“Dandy Don” Meredith is generally credited as being the second member of the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor even though he and teammate Don Perkins were both inducted at the same time. This is for no other reason than alphabetically speaking Meredith comes before Perkins.
Meredith was a local boy that made good. From Mt. Vernon High School through his days at Southern Methodist and on into the professional ranks, he never played a home game outside a 100 mile radius.
That is not to say that Dandy Don always had the unquestioned love of the north Texas fans. He frequently drew the ire of fans at the Cotton Bowl, where the Cowboys played their home games during the early years. The Cowboys won more than a few games with Meredith under center, but like some other passers in Dallas history, the faithful often felt like he was the reason that the team was not even more successful.
Don might have taken the team to back to back NFL Championship contests, but he did not deliver on the opportunity. Even early on in the franchise, at the point in which he quarterbacked the squad, Cowboys fans demanded championships and Meredith did not deliver.
Dandy Don liked to have a good time, and that certainly applied to his life off of the gridiron. He could often be found out on the town enjoying his favorite beverages. Lipton Iced Tea commercials might lead you to believe one thing, but Meredith was more in tune with the type of iced tea found on Long Island.
Some felt that his need to party had an impact on his performance on the field, or at least they found it to be a convenient excuse.
The way he became a Cowboy is something of an interesting story. Meredith signed a personal services contract with Dallas, or rather with Tecon Corporation, prior to the 1960 draft. Both the Cowboys and Tecon were owned by Clint Murchison, and it was a way to secure his services without risking Meredith being drafted by another team. The Bears did draft Meredith in the third round in ‘60, but only to make sure he would eventually end up in Dallas and help the team off to a good start. The Bears were compensated with a third-round pick in the ‘62 draft. Meredith’s subsequent performance was well worth the draft pick that the league took from the franchise.
Behind Meredith, Dallas would start a run of consecutive playoff appearances that has never been topped.
Dandy Don was never destined to take his teams to the Super Bowl, but his efforts would get the team close to being the NFL representative to the first two contests. Each of those seasons the franchise would fall one win shy of the contest after meeting the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Championship Game.
Don Meredith’s career stats might not sound impressive in the modern era of wide open passing offenses, but during his day they were quite impressive. His lifetime completion percentage is just over 50% and his QBR is 74.8. Meredith threw for 17,199 yards and 135 touchdowns for the Cowboys and his 83 yard pass to Bob Hayes is typically considered to be the longest pass play in NFL history with no yards after the catch.
Those numbers did earn Don the 1966 NFL Player of the Year honors and a pair of Pro Bowl trips.
As far back as his time at Mt. Vernon High, Dandy Don had shown an interest in acting. He was very active in theater production throughout school and that trend continued in college. In some circles he was known more for his acting ability and for being a ham than he was for his athletic prowess. Prior to the 1969 season the Cowboys quarterback had decided that he wanted to focus on acting rather than the game, so he took an unexpected retirement.
He found some success with acting, but football once again came calling. In 1970 he joined lifelong pal Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell on ABC’s Monday Night Football. The show became a nationwide success. It earned each of the hosts wide acclaim and helped drive professional football to the forefront of American sports.
It was MNF that made Meredith an icon beyond the Cowboys fan base.
Many will remember Dandy Don as the Lipton Iced Tea drinking comic foil working alongside Howard Cosell, but the Dallas Cowboys will always remember him differently.
On November 7th, 1976 Meredith was inducted into the Ring of Honor for his efforts in building the franchise we know today.
One of Meredith’s most beloved quirks was his singing of Willie Nelson’s “Turn Out The Lights, The Party’s Over” once a Monday Night game was over. For Dandy Don, the party wound to a close for the last time on December 5th, 2010 when he passed away due to a brain hemorrhage. He was 72.