Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #51

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #51

Eleven players have worn #51 for the Cowboys, including nine linebackers and two centers.

Keith Adams, LB, Clemson, 2001-02

Statistics: Adams recorded 15 tackles with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played less than two full seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: The Cowboys picked up Adams in 2001, and he played in four games. He played in another six in 2002 before being released. He eventually became a starter in Philadelphia and most recently played for Cleveland.

Akin Ayodele, LB, Purdue, 2006-2007

Statistics: Ayodele had 100 tackles and two interceptions with Dallas.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Ayodele was a big free agent signee in 2006 and was a quality player for the Cowboys. However, once Dallas brought in Zach Thomas, Ayodele became expendable, and the team shipped him to Miami in the 2008 offseason.

Tom Braatz, LB, Marquette, 1960

Statistics: Braatz recorded one interception with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: The Cowboys picked up Braatz during the 1960 expansion draft. He played sparingly in 1960 before retiring due to injury.

Anthony Dickerson, LB, Southern Methodist, 1980-84

Statistics: Dickerson had five interceptions and 15 sacks with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played five seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Dickerson played in the Canadian Football League before joining the Cowboys in 1980. He became a starter in 1983 and recorded 10.5 sacks that season. However, he was gone by 1985 after being traded to Buffalo.

Kevin Hardy, LB, Illinois, 2002

Statistics: Hardy had two sacks and 60 tackles with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None with Dallas.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Hardy was a big free agent pickup in 2002, but he left via free agency the following year. He was a quality starter on a bad team with Dallas.

Lynn Hoyem, C/G, Cal. St. Long Beach, 1962-63

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Hoyem played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: He was mostly a special teams player who later played for the Eagles.

Dale Jones, LB, Tennessee State, 1987

Statistics: Jones recovered two fumbles as a replacement player in 1987.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played in all three replacement games in 1987.

Intangibles: He was originally a 10th round pick of the Cowboys in 1987 but only played as a replacement player.

Dave Manders, C, Michigan State, 1964-66, 1968-74

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: He was named to one Pro Bowl.

Longevity: He played ten seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Manders first signed with the Cowboys as a free agent in 1962 but then quit the team and played minor league football. Two years later, he rejoined the Cowboys, and he became a starter by 1965. He made the Pro Bowl in 1966 but was then injured in 1967 and missed the entire season. He was the starter on the Super Bowl teams of 1970 and 1971.

Ken Norton, LB, UCLA, 1988-93

Statistics: Norton had 579 tackles and seven sacks with the Cowboys.

Accolades: He made one Pro Bowl with the Cowboys.

Longevity: He played six seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Norton was in many ways the heart of the Cowboys’ defense during the 1992 and 1993 seasons, leading the team in tackles both seasons. He played both outside linebacker and middle linebacker. In 1993, he rather famously played much of the year with a torn bicep muscle but still had 159 tackles, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl. His free agency defection in 1994 was one of the biggest losses the Cowboys suffered in the 1990s.

Al Singleton, LB, Temple, 2003-06

Statistics: Singleton had 99 tackles and three interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played four seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Singleton was signed in 2003 from the Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers. He wasn’t Derrick Brooks, but he was a quality starter for more than two years before becoming a backup when Dallas moved to the 3-4 defense.

Broderick Thomas, LB, Nebraska, 1996-97

Statistics: Thomas had eight sacks with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Thomas was a beast when he played for Nebraska, and Tampa Bay picked him up in the first round of the 1989 draft. By the time he came to Dallas, he had become a huge bust. Nevertheless, he was a quality backup who was able to put more pressure on the quarterback than several of the defensive ends on the Cowboys’ roster at the time (ah-hem…Shante Carver).


Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #51.

Greatest #51

  • Ken Norton (80%, 106 Votes)
  • Dave Manders (14%, 19 Votes)
  • Al Singleton (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Anthony Dickerson (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Keith Adams (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Dale Jones (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Lynn Hoyem (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Kevin Hardy (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Tom Braatz (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Akin Ayodele (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Broderick Thomas (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 132

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My Vote: Norton

Ken NortonGiven that Norton is the son of former heavyweight (non-linear-because-he-never-won-it-in-the-ring) champion Ken Norton, Ken Norton Jr. became one of my favorite players on the Cowboys. He was a major force in Super Bowl XXVII, recording 10 tackles, injuring Jim Kelly, stopping Thurman Thomas on the two-yard-line on a crucial goalline stand, and returning a fumble for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. For these reasons, I remember him fondly.

Then again, Norton Jr. became rather mouthy towards the Cowboys when he left via free agency in 1994, and for the rest of the decade, it was hard to remember that he was once a great member of the Cowboys.

Kind of felt like the other Ken Norton probably felt here:

  • rick

    i grew absolutely loving Kevin Norton, Jr. and his defection the hated 49er’s left a bad taste in my 8 year old mouth. i still have the grudge at 22.

  • Fred Goodwin

    I went with Manders.

    Its kinda hard to say which player meant more to his team during their eras, but Manders anchored an offensive line that paved with way for RBs like Don Perkins, Dan Reeves, Calvin Hill, Duane Thomas and Walt Garrison.

    As much as I like Norton, the fact that he left Dallas while Manders played his entire career as a Cowboy tilted me in favor or Manders.

    Of course, there was no free agency during Manders’ era, and its hard to blame Norton for taking the money that was waved at him after winning the Super Bowl.

  • Tim Truemper

    I’m with Fred on my vote. Dave Manders was a quality player in the middle of a great offensive line. For many of the years he was a starter, Dallas led or was near the top of rushing as a team. Ken Norton was a very good LB on a great defense, but I still an going with DM because of longevity and his contribution on some great Dallas teams.

  • I loved me some Kenny Norton. His punching the goal posts after a great play was brilliant.

    THEN…..he defected and I was crushed.

    I still voted for him, though.

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