When Clint Murchison, Tex Schramm, and Tom Landry were looking to put together the very first roster for the Dallas Cowboys they pulled a fast one over on the Washington Redskins. Former Pro Bowl quarterback Eddie Lebaron had retired from football, and even though George Preston Marshall had the opportunity to protect Lebaron's rights in the 1960 expansion draft, he failed to do so. The trio wasted no time in securing Lebaron's signature on a contract.
Eddie Lebaron stood a diminutive 5' 7", which was small even for his era. He never played the game like a small man. As a senior at the College of the Pacific, Eddie was named as an All-American in 1949. That same season he finished as the sixth overall vote-getter for the Heisman Trophy. His next step would have been professional football had not the Korean War intervened. Lebaron had been commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps reserve while in college. During his military service earned the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat as well as the Bronze Star for his heroic actions on the front lines.
Once he returned home, the young quarterback joined the Redskins, and when Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh retired, Lebaron took over as the Washington starter. During his time there, Eddie earned Pro Bowl honors three times. During the off season he studied law, earning his degree while still an active player. Soon after receiving his law license, Lebaron decided to retire and put his education to work. It was at this point that the Cowboys came calling.
Lebaron played four seasons in Dallas before retiring to finally establish his law practice. During those years he played for some of the worst teams in Cowboys history, but Eddie continued to play at a high level. In 1962 he earned his fourth Pro Bowl appearance. Shortly after, Don Meredith succeeded Eddie as the starter in Dallas.
As a player, Lebaron was primarily a scrambler and ball-handling wizard. He passed for over 13,000 yards as a professional and he tossed 104 career touchdown passes in 12 seasons. He was highly respected by his peers, not only for his playing talents, but for his leadership abilities. Eddie's natural leadership was developed further during his time as a Marine, and he was affectionately known as the "Littlest General" once he returned to the game.
In addition to his legal career, Lebaron also worked as an announcer for CBS Sports during the years immediately following his retirement. Later in life he served as first the general manager and later the executive vice president of the Atlanta Falcons. He left the game for good after the 1985 season. True to form, he returned to the practice of law, which he did until 1997.
On Wednesday, April 1st, Eddie Lebaron passed from this life. While with us, Eddie experienced success as a football player, a soldier, a lawyer, and as a football executive. Following his several professional lives, Eddie Lebaron also experienced success in retirement as well. He remained active, particularly as an avid golfer. Lebaron was 85 years old.