Underappreciated Dallas Cowboys: Running Back

This is part of the series on the All-Time Team of Underappreciated Dallas Cowboys.

The choices for greatest running back in team history in ESPN’s poll of the greatest team of the Dallas Cowboys were so obvious they are not worth mentioning.

As for the choice for the most underappreciated, that is more difficult. Below is the list of running backs sorted by approximate value.

Rk From To G Pos AV ?
1 Emmitt Smith 1990 2002 201 RB 162
2 Tony Dorsett 1977 1987 157 RB 131
3 Calvin Hill 1969 1974 73 RB 68
4 Herschel Walker 1986 1997 81 RB 42
5 Marion Barber 2005 2010 88 RB 41
6 Preston Pearson 1975 1980 79 RB 40
7 Julius Jones 2004 2007 53 RB 31
8 Dan Reeves 1965 1971 86 RB 28
9 Duane Thomas 1970 1971 25 RB 19
10 Felix Jones 2008 2010 36 RB 17
11 Chris Warren 1998 2000 38 RB 13
12 Doug Dennison 1974 1978 52 RB 12
13 Troy Hambrick 2001 2003 48 RB 11
14 Sherman Williams 1995 1998 59 RB 11
15 Charley Young 1974 1976 37 RB 11
16 Tashard Choice 2008 2010 48 RB 10
17 Craig Baynham 1967 1969 38 HB 10
18 Jim Stiger 1963 1965 33 HB 10
19 Perry Lee Dunn 1964 1965 27 RB 7
20 Les Shy 1966 1969 52 RB 7
21 Tommie Agee 1990 1992 48 RB 6
22 Don McIlhenny 1960 1961 14 HB 6
23 James Dixon 1989 1990 31 RB 5
24 Mike Montgomery 1972 1973 21 RB 5
25 James Jones 1980 1985 48 RB 4
26 Michael Wiley 2000 2002 42 RB 4
27 Amos Bullocks 1962 1964 26 HB 4
28 L.G. Dupre 1960 1961 21 HB 4
29 Eddie George 2004 2004 13 RB 3
30 Derrick Lassic 1993 1993 10 RB 3
31 Paul Palmer 1989 1989 9 RB 3
32 Aveion Cason 2003 2003 10 RB 2
33 Darryl Clack 1988 1989 23 RB 2
34 Curvin Richards 1992 1992 9 RB 2
35 Les Strayhorn 1973 1974 24 RB 2
36 Claxton Welch 1969 1969 6 RB 2
37 Gary Allen 1983 1983 6 RB 1
38 Ricky Blake 1991 1991 2 RB 1
39 Alvin Blount 1987 1987 2 RB 1
40 Larry Brinson 1978 1978 10 RB 1
41 Woodrow Dantzler 2002 2002 5 RB 1
42 Derrick Gainer 1993 1993 11 RB 1
43 Wendell Hayes 1963 1963 1 RB 1
44 ReShard Lee 2004 2004 14 RB 1
45 Dennis Morgan 1974 1974 13 RB 1
46 Adrian Murrell 2003 2003 3 RB 1
47 Broderick Sargent 1989 1989 14 RB 1
48 Junior Tautalatasi 1989 1989 13 RB 1
49 Anthony Thomas 2005 2005 6 RB 1
50 Blair Thomas 1994 1994 2 RB 1
51 Tyson Thompson 2005 2005 15 RB 1
52 A.D. Whitfield 1965 1965 2 RB 1
53 Joe Williams 1971 1971 12 RB 1
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/23/2011.

From this list, here are the candidates:

Hill: When Duane Thomas finally left Dallas after two tumultuous seasons, Hill became a 1,000-yard back. Many people forget this.

Walker: Walker was a 1,500-yard rusher in his first stint with Dallas. He returned in 1996 and served as a capable backup at fullback (and a fine kick returner for two seasons).

Barber: Barber’s days in Dallas may be numbered. Most fans won’t forget him anytime soon, though he never became the dominant runner that many had hoped.

Pearson: This Pearson became the prototypical third-down back during the mid-1970s.

Thomas: Duane’s story is one of what could have been. He was vital in the Cowboys’ first Super Bowl championship.

Julius Jones: Most will remember Julius as a bust, but he was the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Emmitt Smith.

Felix Jones: In three seasons, Felix has shown flashes, but he needs to do more.

Dennison: A truly forgotten player, Dennison was a significant contributor during the mid-1970s. Once Dorsett arrived, though, Dennison seldom saw the field on offense.

Please select the most underappreciated running back in the poll below.

Who is the most underappreciated running back in team history?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
  • Timothytrump

    Glad to see the series back on the site. Thanks Matt.

  • Anonymous

    I should have had this one up a couple of weeks ago. Thanks for sticking with me.

  • Hill was All-Pro and Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1969, so it’s hard to see how he could be considered “underappreciated”. Walker is a good choice but his is a name people will long remember.

    So I went with Doug Dennison. He lugged the rock during the “between” years after Duane Thomas-Calvin Hill but before Tony Dorsett. My guess is, if you asked fans today which RB came after Thomas-Hill and before Dorsett, 95% could not name Dennison, and 75% wouldn’t remember him if you identified him!

  • Timothytrump

    I agree, Fred, that Doug Dennison is overlooked and largely forgotten. I think what Matt is getting at in this series are players who were accomplished in their careers, but “underappreciated” by fans as they forget or never knew their significance. I can see what Calvin Hill would be on the list because many fans, who only know the team from the 90’s on, who not know how good Calvin Hill was for the handful of years he played for Dallas. To some degree, I think he is underappreciated by most current Cowboy fans.

  • Anonymous

    I think Hill may be remembered now more as Grant’s father than as the All-Pro rusher for the Cowboys. His great start was overshadowed by the emergence of Duane Thomas, and I do not know how many people remember that he was a 1,000-yard rusher during the 14-game seasons in 1972 and 1973. I was surprised to see that he rated third in AV among all of these running backs, but that makes sense given that he made the Pro Bowl during each season in which he was a starter.

    Your point Dennison is well-taken, though. Early on, he was something like Marion Barber in that he scored touchdowns on a very high percentage of his carries (e.g., 4 TDs in 1974 on just 16 carries). He never quite developed into a more than a role player.

  • fgoodwin

    Yeah when you put it that way I gotta agree.