Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #20

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #20

Eleven players have worn #20, including eight defensive backs and three running backs.

Richie Anderson, FB, Penn State, 2003-04

Statistics: Anderson rushed for 552 yards and 2 TDs with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None with Dallas.

Longevity: Anderson was a Parcells player that Dallas signed in 2003. He spent two years with the club before retiring.

Intangibles: Anderson was a pretty good contributor as a fullback for Dallas. He later became rather infamous after his arrest for soliciting a prostitute in 2007.

Alan Ball, CB, Illinois, 2007-present

Statistics: Ball played in two games in 2007 but did not record any statistics.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Ball was a seventh round pick in 2007. He has played in two games.

Intangibles: Ball is a player who is still developing.

Bob Bercich, S, Michigan State, 1960-61

Statistics: Bercich recorded a total of five interceptions with Dallas.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: A 1959 draft choice of the New York Giants, Bercich lasted two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: I am not sure what happened to Bercich. He played in just six games for Dallas in 1961, so it is possible that he was injured. Any help would be appreciated.

Ray Horton, S, Washington, 1989-92

Statistics: Horton recorded five interceptions and three touchdowns (two from interceptions and one from a fumble recovery) with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None with Dallas.

Longevity: Horton played four seasons with Dallas, starting the majority of the games he played with the team.

Intangibles: Horton provided some veteran leadership as the Cowboys developed in the early 1990s. He was a starter with the Cincinnati Bengals during their Super Bowl run in 1988. He eventually lost his starting job to James Washington in Dallas in 1992 and retired after that season.

Jason Kaiser, S, Culver-Stockton, 1999

Statistics: Kaiser was on the Dallas roster in 1999 but never played.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He was on the Dallas roster in 1999.

Intangibles: I remember Kaiser because he played at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri, which was a school that I visited when I was hoping and praying that someone would let me play college football. Culver Stockton would have, in fact, let me play college football (very, very badly), but I instead chose this school to show off my lack of passing and running talents.

Bruce Livingston, DB, Arkansas Tech, 1987

Statistics: Livingston had one punt return for zero yards in 1987.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Livingston was a replacement player who appeared in three games in 1987.

Intangibles: Nothing worth noting.

Jerry Overton, S, Utah, 1963

Statistics: Overton averaged 6.4 yards on five punt returns in 1963.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Overton played in ten games in 1963. That was his only season as a pro.

Intangibles: Nothing worth noting.

Mel Renfro, DB/RB, Oregon, 1964-77

Statistics: Renfro had 52 interceptions, still a team record, along with three touchdowns during his career. He had a league best 10 picks in 1969.

Accolades: Renfro is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Ring of Honor. He was named to the Pro Bowl ten times and was named an all pro ten times.

Longevity: Renfro came from the outstanding draft of 1964 and played 14 seasons for Dallas. Many still consider him the greatest defensive back in team history, and rightfully so.

Intangibles: He was drafted as a running back out of Oregon, but immediately made the move to safety. The former track star excelled at both safety and cornerback. He was also an outstanding returner early in his career.

Phillippi Sparks, CB, Arizona State, 2000

Statistics: Sparks had five interceptions with Dallas in 2000.

Accolades: None with Dallas.

Longevity: Sparks lasted one season with the Cowboys.

Intangibles: Sparks was a veteran brought in from the Giants when the Cowboys were trying to replace Kevin Smith and Deion Sanders. He did not play badly, but the entire season in 2000 was so bad that most probably do not remember him as a Cowboy. Where people will remember him (and perhaps recognize his name) is as the father of American Idol winner Jordin Sparks.

Ron Springs, RB, Ohio State, 1979-84

Statistics: Springs ranks tenth on the team’s all-time rushing list with 2180 yards. His 28 touchdowns rank eighth in team history.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Springs played fullback with Dallas for six seasons. He was a starter for about half of his career in Dallas.

Intangibles: Springs may be best remembered as the father of current Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs. Ron Springs also made news when former teammate Everson Walls donated a kidney in an effort to save Springs’ life. Spring slipped into a coma in October and has remained in that state since then. As a Cowboy, he was a contributor on a number of good teams in the early 1980s.

