We’re continuing our countdown to the opening game of the Dallas Cowboys 2023 regular season. Each day we’ll present a new player whose jersey number represents the countdown to opening day. Today is number 52 and a historical player.
LB Dexter Coakley
Born: 20th October 1972 (50) - Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
College: Appalachian State Mountaineers
Draft: 1997, Round 3, Pick 65, Dallas Cowboys
Tackle for Loss: 29
Forced Fumbles: 6
Fumble Recoveries: 6
3 x Pro Bowl
In high school Dexter Coakley played running back, and at a high level. Leaving there he joined Appalachian State in 1993 and moved to linebacker because he was too big to keep playing running back. The move to defense was good for Coakley and he would excel while he played at App State. He was named SoCon Freshman of the Year and would then go on to win SoCon Defensive Player of the Year for the next three consecutive seasons. In 1995, the Mountaineers would have a perfect season and were SoCon Champions.
Coakley’s efforts that year earned him a lot of attention and a year later he got the phone call from Jerry Jones during the NFL Draft. The Cowboys had just won their third Super Bowl in four years so Coakley was more than happy when he knew what he was walking into, which was at the time the top team in professional football. He left Appalachian State holding many prestigious records, most notably second all-time in tackles in SoCon history, as well as all-time solo tackles and most sacks for Appalachian State. He was winner of the Buck Buchanan Award (best D-1AA defensive player) and was a three-time SoCon DPOY. In 2011, Coakley entered the College Football Hall of Fame and had his jersey at Appalachian State retired.
Micah Parsons is the fourth-ever Cowboy to win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month, joining Dexter Coakley (Oct. 1997), DeMarcus Ware (Oct. 2005) and Leighton Vander Esch (Nov. 2018). https://t.co/CP1X2h50D2— Dallas Cowboys Public Relations (@DallasCowboysPR) December 2, 2021
Coakley was impressive in college but he had one major negative which knocked him down to the third round, that was the level of competition he played against. The Cowboys defense was always predicated on speed so for Coakley this was a perfect fit. He was named the starting Will linebacker in his rookie season and was a massive defensive playmaker. He had 89 tackles, made one fumble recovery for a touchdown and led the team in tackles for loss.
In 1999, Coakley would earn his first Pro Bowl nomination, this would be the first linebacker for Dallas to go to the Pro Bowl since Ken Norton in 1993. He had a massive season with 87 tackles, six tackles for loss, four interceptions and one pick-six. Over the next three seasons he would be more productive by each consecutive year and in 2001 he earned his second Pro Bowl. He had 98 tackles and scored two defensive touchdowns that year. The Cowboys philosophy on linebackers would change with Dexter Coakley after his 2001 season when the front office signed him to a long-term deal of six years. This was something they refused to do years previous with other elite linebacker talent. The Cowboys were rewarded in 2002 when Coakley led the team in tackles and continued his run of registering a defensive touchdown for another season.
At the end of the 2004 season Coakley was not re-signed and played two more years for the St. Louis Rams. Coakley was insanely productive and durable for Dallas, he played 127 games out of a possible 128. He’s still tied with Dennis Thurman’s record for career defensive touchdowns with five, and ranks fifth for the Cowboys in total tackles with 560. He is now the linebacker coach at Oakridge School in Arlington.