Long before I joined the front page staff of Blogging The Boys I had toyed with the idea of a FanPost dedicated to listing an All-Time Dallas Cowboys team. In researching the subject I spent many hours trying to find tape of guys whom I had never seen play, guys who were legends I had only heard about from others. After more than a year of digging around to find the guys who I feel make up the best of the best it is time for me to unveil my own ultimate 53-man Dallas Cowboys roster.
Rayfield Wright - Wright is the epitome of what a Dallas offensive lineman is supposed to be. In a career that spanned parts of the 1960's 70's, and into the 80's he earned six trips to the Pro Bowl and was four times chosen as a first team All Pro. For a big man he was light on his feet and highly athletic for an offensive lineman. Rayfield spent 13 seasons in the league, the majority of which was as a right tackle. Wright is a member of both the Cowboys Ring Of Honor and the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.
Erik Williams - If not for injuries suffered in a vehicle accident in 1994, Erik Williams might have surpassed Larry Allen and Rayfield Wright as the greatest of the Dallas linemen. Even with the injuries that impacted his performance, Williams became one of the all time greats in Cowboys history. Williams played for the team from 1991 through 2000, and during that time frame he was named All-Pro three times and was honored with four trips to Hawaii to participate in the Pro Bowl.
Mark Tuinei - Tuinei (along with Bill Bates and "Too Tall" Jones) spent 15 seasons in a Cowboys uniform, more than any other player in team history. He entered the league as an UDFA, but left it as one of the top linemen to ever wear the star. Most of Mark's career was played with injuries, but based on his performance, you would never realize that he was hurting. He had a reputation for being a tough hard nosed guy who got things done with little fanfare. His efforts were rewarded with Pro Bowl seasons in 1994 & 1995.
Pat Donovan - Donovan was another unheralded but vital members of Tom Landry's squad. In nine seasons as a started he never missed a game and earned four trips to the Pro Bowl and was named as a second team All-Pro in 1981. He was the core member of the offensive line that became known as "Four Irishmen and a Scott". Despite his durability, Donovan was forced into an early retirement due to injuries to both shoulders during the 1983 season.
Larry Allen - He is Larry Allen, need I say more? Need or not, I will. The greatest offensive lineman in Cowboys history, Allen spent a dozen seasons wearing the star before finishing his career elsewhere. It was a career that brought Pro Bowl Honors eleven times. Seven times he was named All-Pro and Larry is a member of the NFL's All Decade teams for both the 1990's and the 2000's. During his illustrious career Allen played every position on the offensive line except center. For his efforts, Allen is a member of the team's Ring of Honor and he has been ensconced into the Hall Of Fame as well.
Nate Newton - Newton played nearly as long as did his linemate Larry Allen, and though his success occurred in the other man's shadow, he was no slouch either. "The Kitchen" went to six Pro Bowls on his own merits and was twice a Pro-Bowl honoree. Together the two men formed the best guard tandem in the NFL for a number of years during the Cowboys dynasty years.
Ralph Neely - Neely was a successful guard and tackle for the Cowboys during the early years of the franchise. He joined the squad and played a critical role just as the team began its rise to the pinnacle of the NFL under Tom Landry. Neely possessed great quickness for a man of his size and soon began to dominate the league.
John Niland - Niland was one of the top pulling guards in the NFL during the early days of the franchise. He had the benefit of practicing against Bob Lilly every day, and that experience helped John to perfect his craft. The former first-round draft pick out of the University of Iowa joins Larry Allen, Nate Newton, and Rayfield Wright as the only Cowboys offensive linemen to earn six or more trips to the Pro Bowl; three times he was also named as an All Pro. Over the nine seasons that he played for the Cowboys, Niland proved his durability by only missing two starts.
Mark Stepnoski - Professional scouts considered Stepnoski's size to be a hindrance to his success, but throughout his career Mark continued to play bigger than he appeared. Under the guidance of veteran Tom Rafferty, the young man was moved to center and learned to turn his lack of size to his advantage. He was consistently able to gain a leverage advantage on his larger opponents and was able to move them around seemingly at will. He spent nine of his 13 professional seasons in Dallas and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl five times (two were earned as a Houston/Tennessee Oiler).
