.
From 1960 through 1988, Landry was the Cowboys, the only coach the organization knew. Along with president and general manager Tex Schramm and vice president of personnel Gil Brandt, America’s Team was born. They were Next Year’s Champs before winning two Super Bowls in the 1970s. The roster had some all-time greats from their first draft pick, Bob Lilly, in 1961 to arguably the Cowboys’ best draft pick, Roger Staubach, a 10th-round selection in 1964.
In addition to Lilly and Staubach, the Landry era had five more Hall of Fame players in Tony Dorsett, Bob Hayes, Mel Renfro, Randy White and Rayfield Wright. Schramm and Brandt also have busts at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
In 1989, Jones purchased the Cowboys, paying $140 million for the team and Texas Stadium. Today, the Cowboys are the richest franchise in the world, valued by Forbes at more than $5 billion. The Cowboys won Super Bowls in three of Jones’ first seven years as owner.
The Jones era has six Hall of Fame players: Troy Aikman, Larry Allen, Charles Haley, Michael Irvin (who was Landry’s final first-round draft pick in 1988), Deion Sanders and Emmitt Smith. And the franchise’s other Super Bowl-winning coach, Jimmy Johnson, will join them in the Hall this summer.
In 2020, the Cowboys celebrate their 60th birthday.
“Obviously this franchise has come a long way in those 60 years,” Dorsett said. “That Cowboys name, it means a lot in the National Football League. To have been a player on a team that’s quote-unquote America’s Team is a good feeling.”
There was once a divide between eras, real or perceived, because Jones fired Landry almost immediately after buying the team.
Guard Nate Newton played three seasons for Landry and 10 more after the arrival of Jones and Johnson, making the Pro Bowl six times.
“Jerry had to go to Coach Landry’s house and say, ‘Hey, man, this is it. Sorry, we’re going in a different direction,'” Newton said. “When he did that, 80% of [Landry’s] players had to go that direction, too. Within two years, all those guys were basically gone, so our paths didn’t cross. Mr. Jones, he was cordial and nice. He knew you, but it was all about what Jimmy wanted and Jimmy thought. There really wasn’t a connection because Jimmy wouldn’t let there be none. It was how Jimmy wanted to run things.”
“Obviously this franchise has come a long way in those 60 years. That Cowboys’ name, it means a lot in the National Football League. To have been a player on a team that’s quote-unquote America’s Team is a good feeling.”
Former Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett
Newton said he might feel that way because he was a former Landry player. He remembers summer parties at defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones’ house and playing basketball with linebacker Eugene Lockhart.
Cornerback Larry Brown was drafted by the Cowboys in 1991, when Newton, Mark Tuinei, Bill Bates and Jim Jeffcoat were the lone key holdovers from the Landry teams. He did not feel the awkwardness. He remembers playing poker with Tony Hill and Drew Pearson and basketball games at Staubach’s house.
“They were like big brothers to us,” Brown, the Super Bowl XXX Most Valuable Player, said. “It was a brotherhood, a fraternity. That’s why a lot of guys stay here. You look at the guys who come through the Cowboys, a lot remain here for that reason. We bleed blue.”
As Jerry Jones combs through the memories made since he became what he calls the steward of the Cowboys, he said he wishes he had included the Landry era more than he has over the years.
“Off the field, I have often said to a lot of people, that’s an area that is very substantive to what the franchise is about,” Jones said. “Tradition, it’s one of the four cornerstones of running a franchise. You can enhance tradition by incorporating them in the promotion of the franchise today.
“These guys have really distinguished themselves. I look at the top 100 players, some of the mentions they’ve got. The running backs, Herschel Walker, Tony Dorsett mentioned prominently up there. Roger Staubach up there. Obviously [Bob] Lilly. Of course, I’m so into Troy Aikman, and Emmitt and Michael Irvin, some of those guys like that … but I have to give Michael Irvin some of Landry. It wasn’t but a year or two, but I’ve got to give him some Landry. It has been very good, but I haven’t been as good as I could’ve been to help it. I want to do that more as we go forward.”
