Growing up in Waterloo, Iowa Don Perkins was a three sport athlete for Waterloo West High School. He excelled as both a two way halfback on the football field and as a sprinter on the track team, where he served as team captain for both his junior and senior years. Don was also a fair basketball player but football was his first love. His passion for the game was rewarded with first team All- State honors as a senior. His efforts also earned Perkins an opportunity to play football for the University of New Mexico and its head coach Marv Levy. A three time All Skyline Conference performer while in college, Don also lead the nation in kickoff returns in 1958. Coach Levy, who would later be a Hall of Fame NFL coach, called Don Perkins the greatest player he had coached.
Although Dallas would not know if they were granted an NFL franchise until after the 1960 Draft, Clint Murchison signed Don to a personal services contract prior to the event. On Draft Day, Perkins was selected in the 9th round by the Baltimore Colts. Once Dallas was granted a team, they were allowed to keep him, but the Colts were awarded the 1962 9th round pick that should have belonged to the Cowboys. Seemingly as further "disciplinary action" the football gods deemed that Perkins would miss his rookie year due to a broken foot.
Starting in 1961, Perkins moved from halfback to fullback in Landry's offense. He was a skilled lead blocker for the team, and the man who replaced him, Walt Garrison, still claims that Don is the greatest fullback the Cowboys ever had. Most surprising is that even though his primary job was as the lead blocker, somehow Don Perkins managed to be in the top 10 rushers every year he was in the league . In fact, at the time of his early retirement Don Perkins was the fifth leading rusher in NFL history. To this day he is only behind Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith in the team's record book.
Among the honors that Perkins won as a Dallas Cowboy are 6 Pro Bowls and the team's first All-Pro selection. In addition he was named as the 1961 Rookie of the Year. In 1976, Don Perkins, along with his quarterback Don Meredith, were inducted into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor. Only Mr. Cowboy, Bob Lilly preceded them. His coach, Tom Landry, remembered Perkins as "a great runner, an excellent pass blocker, and one of the best players in team history". Don Perkins was one of the guys who suffered through the lean years, and built the legacy that we fans pride ourselves on.