Tom Rafferty - A former All-American at Penn State, Rafferty joined the Cowboys as a guard. He moved inside to center when teammate Robert Shaw went down with a knee injury and he did not relinquish his hold on the position until he was succeeded by his protege, Mark Stepnoski. Rafferty is the only Cowboy lineman to protect both Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Although he was destined to never find his way to the Pro Bowl, Rafferty was the anchor of the Dallas offensive line for many years, and he was named to the team's All-Time team in 2003.
Receivers & Ends
Jason Witten - The Senator is, in my mind, the greatest of all Dallas Cowboys tight ends and that is saying something. As of the end of the 2013 season Witten holds the NFL record for both receptions by a tight end in a game and in a season. He is also second all time for total receptions for the position. One of the toughest men in the game, he is known for his durability and and for performing in the face of injury. Jason Witten has become the security blanket for quarterback Tony Romo and can be counted on in the clutch. Nine times in his career Jason has been selected to the Pro Bowl, six times earning All-Pro recognition.
Billy Joe DuPree - DuPree played eleven seasons for Landry's Cowboys and during that time he never missed a game. During the era in which he played tight ends were more offensive linemen than they are today so Billy Joe never put up the type of numbers that Witten has but he was still a formidable offensive weapon. He held the team's record for touchdowns by a tight end until it was broken by Witten in two seasons ago, In recognition of his performance, Billy Joe DuPree was selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls during the mid seventies.
Jay Novacek - Novachek spent the first half of his professional career as a St. Louis/Arizona Cardinal before being signed to the Dallas roster as a plan B free agent. Once he arrived in the Metroplex Jay's career blossomed. He was named to five Pro Bowls and five All Pro teams during a six year span with the Cowboys.
Michael Irvin - When a guy earns a nickname like "The Playmaker" you know he is something special. During the 1990's Irvin racked up over 10,000 yards in an eight year span. Not only did he lead with his performance on the field, but Michael was also an emotional leader of the club as well. He is the most decorated receiver in Cowboys history, but the two things that his teammates remember most are that Irvin was the hardest worker on the team and that he was the ultimate teammate as well. Five times he was selected to the Pro Bowl, three times also winning All-Pro honors as well. Michael Irvin is a member of the Ring of Honor and he has been inducted into Canton's hallowed halls.
Drew Pearson - In critical situations Roger Staubach counted on Drew Pearson to be his go to guy. He was known as Mr. Clutch for his uncanny ability to make the critical play in game winning situations helping the Cowboys wrench victory from the jaws of defeat. It is Drew's legacy which has set the standard by which Cowboys receivers are judged, and his famous #88 is reserved by the club for only the most outstanding receiver prospects, players with the skill of Michael Irvin and Dez Bryant. Pearson was selected to three Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams as well as being a member of the NFL's All Decade team for the 1970's. He was recently inducted into the team's Ring of Honor. Someday soon, Drew Pearson deserves to don the gold jacket worn by a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Tony Hill - Tony was an exciting player to watch, as evidenced by the moniker "The Thrill". His style of play was explosive and often led to him making the "home run" plays for the Cowboys. Tony Hill was a threat to take every reception to the house. Playing opposite of Pearson, the two men combined to be the first pass catching tandem to both eclipse the thousand yard barrier during the same season. Hill still features prominently in the Cowboys receiving records. Three times during his career, Hill was selected to represent the team at the Pro Bowl.
Bob Hayes - "Bullet Bob" changed the way pro teams played defense. With his speed there was nobody in the league who could cover him one-on-one so defensive coordinators were forced to start defending Hayes with zone coverage. During his career teams were not as pass happy as they are today, but in spite of this fact, Bob Hayes still holds ten of the club's regular season reception records. Posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame, the Ring of Honor member played in three Pro Bowls and earn All-Pro status three times in his career.
