Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #43

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #43

Five players have worn #43, including four defensive backs and a running back.

Greg Briggs, S, Texas Southern, 1995

Statistics: Briggs saw action in 11 games in 1995.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: The Cowboys originally drafted Briggs in 1992, but he struggled with injuries and development for three years. He finally made the squad in 1995 and saw action on special teams. He layer played with the Vikings and Bears.

Cliff Harris, S, Ouachita, 1970-79

Statistics: Harris had 29 career interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries.

Accolades: 6 Pro Bowls and named All-Pro numerous times. He was a member of the All-Decade team of the 1970s and is a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor.

Longevity: Harris played 10 seasons with the Cowboys.

Intangibles: Harris was a free agent pickup out of little Ouachita Baptist College who turned into one of the great players of all time. Known as “Captain Crash,” Harris was a hard-hitter who had more than his share of big plays.

Elvis Patterson, CB, Kansas, 1993

Statistics: Patterson saw action in 11 games in 1993.

Accolades: None with Dallas.

Longevity: He played less than one full season with the Cowboys.

Intangibles: Patterson had a long career prior to coming to Dallas. After serving on special teams in part of the 1993 season, he was released when the Cowboys would not meet his salary demands.

Don Perkins, RB, New Mexico, 1961-68

Statistics: Perkins rushed for 6217 yards and scored 42 touchdowns with the Cowboys. At the time of his retirement, Perkins ranked fifth on the all-time rushing list.

Accolades: He was named All Pro once and was named to six Pro Bowls. He is a member of the Ring of Honor.

Longevity: Perkins played eight seasons in Dallas. An injury kept him out of his rookie season in 1960, and he was only 30 when he retired after the 1968 season.

Intangibles: Perkins had good acceleration, was a good pass receiver out of the backfield, and had great acceleration to make up for average speed. One of his best games came in the 1966 NFL Championship against Green Bay, when Perkins rushed for 108 yards on 17 attempts.

Izell Reese, S, Alabama-Birmingham, 1998-01

Statistics: Reese had seven interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played four seasons in Dallas. The Cowboys resigned him in 2005, but he was released before the season.

Intangibles: Reese was a special teams player and part-time starter during his time in Dallas. He was also a starter with Denver and Buffalo after leaving Dallas.


Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #43

  • Cliff Harris (78%, 119 Votes)
  • Don Perkins (20%, 30 Votes)
  • Izell Reese (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Elvis Patterson (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Greg Briggs (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 153

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My Vote: Harris

Cliff HarrisThis should be a really close vote. As far as accomplishments, both Harris and Perkins have six Pro Bowl appearances, and both were clearly dominant players during their eras.

During the 1970s, Harris was the best at his position in the NFL, confirmed by the fact that he was named to the All-Decade team. That he is not a member of the Hall of Fame while others such as Dick Anderson (Miami), Ken Houston (Houston and Washington), Larry Wilson (St. Louis), Roger Wehrli (St. Louis), Jimmy Johnson (San Francisco), and Willie Brown (Oakland) are is a complete travesty. Perkins, on the other hand, was not quite as highly regarded compared to his peers in terms of running backs of the 1960s. Taking nothing away from Perkins, this gives Harris a slight edge in our competition.

  • You got this one right on.

    Harris should be a Hall-Of-Famer except for the Cowboy bias the selection committee has.

  • Thanks, James. And great website, by the way. If I could mention the best hole-in-the-wall burger joint in central Texas– Rocket Cafe in Robinson.

  • My vote went to Don Perkins mainly because I feel he is probably the most forgotten Cowboy. No doubt Captain Crash is the best safety the Cowboys have ever had and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame (someday) but most Cowboy fans simply don’t know who Don Perkins is and I wanted to take this chance to tell them who he was.

    Don Perkins was the first Cowboy. Yep, he was the first! Lilly was the first draft pick, Meredith was the first big name player but Don Perkins was the first Cowboy. He was signed to a personal services contract before the 1960 NFL expansion draft and later he was drafted by the Colts in the NFL draft. The Cowboys had to compensate with a draft pick in ’61 but it was worth the risk because Perkins became an All Pro RB for the worst team in the league. After an injury kept him out of action in 1960, Don was named the NFL rookie of the Year in 1961 with 815 yards rushing. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1962 with 945 yards rushing. Don was named to the Pro Bowl 6 times and was the Cowboys career leading rusher with over 6,000 yards when he retired before the 1969 season. Don is 3rd on the Cowboys all time list for 100 yard games (I don’t have to tell you who the first 2 spots belong to) and is tied for 2nd for leading the team in rushing for 4 consecutive seasons.

    Don retired after the 1968 season, still in his prime. Had he played 5 more years, he would have racked up a Super Bowl ring, a few more yards and TDs and likely a trip to Canton but for his own reasons, he choose to hang ’em up. Don quitely retired back to his home in New Mexico and besides his induction into the RING of HONOR has been relatively forgotten in Cowboys history but I’m here to tell you, he was great. he was really great!

  • Fred Goodwin

    This was really hard for me.

    I finally went with Harris, but Perkins is my all-time favorite Dallas Cowboy, for many of the reasons Marty mentions. He was a FB with RB speed, he often caught passes out of the backfield, and he could pick up blitzing LBs.

    Its amazing how durable Perkins was, save for the ankle injury (suffered in practice for the 1960 College All Star Game) that kept him on the sidelines during his rookie season.

    Although Jim Doran was the Cowboys first Pro Bowler in 1960, Perkins was the first Cowboy elected to start in the Pro Bowl in his “rookie” season of 1961.

    Tom Landry is known to have chewed out players in film sessions (see this article:

    for an example) but I don’t recall ever reading about Landry chewing out Perkins for being out of position or not properly executing a play.

  • Thanks to both Fred and Marty. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading up on the 1960s Cowboys and watching whatever I can get my hands on. Thus, even as a relatively younger fan (born in 1971), I do appreciate what Perkins meant to the team.

  • Tim Truemper

    I’m late to the discussion on this as I have been away from the computer. I thoroughly enjoyed the contributions of Marty and Fred on Don Perkins. He is unheralded in terms of Cowboy fan memory. He was one of the best backs of the 1960’s and could have been a 100o yard rusher if given more carries. If you look at Pro Football Reference, you will see year to year he was near the top in rushing statistics. And, as Marty said, if he had played 5 more years, he could have had Jim Taylor like stats and been in the HOF.

    If the highlights were available, seeing Don Perkins in the 1966 NFL championship game is an eye opener about his ability. Against a great defense, he ran great. The only thing that helped make his premature retirement bearable was that Walt Garrison took his place.

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  • Coach G

    I like #43, Elvis Patterson, talk about speed, one of the most under rated backs in the league. my vote for best jersey # is 34, 43. the ghost….

  • Faye

    I found a note that was given to me while working at a bank off of McAuthur Blvd. in Irving Tx. He signed it “The Ghost Emitt #43 Cowboys. That was in 1991 while I was working in that area. I had forgot about it and I can’t remember him. I know he came in with Barry Switcher and they all went back to their lock boxes to get their rings.
    Could you give me any iformation you may have on him. The card says” To Faye, Keep the Wonderful Smile” The Ghost and the name looks like Emitt # 43 and he drew a ghost-Cowboys. Thank if you can help me. Faye Talley