With the annual excitement and speculation that revolves around the potential for the incoming class of rookies, it is time to take a look back at the best overall rookie class that our Cowboys ever had: the "Dirty Dozen" class of 1975. This was a group of players who came in and breathed fresh life into an aging core of veterans who helped bring Coach Landry his first Super Bowl Championship. Not only did the "Class of 1975" help return the Cowboys to Super Bowl X during their first year; the formed the backbone of the dominate teams of the second half of the 1970's and early 1980's. By most accounts this group of rookies is considered to be one of the NFL's greatest rookie groups of all time. Lets take a quick look back at just what made this group so special.
For the defensive side of the ball, several future stars emerged from this class. Three linebackers were drafted in 1975 to replace the aging starters who formed the nucleus of the famed Doomsday Defense. This includes middle linebacker Randy White, who went on to a Hall of Fame career as a defensive tackle. Randy was named to 9 consecutive Pro Bowls and All Pro teams. A second middle linebacker by the name of Bob Bruenig became the replacement for the retired Lee Roy Jordan. He was named to 4 Pro Bowls and made All Pro three times. Another Pro Bowl was awarded to outside linebacker Thomas Henderson; better known to the world as "Hollywood". All in all, the origin of the second version of Doomsday owes a lot of its success to the Cowboys 1975 draft.
Although the offense did not get near the impact that the defense did; they had a helluva draft as well; just not as flashy. Pat Donovan, an offensive tackle, who replaced first Ralph Neely and later Rayfield Wright, joined the Dallas offensive line during 1975. Pat was selected to four Pro Bowls of his own. Donovan was joined in this rookie class of linemen by a guy named Herb Scott, who was selected to three Pro Bowls and was twice named All Pro. The services of these two gentlemen helped to block for Hall of Fame performances by a couple guys named Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett. All told, this class accounted for 21 Pro Bowl appearances and 14 All Pro teams; quite a haul in anyone's book.
In addition to the stars, Dallas added some depth to their roster during that off-season,including two more offensive linemen, a pair of defensive backs, a running back and a punter who all made the Cowboys roster that season. In addition to the guys who made the roster that year the team also secured the services of another linebacker, Mike Hegman. Hegman was unable to join the team until 1976, due to a controversy involving his college eligibility. He would eventually become "Hollywood's" successor. Ironically, the player out of the 1975 rookie class who had the longest NFL career was an undrafted rookie quarterback named Jim Zorn, who survived final cuts, only to be released to make room for Preston Pearson when the Pittsburgh Steelers released the running back.
While hopes abound for guys like Travis Frederick, Terrence Williams, Gavin Escobar, and company to make a significant impact; it is doubtful that even if they meet our highest expectations, that this group will pass the Class of 1975 as the greatest group of rookies in Cowboys history. Lets face it, with things like the combine, pro days, and even 24 hour sports networks; it is not likely that any one team will ever again be able to target and draft the sheer amount of quality that Landry was able to land. Perhaps, from the league's point of view that is a good thing, but from where I set, I miss the glory days.