In this series, we’re rating the greatest, or most memorable, Cowboys of all time at each number available. That’s right, from one to 99, multiple Cowboys have occupied those jersey numbers. We’re not interested in what these players did in their careers, just how they performed while they were a part of “America’s Team”. In doing research for this, you find that it’s fun because of how much of a mixed bag it truly is. In turn, some numbers have a strong lineage of great football careers that make it hard to choose and others make you question whether that number needs a winner. Either way, it’s great for offseason fodder before we gear up for training camp.
Number 41: Charlie Waters, S, 1970-1981
Analysis: The ageless wonder and two-time Pro Bowler Terence Newman was given consideration but he’s not going to beat out a member of the “Doomsday Defense”. Charlie Waters was probably Tom Landry’s favorite player he ever coached. After forcing Waters to play cornerback and watching him get torched, Landry finally put him at his natural spot of safety. From there, the rest is history as Waters started 129 of 160 games he played in. Tackles weren’t recorded back then but he had plenty of them and played with a physical style. His true value came in his awareness to always be in the right spot to make the big play. He had 41 career interceptions, two he returned for points, and also had seven fumble recoveries with four forced fumbles. Waters was with the Cowboys for both of their Super Bowl championship wins of the 1970’s, he was selected to the Pro Bowl three times.
Number 42: Barry Church, SS, 2010-2016
Analysis: He was never the most athletically-gifted player on the field but he was one of the best leaders over the past decade. Church went from UDFA bubble player to starting safety for the Dallas Cowboys by his fourth season. Church eventually earned Captain status starting 63 games as a Cowboy. In seven seasons, Church recorded 359 tackles, five interceptions, 16 passes defensed, eight forced fumbles, three recoveries, and a pick-six. Church was just a solid defender that gave his all to being a leader in the Cowboys locker room.
Number 43: Cliff Harris, FS, 1970-1979
Analysis: This one was an extremely close battle between two Cowboys Ring of Honor inductees but Harris edged out Don Perkins (1961-1968). Harris started 130 of 141 career games, recording 29 interceptions, 18 fumble recoveries, 10 forced fumbles, and a pick-six. He was a key member of the Cowboys defense of the 1970’s, winning two Super Bowls, was a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. He was inducted to the Ring of Honor in 1994 but has sadly been passed over too many times for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Harris and fellow Cowboy Drew Pearson are the only two players selected to the NFL’s 1970’s All-Decade first-team to not be in the Hall of Fame.
Number 44: Robert Newhouse, FB, 1972-1983
Analysis: Newhouse was drafted in the second round of the 1972 NFL Draft, and he was a good enough player to be the lead back in Dallas. Yet, to help the team’s huge loss of Walt Garrison, Newhouse decided to play fullback though he was slightly undersized for the position. He actually led the Cowboys in rushing in 1975 with 930 yards before the days of Tony Dorsett. Newhouse started 75 of 168 career games, rushed for 4,784 yards with 31 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 120 passes for 956 yards and five receiving touchdowns. Probably his most memorable play was a 29-yard touchdown pass he threw to Golden Richards in the Cowboys 27-10 Super Bowl XII victory over the Broncos. Sadly, after many years of heart problems, Newhouse passed away in 2014. He’ll always be remembered as one of the most selfless and all around great guys the organization ever had.
Number 45: Rod Smith, RB, 2015-Present
Analysis: Smith gets the win here over Manny Hendrix, who spent six seasons from 1986-1991 hopping on and off the roster, starting three games before losing his job to Larry Brown in 1990. Rod Smith has had a bigger impact for the current Cowboys than Hendrix ever had in his time. Smith has only started once in his 32 games played as a Cowboy but in Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game absence, Rod scored five touchdowns. He’s got 55 carries and 232 rushing yards with another 21 receptions for 212 yards as a backup player. Smith has a decent rushing average of 4.2 yards per carry as well as an average of 10.1 yards per reception. He could take over as the primary backup to Elliott in the upcoming season.
Number 46: Mark Washington, CB, 1970-1978
Analysis: He was a 13th round selection for the Cowboys in 1970 and his athleticism showed up quickly with a 100-yard kick return touchdown against the rival Redskins in his rookie year. Washington only started 33 games of his 108 career games as a Dallas Cowboy. Though Washington contributed to the franchise’s Super Bowl VI and XII victories, he’s more well-known for allowing Lynn Swann to gain 161 yards on four passes in Super Bowl X. Swann would score a touchdown on Washington and win the game’s MVP honors. It has been said that Washington couldn’t have covered Swann any better, he just happened to be one of the best receivers of all-time. In his nine years in Dallas, Washington could never earn the full time starting gig but was able to record 13 interceptions, seven fumble recoveries, and a safety.
Number 47: Pete Hunter, DB, 2002-2004
Analysis: This is one of the worst numbers in Cowboys history and Hunter gets the nod by default. Former safety, Dexter Clinkscale clearly had the best career from 1980-1985 but his off-field rap sheet prohibits any praise for on field accomplishments. The next guy in line, Clayton Holmes, another defensive back, was suspended more times than years he played in the league. Pete Hunter was drafted in the fifth round of the 2002 NFL Draft and the Cowboys were quite high on his potential. Hunter only played in 30 games for the Cowboys, starting six, recording 55 tackles, three picks, two fumble recoveries, and a sack. Hunter couldn’t stay healthy and at his request, the Cowboys dealt him to the New York Jets in 2005.
Number 48: Daryl “Moose” Johnston, FB, 1989-1999
Analysis: One of the most beloved Cowboys in history but also one of the most underrated cogs in the 90’s Cowboys dynasty. Johnston was the primary blocker for the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith, but he was more than that. Moose started 122 of 151 career games, he rushed 232 times for 753 yards and eight touchdowns. His biggest contributions came in the passing game where he had 294 receptions, 2,227 yards, and 14 receiving touchdowns. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl Champion.
Number 49: Tom Landry, DB/FB/QB, 1949-1955
Analysis: We’re going to cheat here because the number 49 doesn’t have a lick of lineage as only two guys ever made the final roster and they have a combined 51 yards from scrimmage. Jamize Olawale has a chance to change the putrid history of the number but for today, we’re going to praise the most famous Cowboy to ever don the number, Tom Landry (although he obviously didn’t wear the number in Dallas). He did a little bit of everything, but mainly was a fine defensive back for the Giants. Landry started 69 of 82 games, had 32 interceptions, three pick-sixes, recovered 10 fumbles, forced another seven of his own. Landry was a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler in 1954. He became a player/coach and eventually ended up in the Hall of Fame as one of the most decorated football coaches to ever live. He is the Dallas Cowboys and deserves to be recognized here even if his playing days were with a rival organization.
Number 50: Sean Lee, LB, 2010-Present
Analysis: There is an argument to be made for D.D. Lewis from the late 1970’s through the 1980’s but Sean Lee is the better overall player from a talent standpoint. Lee also meant more to his teams than Lewis did his. He’s started 72 of 86 career games and has had some issues staying healthy. However, there is no doubt that Lee’s made an impact as a Dallas Cowboy. He’s got 432 tackles, 25 passes defensed, 13 interceptions, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, 2.5 sacks, and two pick-sixes. Lee is a two time Pro Bowler and All-Pro linebacker.