John Dutton grew up in that is not generally considered a hot bed of athletic talent; South Dakota. During his prep career he was a two sport high school All American and was more highly recruited for his basketball skills. His first love however was football, and he eventually chose to play his college ball for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. During his first varsity season as a sophomore John Dutton played in what was perhaps the greatest college football game ever played, the 1971 match up between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Huskers. His team went on to earn a National Championship at the conclusion of that season. By the time John's final season rolled around, the young defensive tackle was one of the most highly regarded linemen in the nation and he was named All Big-8 and All American for his efforts. Dutton was destined to be a first round draft pick in the NFL, and soon the Baltimore Colts would use the fifth overall pick to secure the services of the outstanding defensive lineman.
At 267 pounds, John Dutton wouldn't be considered a beast by todays standards, but don't tell that to the offensive linemen who were tasked with blocking him. In Baltimore, John was primarily a defensive end, where he was named All Rookie in 1974 and went on to become a Pro Bowl player each of the next three years. He was considered at that time to be one of the most dominant defensive linemen in pro football and was the leader of the Colts' "Sack Pack". Even though he was a key piece of the Baltimore defense, the Bob "Sneak Off in the Middle of the Night" Irsay did not seem to think that he was worthy of a decent salary so John Dutton refused to play football. Looking to salvage something out of the man who insisted he would never put on a Colts uniform again, Irsay reached out to the Dallas Cowboys.
Faced with replacing legendary lineman Jethro Pugh , who had retired, and "Too Tall" Jones, who took a hiatus to pursue a career as a boxer; the Cowboys gave up their first and second round pick the following year to obtain Dutton. While in Dallas John Dutton continued to be a stellar player for the team, although he never achieved the status he did in Baltimore. With the return of Jones for the 1980 season, he changed positions again, moving back inside to play defensive tackle for the Cowboys. Along with Jones, Randy White, and Harvey Martin; John Dutton helped to form the dominate defensive front four of the era. During the 1985 season, the quartet combined to sack opposing quarterback a team record 62 times. During the first four seasons that Dutton played in Dallas, the team reached the NFC Championship three times, yet never made it to a Super Bowl. He is widely regarded as the greatest Cowboys defensive lineman without a ring.