Running back Duane Thomas is one of the more unusual Cowboys in team history, but he is hardly an obscure name for the Most Obscure Player Award.
We will instead opt for the next best thing: Thomas’ roommate, linebacker Steve Kiner.
Kiner was a standout at the University of Tennessee, and the Cowboys took him in the third round. He was such a good college player that he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He had far less success with the Cowboys.
Kevin Sherrington ran a story about Kiner recovering his 1969 Cotton Bowl watch. Here’s a snip:
The Cowboys took that linebacker in the third round in 1970. They had no idea what they were getting.
His rookie season, Kiner pulled up to the Cowboys’ practice facility in his old VW during a pouring rain and, unable to find a space, parked in the head coach’s.
A dripping Tom Landry later spied Kiner and said, “I admire a man with courage.”
Other than Kiner’s skill and physical nature, there wasn’t much else Landry liked about him.
Kiner was a new breed, brash and fearless. He smoked pot, which didn’t make him different from several Cowboys, except that he smoked a lot of pot. He also roomed with Duane Thomas. An integrated living arrangement was enough of a culture shock to the Cowboys, much less the likes of Thomas and Kiner.
In a ’73 Texas Monthly story, Gary Cartwright wrote that Kiner was the Cowboys’ resident hippie, “… shaggy hair, groovy mustache, delighted grin belying the fact that he was the headhunter on the Dallas kick-off team. In those days, it was Kiner, not Thomas, who was considered the enigma.”
He forced a trade to New England after the 1970 season, and he played two years with the Patriots followed by another five with the Houston Oilers.
We need real obscurity, though, and I found obscurity in his statistics during the 1970 season. He played behind Chuck Howley, so Kiner did not play much on the defensive side of the ball.
However, he did find himself on the kickoff return team and ran back three kickoffs with a 16.7-yard return average.
He managed one interception against the Oilers and returned it 28 yards.
He also caught his only NFL pass in a loss to the Vikings.
His true claim to fame now, though, is a MOP Award. Congratulations, retrospectively.