Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #81

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #81

Fifteen players have worn #81 for the Cowboys. This includes 12 wide receivers, two tight ends, and a punter.

Scott Ankrom, WR, Texas Christian, 1989

Statistics: Ankrom returned two kickoffs with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Dallas tried Ankrom on both offense and defense in 1989, but he was unable to stick around.

Tyji Armstrong, TE, Mississippi, 1996

Statistics: Armstrong caught two passes for 10 yards with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Armstrong was primarily a blocking tight end.

Marv Bateman, P, Utah, 1972-74

Statistics: Bateman averaged 39.3 yards per punt with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played three seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Bateman had several injury problems during his time in Dallas.

Vince Courville, WR, Rice, 1987

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played in two of the replacement games in 1987.

Intangibles: n/a

Kelvin Edwards, WR, Liberty, 1987-88

Statistics: Edwards caught 39 passes for 614 yards and three touchdowns with Dallas.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Edwards first saw action during the replacement games in 1987, and he later became a starter with the regulars. He suffered a terrible knee injury in 1988, however, and did not play again.

Percy Howard, WR, Austin Peay, 1975

Statistics: Howard never had a regular season catch, but he caught a 34-yard touchdown pass in Super Bowl X.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Howard was injured during preseason in 1976 and never played pro football again.

Billy Howton, WR, Rice, 1960-63

Statistics: Howton caught 161 passes for 2368 yards and 17 touchdowns in Dallas.

Accolades: None with Dallas.

Longevity: Howton played four seasons with the Cowboys.

Intangibles: At one time, Howton was the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, as he surpassed Don Hutson. He was a starter with Dallas during the early years of the franchise.

Raghib Ismail, WR, Notre Dame, 1999-01

Statistics: Ismail caught 158 passes for 2281 yards and 9 TDs.

Accolades: None with Dallas.

Longevity: He played three seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Rocket got off to a great start in Dallas, catching a touchdown pass in overtime to give the Cowboys a win over the Redskins in the 1999 season opener. He gained more than 1,000 yards that year, but he suffered through injuries in 2000 and caught on 25 passes. He was certainly a playmaker but came along at the time when the team was in serious decline.

Patrick Jeffers, WR, Virginia, 1998

Statistics: Jeffers caught 18 passes for 330 yards and 2 TDs.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: The Cowboys acquired Jeffers in 1998, and he showed great promise late in the 1998 season. Carolina signed him in 1999, though, and he gained more than 1,000 yards with the Panthers. His career tapered off after that.

Quincy Morgan, WR, Kansas State, 2004-05

Statistics: Morgan caught 22 receptions for 260 yards.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played less than a full season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Dallas acquired Morgan as part of the trade that sent Antonio Bryant to Cleveland in 2004. Morgan saw action in the receiver rotation with Dallas, but he joined the Steelers in 2005.

Terrell Owens, WR, Tenn-Chat., 2006-07

Statistics: Owens has caught 166 passes for 2535 yards and 28 TDs.

Accolades: He earned Pro Bowl and All Pro honors in 2007. He has been named to a total of six Pro Bowls during his career.

Longevity: He will enter his third season with the Cowboys in 2008.

Intangibles: Few players in team history have been as productive during a two-year stretch as Owens in 2006 and 2007. He is even showing signs of leadership, and at age 35, does not appear to be slowing down.

Kirk Phillips, WR, Tulsa, 1984

Statistics: Phillips caught one pass for six yards with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Phillips saw action early in the 1984 season due to injuries to some starters, but he was released after the season was over.

Karl Powe, WR, Alabama State, 1985-86

Statistics: Powe caught 14 passes for 237 yards with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

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

Intangibles: Powe showed promise in 1985, but a neck injury suffered in the first week of the 1986 season ended his career.

Jackie Smith, TE, Northwest Louisiana, 1978

Statistics: Smith caught 480 regular season passes during his career with the Cardinals. He caught no regular season passes with Dallas, and though he had some playoff receptions in 1978, we know him for one big drop.

Accolades: None with Dallas. He is now in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Dallas signed Smith in 1978 to back up Billy Joe DuPree when Jay Saldi was injured. Bless his heart, Smith became the sickest man in America when he dropped a sure touchdown pass in the third quarter of Super Bowl XIII when the Cowboys trailed the Steelers 21-14.

Alexander Wright, WR, Auburn, 1990-92

Statistics: Wright caught 21 passes for 274 yards with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

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

Intangibles: Wright won the competition as the league’s fastest man, but he developed too slowly for Dallas and was traded to Los Angeles during the 1992 season. I have no idea why I remember, this, but when Wright was with the Raiders, Chris Berman nicknamed him Alexander “If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want to Be” Wright.


Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #81.

Greatest #81

  • Terrell Owens (92%, 181 Votes)
  • Raghib Ismail (3%, 5 Votes)
  • Jackie Smith (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Billy Howton (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Karl Powe (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Scott Ankrom (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Marv Bateman (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Tyji Armstrong (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Alexander Wright (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Percy Howard (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Kelvin Edwards (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Patrick Jeffers (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Quincy Morgan (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Vince Courville (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Kirk Phillips (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 197

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My Vote: Owens

Terrell OwensTwo years ago, I would have never believed that I could vote for Owens as the greatest anything in team history. A year ago, I would have found a reason not to vote for him. This year, he’s shown that he still has enough in the tank to be an elite receiver, and if we didn’t know how valuable he was before his injury late last year, we knew afterward. The big question for the rest of this decade is how long he can keep this up.

Ismail and Howton were productive receivers during their time in Dallas and deserve mention. The others were mostly backups.

  • del ives

    i refuse to vote for t.o.

  • I wanted to vote for Billy Howton and certainly would have if not for TO. Howton is one of the most underated players in NFL history, much less Cowboys history. He was simple a fantastic WR who played for a bad Packers team before Lombardi and a bad Cowboys team during their first seasons in the league. He was ALWAYS near the top of the league in catches, yards, TDs and AVG and he is basically ignored today by so called NFL history experts. That being said, you can not argue what TO has done in his first 2 seasons in Dallas. Simply off the charts. He is a lot of things, some good, some bad, but he is simply one of the top WR to EVER play the game..

  • Fred Goodwin

    I can’t believe I actually voted for TO . . .

  • Howton is the reason I originally created the Most Obscure Player award– very few people know that he established the league record for receptions while he was with the Cowboys (though this was broken shortly thereafter by Raymond Berry).

    As for T.O., I think of him about the same way I thought of Deion Sanders– close me eyes and cover my ears when he shows off, but clap loud and hard when he helps the team win.

  • melonball

    Hey Kickholder, how ya doing? Great series, I’m having alot of fun reading it. Agreed with you on every vote so far. Hey, didn’t Jeffers go to the Pro Bowl in ’99 with the Panthers?

  • Glad you’re back, Melonball. The only pick I would change right now would be #30 for Dan Reeves over Timmy Newsome. There were some tough calls on some of the other ones. I’m glad you’re enjoying this series.

    I don’t think Jeffers ever made it. There are lists of the 1999 Pro Bowl teams here, and here. I still think we should have done more to keep him, but he also wasn’t in the league very long.