Frank Clarke - Clark was the first Cowboy to put together a thousand yard season in 1962. He was one of the original team members, having joined the roster via the 1960 expansion draft, and Clarke remained in Dallas until his retirement in 1967, immediately following the infamous Ice Bowl game. Bob Hayes credited Clarke with helping him to develop into a professional wide receiver by taking him under his wing shortly after the speedster joined the team. Frank Clarke earned Pro Bowl honors for his 1962 season in Dallas.
Walt Garrison - Walt really was a cowboy. When he wasn't playing football, he could be found riding the professional rodeo circuit. The truth is that rodeo was Walt's true passion, but he excelled at football. As a fullback, he was a triple threat. Walt was a tremendous blocker, a viable running option, and a sure-handed receiver. At the time of his retirement he ranked third in all time rushing yards and fourth in receiving yards. 1973 was Walt's finest year as a professional. That season he led all Dallas running backs with 818 yards on the ground and earned his only Pro Bowl opportunity. The following year a rodeo accident forced his retirement from the game.
Darryl Johnston - MOOOOSE led the way for Emmitt Smith to run his way into football immortality. In addition to his blocking ability, Johnston was a sure handed outlet receiver for Troy Aikman and he finished his career with more catches than he has carries. Daryl scored 22 touchdowns during his Cowboys career. After the 1993 and 1994 seasons he was selected to the Pro Bowl.
Emmitt Smith - Smith is the NFL's all time leading rusher with 18,355 yards on the ground. Over 17,000 of those came in Dallas. He led the league in rushing four separate times, and made eight trips to the Pro Bowl and he is a five time All-Pro. Among his many records, Smith holds the league marks for career 100 yard games and career rushing touchdowns. Emmitt was also a weapon in the passing game with 515 receptions out of the backfield. Smith has one of the greatest careers of any man in history and he earned both Ring of Honor and Hall of Fame status for his efforts.
Tony Dorsett - Had Emmitt Smith not come along, Dallas could still lay claim to one of the greatest runners in football history thanks to Tony Dorsett. The former Pitt Panther gained over 12,000 rushing yards for Tom Landry's teams before finishing his career with Denver. His rushing total ranks him eighth all time in the NFL. The signature play of Tony's career would be the 99-yard touchdown run during a Monday Night Game against Minnesota. Four times a Pro Bowler and three times an All Pro, Dorsett is in both the the Hall of Fame and The Cowboys own Ring of Honor.
Don Perkins - Perkins was "officially" a fullback but he ranked in the league's top ten rushers in each of the eight seasons he played for the Cowboys. He was the first Dallas back to have a 100 yard game, and became the team's first All Pro in 1962. He made six career Pro Bowl appearances in his short career and he is still the third leading rusher in team history. Perkins, along with his friend and teammate Don Meredith, became the second and third members of the Ring of Honor.
Roger Staubach - Captain Comeback is a nickname well suited for Staubach. He had a knack for leading fourth quarter come from behind drives (with a little help from his cohort Drew Pearson). Roger played eleven seasons in the National Football League. In that time he completed 1,685 passes for 22,700 yards and 153 scores. Staubach retired with the second highest passer rating of all time (83.4). When the situation called for him to do so, Staubach was not afraid to carry the ball himself, in fact he added an additional 21 touchdowns that way. He was selected to six Pro Bowl teams and won both the regular season and Super Bowl MVP awards during a career that brought with it enshrinement in both the Hall of Fame and the Ring of Honor.
Troy Aikman - 32,942 yards...that is the career passing total for the team's all time record holder, Troy Aikman. The Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor member played a dozen seasons for the Cowboys and won the Super Bowl three times in four seasons. Like Stauback, he was named to six Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl MVP award as a Cowboy. Together with teammates Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, Aikman helped to form the nucleus of perhaps the last and greatest of the football dynasties. The trio, known collectively as the triplets, formed one of the greatest offensive juggernauts the game has ever witnessed.
There you have it folks, the offensive players who would make the final 53 man roster for my All-Time Cowboys team. Agree? Disagree? It's all subjective, but I want to hear your thoughts. Who should have made the cut but didn't? Let me know your opinion in the comments section, and check back soon for the guys who made the defensive roster.