Jerry Jones-Era Team
QB: Troy Aikman (1989-2000)
Accolades: He was a six-time Pro Bowl pick and the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII. In 1997, he was named the NFL’s Man of the Year. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Why him? He is the epitome of a winner after opening his career with an 0-11 mark in 1989, taking a beating as a rookie. He could have compiled more prolific passing statistics, but understood winning was more important. He finished his career with 32,942 yards on 2,898-of-4,715 passing with 165 touchdowns and 141 interceptions.
RB: Emmitt Smith (1990-2002)
Accolades: He was an eight-time Pro Bowl pick and was named a first-team All-Pro from 1992 to ’95. He became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with the Cowboys, breaking Walter Payton’s record. In 1993, he was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and the MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII. He was a four-time rushing champ. In 1990, he was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Year. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Why him? His arrival in 1990 helped lead the Cowboys to their Super Bowl success over the next five years. He had 11 1,000-yard seasons, an NFL record, and had 164 rushing touchdowns, an NFL record. He was dangerous as a pass-catcher (515 receptions, 3,224 yards, 11 TDs) in his pro career. He was terrific in the postseason as well, rushing for 1,586 yards and scoring 21 touchdowns in 17 games.
FB: Daryl Johnston (1989-99)
Accolades: He was a Pro Bowl pick in 1993 and ’94.
Why him? He was a mix of old-school fullback, opening holes for Smith, and new-school pass-catching weapon, with 294 receptions, including a career-high 50 in 1993. He scored 22 total touchdowns.
WR: Michael Irvin (1988-99)
Accolades: He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and was named an All-Pro in 1991. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
Why him? He was the heartbeat of the Cowboys’ three Super Bowl teams of the 1990s. At the time of his retirement, which came earlier than expected because of a neck injury, he was the franchise leader in receptions (750) and yards (11,904). He had seven 1,000-yard seasons and six 100-yard games in the playoffs.
WR: Dez Bryant (2010-17)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl three times (2013, ’14, ’16) and was an All-Pro pick in 2014. He led the NFL in touchdown receptions in 2014 with 16.
Why him? Nobody has caught more touchdown passes (73) in franchise history than Bryant. From 2012 through 2014, he was among the most dominant receivers in the NFL, averaging 91 catches for 1,312 yards and 13 touchdowns during that span. He caught 531 passes for 7,459 yards, which rank third and fifth, respectively, in franchise history.
TE: Jason Witten (2003-17, 2019)
Accolades: He has been to the Pro Bowl 11 times, tied for the most in team history, and was a two-time All-Pro. He was named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012.
Why him? Nobody has played in more seasons, played more games, caught more passes or had more receiving yards in franchise history than Witten. He missed one game in his career, with a broken jaw as a rookie in 2003. He set the NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end with 110 in 2012, which has since been broken. He has four 1,000-yard seasons. Only Tony Gonzalez has more catches and yards as a tight end in NFL history.
OT: Tyron Smith (2011-present)
Accolades: He has been named to the Pro Bowl the past seven seasons and has twice been named to the All-Pro team. He was named to the All-Rookie team in 2011.
Why him? When coaches describe what they want in a tackle, they talk about Smith. He has the size, strength and athleticism of the best to have played. He is technically proficient as well. Injuries have bothered him the past few seasons, but he continues to play at a high level.
OT: Erik Williams (1991-2000)
Accolades: He was a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro.
Why him? A third-round pick from Central State, he was a dominant part of The Great Wall of Dallas. His work against Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White was legendary and he helped protect Aikman and open holes for Emmitt Smith. If not for a horrific car accident in his prime, Williams could have been one of the most decorated linemen in team history and potentially a Hall of Famer.
OG: Zack Martin (2014-present)
Accolades: He has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his six seasons and has been a first- or second-team All-Pro since the Cowboys took him in the first round of the 2014 draft.
Why him? Many consider him to be the best guard in the NFL right now, and if his career continues to trend in this direction, he could test Allen as the best guard in team history. He has incredible balance and leverage while also being able to get to defenders on the move. He has missed two games in his six-year career.
