With the NFL draft looming this weekend I thought it would be a good time to construct a Top 5 list of Cowboys’ rookies. There are players not on this list that went on to have better overall careers but IMHO these guys listed below had the most impressive rookie seasons in Cowboys’ history.
5. Emmitt Smith (1990): Had 1,165 total yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in his rookie season and was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year.
4. Calvin Hill (1969): Had 1,174 total yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in his rookie season and was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year. He also threw the ball 3 times for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns.
3. Robert Lee Hayes (1965): Had 1,003 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns in his rookie year while revolutionizing the receiver position in the process.
2. Tony Dorsett (1977): Rushed for 1,007 yards and 12 touchdowns and won the Rookie of the Year honors in his first season playing for the silver and blue. The Cowboys also won the Super Bowl that year (not a bad way to start off one’s career).
1. Everson Walls (1981): Led the NFL with 11 interceptions in his rookie year. It’s virtually unheard of to see a rookie lead the league in INTs like that. He was unfortunately posterized by Joe Montana and Dwight Clark at the end of his rookie season by, “the catch,” but I hardly blame “Cubby” for that play.
I realize that three of the players listed here are all running backs but that’s not surprising. RB is the one position in the NFL that typically produces right away.
As a side note Walls actually went on to lead the league again in his second season (the 1982 strike shortened year) with 7 INTs. I’ve always considered him one of the most underappreciated players in Cowboy’s lore. The one bright spot in seeing the Giants win Super Bowl 25, for me, was that it brought Walls his first and only Vince Lombardy trophy.