Sherman Williams, RB, Alabama, 1995-99

Statistics: Williams rushed for 1162 yards as Emmitt Smith’s backup.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Williams lasted five seasons in Dallas, though he only appeared in one game during 1999, his final as a pro.

Intangibles: Williams was not a bad backup for Smith, and at times outperformed Smith during the 1996 and 1997 seasons when Smith was suffering from a variety of injuries. Dallas signed former Seahawk Chris Warren in 1998, which limited Williams’ playing time.

Poll

Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #20:

Greatest #20

  • Mel Renfro (88%, 175 Votes)
  • Ron Springs (8%, 15 Votes)
  • Sherman Williams (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Phillippi Sparks (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Bruce Livingston (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Jason Kaiser (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Alan Ball (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Jerry Overton (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Ray Horton (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Bob Bercich (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Richie Anderson (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 198

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My Vote: Renfro

Mel RenfroThis one simply is no contest. Renfro was an outstanding athlete who performed at a high level for more than a decade with the team. He had a number of memorable plays, including an interception that sealed the Cowboys’ 5-0 win over Detroit in the 1970 NFC playoffs.

  • Tim Truemper

    Mel Renfro was tried at running back on a limited basis (1965?) but the experiment did not last. Dan Reeves became the starter. He was also a very good kick returner.

  • Fred Goodwin

    According to the DMN, Bercich suffered a concussion in the Cowboys’ 17-16 win @ NYG (10-29-61) and was hospitalized overnight.

    He came back the following week to relieve Warren Livingston in a 31-17 loss to the Cardinals in the Cotton Bowl. Bercich left the Cardinals game with torn cartilage and was placed on the disabled list.

    According to another DMN article, Bercich came off the disabled list on 9-9-62, but there is no mention that he played during the ’62 season.

    A 9-19-63 DMN article refers to Bercich as an “ex” Cowboy; I didn’t find any other info re: when he was released or retired.

    The last mention of him is a 9-19-64 article in which he plays on a touch-football team sponsored by a nightclub called “The End Zone”, apparently a popular after-game hang-out for active and former Cowboys.

  • Many thanks, Fred. My subscription to the DMN archive has lapsed. Given that he had obviously contributed in two seasons, it seemed to me to be a reasonable inference that he was injured in some way.

    I’m sure there will be more names I need to look up, so may just need to fork over the money go retain access to those archives. Thankfully I make small fortune in ad revenues from this site.

    […17 cents yesterday and a $1.05 for the entire month of April so far!]

  • Fred Goodwin

    If you are in Texas, you might be able to access the DMN archives for free through your library subscription; that’s how I do it (I live in San Antonio and the SAPL provides free access to the limited DMN archives).

    The free archives stop at 12-31-77; anything more recent you have to pay for.

  • R.Carlson

    Heck it’s been how many years since he played,but I still have a picture of Mel as one of my screensavers, although with Cornell Green, dam that was some good ol’boys

  • Fred Goodwin

    Great article in today’s FWST re: Renfro:

    OLD ‘BOYS CLUB — Renfro set bar high for corners

    http://www.star-telegram.com/388/story/633404.html

    Fri, May. 09, 2008
    By RAY BUCK
    rbuck@star-telegram.com

    Mel Renfro played 13 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys.

    His first 10 were spent at the Pro Bowl.

    He returned punts and kickoffs. Oh, did he ever. He once returned two punts for touchdowns in a Pro Bowl.

    He was lock-down cornerback (after starting out his career at safety).

    He was a second-round choice in the 1964 draft and the seventh Cowboy to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    When Renfro retired, after Super Bowl XII, Adam “Pacman” Jones was still five years, eight months away from being born.

    (Memo to Pacman: Longtime Cowboys fans have a standard for even the most highly decorated, punt-returning CBs to follow — and it’s way up there.)

    [excerpted]

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  • Bob Salerno

    Mel Renfro was a special player and person. How many All American running backs would move to defensive back in todays NFL? I read that Tom Landry was going to work Mel into the Cowboy’s offense way back in 1965-66, but he never did. And Deon Sanders take note, Mel could tackle with the best of them. I would write Mel regularly when I was a youngster, and he signed every picture I ever sent him and mailed it back to me. I had the opportunity to meet Mel at an autograph show in NJ 2 years ago. He is a true gentleman and a great Cowboy.