Returning to north Texas was a homecoming of sorts for me, and while driving to meet some extended family for dinner on Thursday evening I happened to pass a Ford dealership. No big deal, I pass one every day back at home, but this was not any ordinary Ford dealer, this was Bill Utter Ford. What does that have to do with anything, you ask? Ordinarily nothing, but if you grew up in the area, then you might remember that Bill Utter's long times spokesman is none other than Walt Garrison, one of the biggest charterers to ever play for the Cowboys.
Walt, like more famous night-crawling companion and former teammate Don Meredith, is a north Texas original. He was born in Denton and raised in nearby Lewisville. With his upbringing in a area that was much more rural than it is today, Garrison was destined to become a cowboy with a lower cased 'c'. His first love has always been the rodeo. His raw athletic talent and toughness also allowed Walt to become a Cowboy twice over. Before joining Tom Landry's club, Walt has played his collegiate football as an Oklahoma State Cowboys linebacker and fullback.
Away from the game, Garrison spent his off-seasons competing on the professional rodeo circuit. As a boy he dreamed of qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo and Walt continued to pursue his passion for his first love throughout his football career. It was an injury suffered during an exhibition steer wrestling event at the college rodeo national championship that brought his football career to an end. Walt has often stated that he never had a single regret over the incident, even though the blown knee that he suffered took him out of the national football league.
Garrison's engaging personality and cowboy charm, at least as much as his football and rodeo skills, are responsible for his success after leaving the big stage. He is a story teller extraordinaire. You cannot spend time around Walt and not enjoy yourself, his own love of life is infectious. Former teammates, when they think of Walt, always tell of his impact on the team, not just on the field but away from the game as well. Walt Garrison is a talker.
"He’d have a whole new bunch of cowboy stories when we’d go to training camp. Some of those stories would last over an hour. He also taught us how to whittle. He was our big entertainment. Walt was always an overachiever. He's got a wonderful mind, and a wonderful gift of gab. He was a big part of our success and a big part of our entertainment." - Bob Lilly
Walt once stated the reason that he preferred rodeo to football was that he always knew how a horse or steer was going to act, but people were much harder to predict. People, as he wrote in one of his cowboy poems, are funny critters.
Nobody was immune to Walt's sense of wit. Early in his career with the team, Garrison had general manager Tex Schramm out in the parking lot of the team's facilities explaining why you needed a $140 trailer hitch set up to tow a two-horse trailer behind a Pontiac Bonneville. The lesson ended with Schramm actually crawling under Walt's car to see just what the heck was so special about the rig that would make Garrison pay that king of money to have it installed.
Coach Landry was also a target of Garrison's humor. A reporter once asked if Walt had ever seen his stoic coach smile. The Cowboys running back replied "No, but then I've only been around here for nine years."
Walt Garrison is one of the truly good guys in life, and everything that has ever happened in his life, good or bad, has been met in the same manner. He has always lived his life to the fullest. As the web site for his company, Walt Garrison Foods, states:
More than just a name sake, Walt is a hands on owner, and many nights you will find him in the restaurant, and you never know which of his other famous friends will be with him. And if you see him, don't be shy, or embarrassed to ask for an autograph, or shake his hand. The one thing that has always separated Walt is his good ole' boy friendliness, Cowboy Charm, and his honest desire to meet people and tell stories.
He is the kind of person you just enjoy being around.