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Cowboys #TBT: Calvin Hill, The First 1,000-Yard Man

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Sometimes inspiration for a Throwback Thursday piece comes from an unexpected source.

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Ed. Note: Part of our #TBT series and a little break from free agency talk, just for a moment.

Who would have thought that walking through an electronics store would trigger memories that would lead to this week's Throwback Thursday post? That is exactly what happened. You see, when I was walking through the TV section, I looked up and the NBA Network was on. Now I am not a fan of basketball, but there were highlights of some guy named Grant Hill playing for the Detroit Pistons, and that triggered thoughts of the days when his father, Calvin, was a member of Tom Landry's team.

Calvin Hill joined the Dallas Cowboys as the first ever Ivy League player to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. He was the 24th overall selection in 1969. Most NFL teams believed that there was no way that an athlete from an elite educationally-focused college could also perform at an elite level on the playing field. Coach Landry and Tex Schramm knew better. They were used to looking outside the box to build their organization, and so they took a chance on the Yale halfback.

It was not so much Calvin's skills as a ball carrier that caught the eye of the Cowboys brain trust as his all around athletic ability and his intelligence both on and off the field. They actually moved Calvin to linebacker once the 1969 training camp began. The team had just lost Don Perkins to retirement and injury that had not healed was about to force Dan Reeves to the sidelines and to the coaching ranks, so Landry made the decision to brink Hill back to the offensive side of the football.

Hill delivered immediately. He claimed the starting role and rushed for 942 yards and eight scores on his way to earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He was also named to the Pro Bowl and All Pro teams during his first season in the league. He accomplished this in spite of missing two games due to a broken toe suffered in week 8. Calvin was also limited during the final two games of his rookie year thanks to the injury. The former Yale Bulldog had proven that an Ivy Leaguer could get the job done in the National Football League.

The second and third seasons of his professional career saw Calvin struggle to duplicate his initial efforts. This was due in part to the Cowboys also adding Duane Thomas, another first-round talent, to the mix at running back. Injuries to his back and knee also limited Hill's production. Still, Dallas had the confidence to believe that he was their go-to man in the backfield. They traded away Thomas and when they did, Calvin Hill responded again.

Calvin Hill rushed for 1,045 yards rushing and scored six touchdowns. He was the first Dallas back to eclipse the 1,000 yard barrier. That was a record that would not stand long, Hill turned in an even better year in 1973; he gained 1,142 yards on the ground while finding the end zone another six times for the 'Boys. Both seasons saw Hill named to the Pro Bowl, and he was again a All Pro after his incredible 1973 campaign.

1974 was not as kind to Calvin although his 844 yard, seven touchdown performance did earn the runner his fourth and final trip to the Pro Bowl. It also marked the end of Calvin's time in Dallas. After the season Hill joined the short lived World Football League. Following that venture, Calvin Hill returned to the Washington Redskins for two seasons as a back up before retiring. A few weeks into that retirement he was coaxed back into the league by the Cleveland Browns where he spent four more seasons.

Hill retired for good following the 1981 season. He had rushed the football for 6,083 yards during his 12 seasons as a professional and he scored 42 touchdowns. The majority of that came during the six seasons he was a Dallas Cowboy. He tallied 5,009 yards and 39 scores while wearing the star.

Thirty-five years after he walked away from the gridiron, Calvin Hill is still associated with two of the franchises that he played for. He works with the Cowboys and the Browns as a consultant dealing with troubled players. One area that Hill focuses on is helping players who face drug and alcohol issues try to come to grips with the addictions that are impacting their lives. His efforts are not limited to the professional ranks. Hill is also involved with the same issues in collegiate sports.