OG: Larry Allen (1994-05)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl in 10 of his 12 seasons with the Cowboys and was a seven-time All-Pro. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
Why him? He might be the best guard to have played and potentially the strongest. He played every position on the offensive line but center. If an offensive lineman can be feared, Allen was. He was mean, tough and nasty, but he also had tremendous athleticism. Only Witten and Lilly (11) have played in more Pro Bowls as Cowboys than Allen.
C: Travis Frederick (2013-present)
Accolades: He has been named to the Pro Bowl five times in his career and is a three-time All-Pro.
Why him? And to think the Cowboys were harshly critiqued for taking Frederick in the first round in 2013 because of a slow 40-yard dash time. He has started every game he has played in his career and is considered one of the smartest centers in the NFL. He missed the 2018 season because of an autoimmune disease, but returned to form the more he played in 2019.
DE: DeMarcus Ware (2005-13)
Accolades: He went to the Pro Bowl in seven of his nine seasons with the Cowboys and was a first-team All-Pro four times (2007-09, 2011).
Why him? He might not have been Bill Parcells’ first choice in the first round, but the coach instantly compared him to Lawrence Taylor. He didn’t disappoint. He is the franchise leader in sacks with 117 and led the league in sacks in 2008 (20) and 2010 (15.5). In 2011, he had 19.5 sacks. He was the best pass-rusher of his generation and is a certain Hall of Fame pick.
DE: Charles Haley (1992-96)
Accolades: He earned two of his five Pro Bowl appearances while with the Cowboys and was named a first-team All-Pro in 1994. He won three of his five Super Bowls with the Cowboys. In 1994, he was named the NFC’s defensive player of the year. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
Why him? Jerry Jones said the Cowboys could not spell Super Bowl until they acquired Haley in a trade from San Francisco. He immediately paid dividends with the Cowboys, winning back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992 and ’93. He had 34 sacks in five seasons and changed the demeanor of the defense with his arrival.
DT: La’Roi Glover (2002-05)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his seasons with the Cowboys and was an All-Pro pick in 2002 and ’03.
Why him? He might be the best free-agent signing the Cowboys have ever had (after he left New Orleans). He had 21.5 sacks in his time with the Cowboys, using strong hands, quickness and leverage to keep offensive linemen at bay. The Cowboys’ switch to the 3-4 scheme ultimately led to his departure.
DT: Jay Ratliff (2005-13)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl from 2008 to 2011 and was named a first-team All-Pro in 2009.
Why him? An afterthought as a seventh-round pick, he developed into one of the game’s best nose tackles, even if he was not the traditional size for a 3-4 nose tackle. He used quickness and leverage to pressure the quarterback and disrupt running plays in the backfield. He had 27 of his 35 career sacks with the Cowboys, but his time with the team ended poorly over an injury dispute.
LB: Ken Norton (1988-93)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1993, the first Cowboys linebacker so honored since 1982.
Why him? He led the Cowboys in tackles in their first two Super Bowl seasons of the ’90s and was named to the Pro Bowl in 1993 despite playing with a torn biceps. He scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl XXVII win. The institution of the salary cap brought an end to his tenure with the Cowboys and led him to San Francisco.
LB: Dexter Coakley (1997-04)
Accolades: He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie team in 1997.
Why him? His Pro Bowl honors earned him the spot over Dat Nguyen. He started 127 of 128 games in his time with the Cowboys and is the fourth-leading tackler in team history (1,046). He is also tied for the team record in defensive touchdowns with five.
LB: Sean Lee (2010-present)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015 and ’16.
Why him? Injuries robbed him of 53 games during his time with the Cowboys, but he was as productive as any linebacker Dallas has had when he was on the field. He is one of the few players to intercept both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady among his 14 career picks. He holds the team record for tackles in a game (22) and had four other games with at least 20. He was also an incomparable leader.
CB: Terence Newman (2003-11)
Accolades: He was a two-time Pro Bowl pick (2007, 2009) and was the team’s first-round pick (No. 5 overall) in 2003, Parcells’ first year with the team.
