Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #1

One of my favorite blogs, due in large part to its originality, is Best Athletes by the Numbers. The author of that site has created a list of the best athletes to wear each jersey number, from one to 99. He is currently working on a list of the greatest NFL players by numbers.

Here are the Cowboys on his list:

#8 Troy Aikman

#22 Emmitt Smith

#33 Tony Dorsett (ahead of Kareem Abdul Jabbar!)

#48 Daryl Johnston

#54 Randy White

#70 Rayfield Wright

#74 Bob Lilly

#94 Charles Haley

Over the next several weeks, I am going to post a list of all of the players in Dallas history who have worn each jersey number. Given that nearly 900 players have played for the Cowboys, this should be some list. The posts will allow site visitors to vote for the best player wearing each number. Some criteria are appropriate:

(1) Statistics: Obviously, these only show so much, but stats give us an objective measure of the quality of each player.

(2) Accolades: Obviously awards that each player received should be taken into account. This may include Pro Bowl appearances, number of times that the player was named all-pro, all-decade teams, Hall of Fame, Ring of Honor, etc.

(3) Longevity: I think that the length of service is important. For instance, Herb Adderley may be the best NFL player to wear #26, but is this enough to give him the nod over Kevin Smith?

(4) Intangibles: Some players (Bill Bates, for example) simply gave more to the Cowboys than others.

With that introduction, let’s turn our attention to jersey #1:

Jersey #1

Five players in team history have worn #1, including the team’s current Pro Bowl punter. This one may be close. Here are our candidates, listed in chronological order:

1. Efren Herrera, K, UCLA, 1974, 1976-1977

Statistics: In three seasons with Dallas, Herrera made 44 of 65 field goals (67.7%).

Accolades: He was a two-time All-Pro with Dallas and made the Pro Bowl once (1977).

Longevity: Dallas traded Herrera after the Super Bowl year in 1977 due to a contract dispute. He played for Seattle for several years before finishing up his NFL career in Buffalo. He also played a season in the USFL.

Intangibles: Herrera was a quality kicker but not usually as highly regarded as his replacement.

2. Rafael Septien, K, Southwest Louisiana, 1978-1986

Statistics: In nine seasons with Dallas, Septien made 74.3% of his field goals. He was nearly automatic from inside the 40.

Accolades: He was named all-pro and to the Pro Bowl one time (1981).

Longevity: Septien had the longest tenure of any Dallas kicker.

Intangibles: As a player, Septien was a very valuable member of some good Dallas teams. As a person, he was charged with indecency with a child and sentenced to 10 years deferred probation. Tough not to hold this against him (especially for those of us with children), but his record as a football player is still strong.

3. Kerry Brady, K, Hawaii, 1987 (replacement player)

Statistics: As a replacement player in 1987, Brady made an extra point.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: One game. He played briefly for Indianapolis and Buffalo in 1988 and 1989.

Intangibles: Replacement player. Enough said.

4. Ken Willis, K, Kentucky, 1990-91

Statistics: In two seasons as the Cowboys kicker, Willis made 45 of 64 field goal attempts (70.3%).

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He lasted two seasons in Dallas before being moving on to Tampa Bay.

Intangibles: Willis was a serviceable kicker on the Cowboys’ playoff team in 1991. He really did not stand out other than that, however.

5. Mat McBriar, P, Hawaii, 2004-2011 (Updated 5/2012)

Statistics: In eight seasons with Dallas, McBriar averaged 45.3 yards per punt. By comparison, Danny White averaged 40.2.

Accolades: McBriar was named to the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2010.

Longevity: Dallas signed McBriar as an undrafted free agent in 2004, and he may be the greatest punter in team history already. In February 2007, he signed a five-year contract extension. Two of his seasons ended due to injury, and the team released him after the 2011 season.

Intangibles: McBriar is known not only for his booming kicks, but also for his ability to place the ball inside an opponent’s 10-yard line.


Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #1

  • Mat McBriar (59%, 136 Votes)
  • Rafael Septien (31%, 72 Votes)
  • Efren Herrera (7%, 16 Votes)
  • Kerry Brady (3%, 8 Votes)
  • Ken Willis (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 232

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If you still want to vote, please make a comment below.

My Vote: McBriar

Mat McBriarI am one who is more likely to pick a classic player than a current player. However, I think that McBriar already deserves the honor over Septien. Both have the same number of awards, and I have no doubt that once McBriar has played as long as Septien, he will be held in higher regard (assuming he stays out of trouble).

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  • Love this idea. I hope to vote in all of these but excpect I will miss a few.

    I voted for Rafael Septien as the best Cowboys to wear #1. I don’t think there is much debate about the best Cowboy player to wear #1. McBriar is making a case for himself and could subplant Septien if he continues to play well. The Cowboys may not pay to keep him once his contract runs out but we’ll see.

    The indecent exposure case is a sad footnote on Septien’s otherwise stellar career. I have read as much about that case as I can find and there is little doubt that something indecent happened. Whether it was a misunderstanding as Septien claims or something else will never be known. The facts are the Child and the Child’s parents did not want to pursue the case after it was initially opened but the District Attorney would not let the case be dropped. The parents may have concluded that it was all a misunderstanding but the DA had a vandetta or perhaps the Parents decided not to put their child through more trama with a long court case, we simply do not know. We do know that Septien accepted a plea (Guilty of indecent exposure to a minor) and received 10 years probabtion and a 2,000 dollar fine. A plea that cost him his career but kept him out of jail, so there had to have been enough evidence to warrant the plea, or he got some poor legal advice.

    It would be easier for me to accept Septien as a pedifile or pervert if he had continued his misdeeds. Unfortunately a true pedifile continues to molest children until such time that person is imprisoned. This is not the case with Septien. 20 years have past and not a peep from him. Perhaps he is a pedifile and has been able to continue his foul acts under the radar in Mexico or perhaps he is not and was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. We simply don’t know and likely will never know.

    I will remember Septien as near automatic inside 40 yards. He was the best kicker the Cowboys ever had. In the end, he screwed up off the field and will be just as such. I prefer to remember the attempts he made instead of the one that cost him is career and reputation.

  • This is a tough one. I honestly cannot say I remember a kick that Septien missed. Dallas struggled for years to replace Septien, which demonstrates his value. I know that Landry wanted to keep him after the incident, but Schramm wouldn’t allow it. My vote was based on both McBriar’s performance thus far as well as the projection that he will continue to establish himself as one of the league’s great punters.

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  • MKC

    This is a tough call, but I absolutely would have to vote for Kerry Brady!

    What can I say…he’s my brother!!


  • James Brady

    The greatest 1 point player in the history of the NFL!

  • James Brady

    Kerry Brady is the greatest 1 point player in the history of the NFL

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  • Rantonioa21

    Septien has a Super Bowl ring I beleive.