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 61: Nate Newton, G, 1987-1998
Analysis: After the USFL folded in 1986, Newton signed as a free agent with the Cowboys and was often referred to as the “Kitchen” seeing as he was larger than William “Refrigerator” Perry. He had troubles keeping the weight off and was almost cut for it but became the Cowboys starting left guard in 1987. His career really took off in 1992 when he was selected to his first of six Pro Bowls. Newton was one of the Cowboys cogs in their “Great Wall of Dallas” in the 90’s. He started 180 of 191 career games, recovered five fumbles for the offense, was a two time All-Pro, and three-time Super Bowl champion. Just recently he just missed the cut for the Hall of Fame voting.
Number 62: John Fitzgerald, C, 1971-1980
Analysis: John Fitzgerald is the clear winner here. Fitzgerald stood much taller than most centers of his day at 6’ 5”. Though he was never made an All-Pro or Pro Bowler, Fitzgerald was a mainstay on the line for seven seasons and through 19 playoff games. He started 109 of 137 career games in Dallas and recovered six fumbles. Fitzgerald was the starting center for both of the Cowboys Super Bowl VI and XII victories.
Number 63: Larry Cole, DL, 1968-1980
Analysis: Larry Cole was the first University of Hawaii player drafted to an NFL franchise when he was taken in the 16th round in 1968’s Draft. Cole was a very versatile defensive lineman that got off to a hot start as a rookie returning a fumble and interception for touchdowns. He was a member of the “Zero Club” that never spoke to the media on football matters. Cole started 134 of 176 career games, he’s unofficially credited by the Cowboys with 60 career sacks as they weren’t an official statistic until 1982. Cole also had four interceptions, three pick-sixes, and 14 fumble recoveries in his career. He’s one of two Cowboys to play in three decades and he appeared in five Super Bowls, winning two of them in the 1970’s. The runner-ups for the spot are Kyle Kosier and John Gesek.
Number 64: Tom Rafferty, C/G, 1976-1989
Analysis: Rafferty was selected in the fourth-round to play guard and backup Blaine Nye. After one year, Rafferty was the starting right guard and longsnapper on field goals too. After five seasons and 75 appearances at guard, he was moved to center, where he remained for nine more seasons. Overall he started 182 games for the Cowboys, at the time of his retirement, he had 167 consecutive starts which was more than any Cowboy in history. Rafferty also was a part of the 1977 World Champion Cowboys.
Number 65: Andre Gurode, C, 2002-2010
Analysis: He was drafted in the top of the second round back in 2002 and started 14 games as a rookie at both center and guard. In his nine-year career in Dallas, Gurode went to five straight Pro Bowls from 2006-2010. He started 122 of 138 career games as a Cowboy and was a stalwart in the beginning of a new era in Dallas led by Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, and others like Marion Barber. Gurode was a key part of some really good Cowboys teams that never realized their potential. The Cowboys were a better team with the All-Pro center Gurode in the lineup.
Number 66: George Andrie, DE, 1962-1972
Analysis: Andrie was one of the best scouting finds for Gil Brandt in his tenure. He was drafted in the sixth round and played most of his career next to the legendary Bob Lilly. He also won that starting job in his rookie season and wound up on the All-Rookie team of 1962. Andrie would make the Pro Bowl five straight seasons from 1965-1969, was a first-team All-Pro selection, and two-time second-team All-Pro as well. He started 137 of 141 games in his 11 seasons with the Cowboys. Unofficially, Andrie registered 97 sacks, 13 fumble recoveries, a safety, and an interception. Andrie played in some tough years with the Cowboys where they were ridiculed mercilessly for not being able to win the big game. Finally, in his second to last season, Andrie was able to call himself a Super Bowl champion after the Cowboys defeated the Dolphins 24-3 in Super Bowl VI. Andrie ranks fifth on the Cowboys all-time sack leaders list.
Number 67: Pat Donovan, OT, 1975-1983
Analysis: Former Cowboys first-round pick Russell Maryland was an underrated contributor to the dynasty of the 90’s but Donovan is the right pick here. Selected in the fourth round (as a DE prospect) in the famed 1975 “Dirty Dozen” draft, Donovan would switch to offense and go on to start at both tackle spots in 103 games. He was the starting right tackle for the Cowboys 1977 Super Bowl team and was one of the premier left tackles from the late 1970’s to early 1980’s. From 1979 through 1982, Donovan was selected to the Pro Bowl and was a second-team All-Pro selection as well. Donovan stepped in for the retired Ralph Neely and together with Herb Scott made one of the best tandems in the NFL over his nine year career.
Number 68: Herbert Scott, G, 1975-1984
Analysis: A shout out is deserving for the recently retired Doug Free but he gets edged out by the longtime left guard Herbert Scott. He was a member of the “Dirty Dozen” draft of 1975 and found himself the full-time starter after his rookie year. They felt so good about Scott that the Cowboys traded six-time Pro Bowler, John Niland, and used the draft pick to select Tony Hill. Scott was outstanding, making 114 starts he was a two time first-team All-Pro and three time Pro Bowler. Scott was one of the guys credited with making the sealing block on Tony Dorsett’s 99-yard touchdown run of 1983. Scott was also a key member in the Cowboys 1977 Super Bowl championship team.
Number 69: George Hegamin, OT, 1994-1997
Analysis: Here comes the one true eyesore when stacked against the rest of this list. The Cowboys just don’t have much history with the number 69. We actually considered giving one-year player Henry Melton the nod for at least notching five sacks but he also lost his starting job after three games. Hegamin, a third-round pick in 1994, will take the trophy for this one. He only started 10 games but appeared in 30, he just was never good enough to crack the starting lineup, if not for injury. He was inactive for the first two years of his career but he developed into the Cowboys’ first lineman off the bench and was on the Cowboys final Super Bowl winning team.
Number 70: Rayfield Wright, OT, 1967-1979
Analysis: Now, Zack Martin may be on his way to claiming this number but he’s got a ways to go in order to catch up with the most accomplished of Cowboys in this spot. The Cowboys drafted Rayfield Wright in the seventh round of the 1967 NFL Draft as a tight end. He dabbled with tight end and even a little defensive lineman before he was finally made a tackle in 1969 for the injured Ralph Neely. Wright’s first start was against Hall of Famer Deacon Jones but Rayfield did so well that he took over the starting job from the start of the 1970 training camp. In 13 seasons and over 200 games, Wright was the right-side bookend through six NFC championships, five Super Bowls, winning two of them in Super Bowls VI and XII. Wright went to six straight Pro Bowls from 1971-1976, was a three time first-team All-Pro, as well as a three time second-team All-Pro.
Wright anchored the right side of an offense that was Top-10 in scoring for the entire decade of the 1970’s. He was also a contributor for the first five 1,000-yard rushers in club history as well as a selection the 1970’s All-Decade team. In 2004, “Big Cat” Rayfield Wright was placed in the Cowboys Ring of Honor and made his well-deserved trip to Canton in 2006. There’s no doubt that Wright is one of the greatest players in Cowboys team history.