Why him? He had 32 of his 42 career interceptions in his nine seasons with the Cowboys. He had three interceptions in a game in 2003, which is the most by a rookie in team history and tied for the most in a game in franchise history.
CB: Deion Sanders (1995-99)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl in four of his five seasons in Dallas and was an All-Pro pick all five seasons. He was named to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team. In 2011, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Why him? When he joined the Cowboys as a free agent in 1995, he flipped the balance of power in the NFL. He had 14 of his 53 career interceptions while in Dallas, and teams rarely threw in his direction. He was also a dynamic returner and even contributed as a receiver, catching 36 passes in 1996.
S: Darren Woodson (1992-03)
Accolades: He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a four-time All-Pro. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor.
Why him? He is the franchise’s all-time leader in tackles and deserves to be more in the discussion for selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He moved from linebacker in college to safety with the Cowboys and was able to play all over the field, including in the slot against receivers. He was a feared hitter and one of the best leaders the Cowboys had.
S: Roy Williams (2002-08)
Accolades: A first-round pick, he was named to the Pro Bowl from 2003 through 2007. The only defensive backs with more in team history are Hall of Famers Mel Renfro and Cliff Harris.
Why him? He was one of the most feared hitters in his day, although his horse-collar tackle was eventually banned. While coverage was not his strong suit, he intercepted 20 passes in his career. He also forced nine fumbles, recovered 11 and had 7.5 sacks. He also scored three touchdowns.
K: Dan Bailey (2011-17)
Accolades: He was an All-Rookie team pick as an undrafted free agent and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015.
Why him? He was almost an afterthought when he was signed out of Oklahoma State, but for a spell he was the most accurate kicker in NFL history. He made 26 consecutive attempts in his first season, an NFL rookie record. He made 27 field goal tries of at least 50 yards with the Cowboys. Not only was he accurate, he was also clutch.
P: Mat McBriar (2004-11)
Accolades: He was a two-time Pro Bowl pick (2006, 2010).
Why him? In 2010, he led the NFL in gross punting average (47.9 yards) and net average (41.7 yards) and had 22 punts downed inside the red zone. He was one of the first to perfect the flip-flop punt used to pin opposing teams deep.
ST: Bill Bates (1993-97)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl and an All-Pro in 1984 and is largely considered the best special-teams player in Dallas history.
Why him? He is one of the most beloved Cowboys. He very easily could have been the special-teams pick for the Landry era, as well, since his career ran over both eras. While known for his special-teams play, he also had 14 career interceptions.
Tom Landry-Era Team
QB: Roger Staubach (1969-79)
Accolades: He was a six-time Pro Bowl pick and MVP of Super Bowl VI. In 1978, he was named the NFL’s Man of the Year. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
Why him? Quite simply, he’s Captain America of America’s Team. He invented the “Hail Mary.” He led the Cowboys to the playoffs in all but one of his seasons as the true starting quarterback. He led the franchise to two Super Bowl wins and four title game appearances. He was the king of the late-game heroics with 23 fourth-quarter comeback victories, including 14 in the final two minutes of regulation or overtime.
RB: Tony Dorsett (1977-87)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl four times and was an All-Pro once. He had eight 1,000-yard seasons. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Why him? At the time of his retirement he was the NFL’s second-leading rusher behind Walter Payton. He went from winning the Heisman Trophy at Pittsburgh to winning a Super Bowl as a rookie for the Cowboys. He shares an NFL record that cannot be broken with a 99-yard touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 2, 1983.
FB: Don Perkins (1961-68)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl six times, was the Rookie of the Year in 1961 and an All-NFL pick in 1962. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor.
Why him? He was more of a runner in his career than blocker, but it’s hard to ignore his résumé in his selection over Walt Garrison. He finished in the top 10 in rushing in each of his eight seasons and was the first Cowboys runner to top 6,000 yards for his career.
WR: Drew Pearson (1973-83)
Accolades: He was a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro in his 11 seasons with the Cowboys. His teams never had a losing record. He is the only member of the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade team who is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor.
Why him? He came in as an undrafted free agent and left as the Original No. 88. He was one of the most clutch receivers in the game, with the Hail Mary serving as his signature reception. Pearson had four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 1974 through 1977 and caught a pass in a team-record 22 straight playoff games. He finished his career with 489 catches for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns.
WR: Bob Hayes (1965-74)
Accolades: He was a three-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro in a 10 years with the Cowboys. He opened his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 1965 and 1966. He holds or is tied for 11 club records. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Why him? As the World’s Fastest Human with his Olympic success, he changed the way the game was played. Because of his speed, defenses had to adopt zone concepts. He averaged 20 yards per reception for his career and had at least 10 touchdown catches in each of his first four seasons and five of his first six.
TE: Billy Joe DuPree (1973-83)
Accolades: He was selected to the Pro Bowl three consecutive years (1976 through 1978) and led the Cowboys with 66 receiving yards in Super Bowl XII.
Why him? He never missed a game in his career, taking over for Mike Ditka as a rookie and leading the team in receiving yards and finishing second in receiving touchdowns with five. He finished his career with 267 receptions for 3,565 yards and 42 touchdowns. DuPree’s 41 receiving touchdowns is second-most by a tight end in team history.
OT: Rayfield Wright (1967-79)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl six games and an All-Pro four times in earning a spot on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1970s. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Why him? After playing tight end and defensive end, he became one of the best tackles in football. The Cowboys’ offense never ranked worse than sixth during his career and he never played on a team with a losing record.
OT: Ralph Neely (1965-77)
Accolades: He was named All-Pro from 1966 through 69 at right tackle before moving to left tackle for the 1970 season.
Why him? He started all but four games in his career with the Cowboys and was an immediate difference-maker as a rookie. He was agile and strong and helped protect Don Meredith and Staubach playing both tackle spots. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1960s.
OG: John Niland (1969-79)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl six times in his nine-year run with the Cowboys and was the first offensive lineman Dallas selected with a first-round pick.
Why him? He is one of four offensive linemen in team history to be named to the Pro Bowl at least six times. He missed two games in his career before he was traded to Philadelphia.
OG: Herb Scott (1975-84)
Accolades: He was a three-time Pro Bowler and was a two-time All-Pro as a 13th-round pick in the famed “Dirty Dozen” draft in 1975.
Why him? He was so good that Landry felt comfortable in trading Niland, a six-time Pro Bowler, which netted the Cowboys Tony Hill.
C: Tom Rafferty (1976-89)
Accolades: He played in 167 consecutive games, which at the time of his retirement was the most in team history.
Why him? One of the more difficult decisions to make with Dave Manders and John Fitzgerald also in consideration, but Rafferty’s length of service with the team won out.
DE: Harvey Martin (1973-83)
Accolades: He earned Pro Bowl honors from 1976 through 1979 and was a first-team All-Pro in 1977. He was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1977 by UPI and was co-MVP of Super Bowl XII.
Why him? Sacks did not become an official NFL stat until 1982, but he finished his career with 114 sacks, which was a team record, and in 1977, he recorded 23 sacks. He was a dominant pass-rusher on a dominant Doomsday defense.
DT: Randy White (1975-88)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl nine times and was an All-Pro eight times. In 1978, he was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Why him? He’s The Manster. His career did not take off until he moved from linebacker to defensive tackle in his third season. He remains third in team history in tackles with 1,104 and recorded 111 sacks. He missed one game in his 14-year career.
DT: Bob Lilly (1961-74)
Accolades: He was Cowboys’ first draft pick in 1961 and proceeded to have one of the best careers in team history. He went to the Pro Bowl 11 times, tied for the most in franchise history. He was a seven-time All-Pro and was named to the NFL’s 75th-anniversary team. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
Why him? He’s Mr. Cowboy, a legend. He was impossible to block as the most imposing figure on the original Doomsday defense. At the time of his retirement, he was the franchise leader in games played and consecutive games played.
DE: Ed “Too Tall” Jones (1974-78, 1980-89)
Accolades: He was a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. The Cowboys traded up to the No. 1 overall pick to select him out of Tennessee State. His 15 years of service with the Cowboys is tied for the second longest.
Why him? This spot came down to Jones or George Andrie. It went to Jones because he recorded 106 sacks for his career and could have had more had he not taken off the 1979 season to become a heavyweight boxer. An adept pass-rusher, Jones believes the boxing made him a better player because he was in better condition. He had a career-high 13 sacks in 1985.
LB: Lee Roy Jordan (1963-76)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl five times and twice was an All-Pro selection. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor.
Why him? If Lilly was the leader of Doomsday, Jordan was its inspiration. He had 32 interceptions while returning three for touchdowns and recovered 16 fumbles, accomplishments still rank among the best in franchise history.
LB: Chuck Howley (1961-73)
Accolades: He was a six-time Pro Bowl pick and five-time All-Pro and remains the only Super Bowl MVP to come from a losing team (Super Bowl V). He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor.
Why him? At the time of Howley’s retirement, Landry said, “I don’t know that I’ve seen anybody better at linebacker than Howley.” He came to Dallas after a trade from Chicago. He had a nose for the ball with 24 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries. He had a fumble recovery and interception in the Cowboys’ Super Bowl VI win.
LB: Bob Breunig (1975-84)
Accolades: He was a three-time Pro Bowler and led the team in tackles for six straight seasons.
Why him? It was either Breunig or Dave Edwards, which proved to be a difficult decision. Breunig took over for Edwards and then moved to middle linebacker to replace Jordan. His career high for tackles was 18 and he set the team’s single-season tackle mark in 1981 with 167, which has since been broken. At the time of his retirement, only Jordan had more tackles.
CB: Everson Walls (1981-89)
Accolades: In the first nine years of his career in Dallas, he was a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and led the NFL in interceptions three times (1981-82, 1985). The only other player to lead the league in interceptions three times is Hall of Famer Ed Reed.
Why him? He had 11 interceptions in 1981, the most in a season by a Cowboys defender. His 44 interceptions are second most in franchise history. Not bad for an undrafted free agent from Grambling.
CB: Mel Renfro (1964-77)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons and was a four-time All-Pro. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Why him? He is the franchise leader in interceptions with 52. He played running back in college, but Landry saw him as a defensive back. He opened his career as a safety but moved to cornerback. He scored touchdowns on kickoff returns, punt returns, fumble recoveries and interception returns.
S: Cliff Harris (1970-79)
Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl six times and an All-Pro four times, which earned him a spot on the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1970s. In 21 playoff games, he recorded six interceptions. He is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in September.
Why him? Captain Crash signed as an undrafted free agent out of Ouachita Baptist and became a starter in his rookie season. The Cowboys’ defense finished inside the top 10 every season of Harris’ career. He had 29 total interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries.
S: Cornell Green (1962-74)
Accolades: He was a five-time Pro Bowl pick and a three-time All-Pro. He was named to the All-Rookie team in 1962.
Why him? He never played a down of college football, but the Cowboys saw his ability on the basketball court and signed him as an undrafted free agent. He played cornerback and safety and never missed a game. He started 145 consecutive games and recorded 34 interceptions.
K: Efren Herrera (1974-77)
Accolades: In 1977, he was named to the Pro Bowl and was an All-Pro pick.
Why him? In 1976, he tied for the league lead in field goal percentage (78.3%) and in 1977, he made 18 of 29 field goal tries and 39 point-after attempts to finish as the league’s second-leading scorer. He had a career-high 52-yard field goal in 1977.
P: Danny White (1976-88)
Accolades: He held the punting job from 1976 through 1984, averaging a career-best 41.7 yards in 1979 with 21 downed inside the 20 and a long of 73 yards.
Why him? Better known for what he did as a signal-caller after Staubach’s retirement, White was a solid punter for years. As a starting quarterback, he took the Cowboys to three NFC Championship Games and finished with 155 touchdown passes.
ST: Charlie Waters (1970-81)
Accolades: He was a three-time Pro Bowler and made the 1970 All-Rookie team for his work as a safety.
Why him? In his 12 seasons, the Cowboys never had a losing record and missed the playoffs once. He holds the NFL record for most playoff interceptions with nine but once blocked four punts in two straight games.