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The starting cornerbacks for the 1979 Dallas Cowboys were Bennie Barnes and Aaron Kyle.
The starting cornerbacks for the 1981 Dallas Cowboys were Everson Walls and Dennis Thurman.
The starting cornerbacks for the 1980 Dallas Cowboys? Think hard (and don’t look at the title of this post).
One was Steve Wilson, who became a part-time starter for the Denver Broncos and even started at right cornerback in Super Bowl XXII. He was one of the guys who Doug Williams burned in the Redskins’ 35-point second quarter.
The other was our Most Obscure Player for 1980: Aaron Mitchell.
The Cowboys took him in the second round of the 1979 draft, thanks largely to a good time in the 40-yard dash. He played his college football at UNLV and a football factory known as…
College of the Canyons in California. This was the same community college that produced Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants. Here is a piece about Mitchell posted on the college’s website.
Mitchell started 15 games with the Cowboys in 1980 and recorded three interceptions. The Cowboys traded Mitchell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the 1981 season, though. Mitchell played one year in Tampa Bay. He later played for the Arizona Wranglers and Los Angeles Express of the USFL.
The Cowboys’ personnel problems had already begun by the early 1980s. Dallas used Tampa’s 11th-round pick to take a wide receiver named George Thompson, who never played a down of football in the NFL.
Even worse, the Cowboys got nothing for Wilson, waiving him after the 1981 season.
This one was a little bit too easy. The winner of the Most Obscure Player Award for 1979 was the first center the Cowboys ever took the first round of a draft: Robert Shaw.
The Cowboys now have two centers taken in the first round with the selection of Travis Frederick in 2013.
Shaw was an all-conference center at Tennessee. The Cowboys had the 27th pick (out of 28 picks) in the 1979 draft, and they took Shaw with the pick.
At the time, the Cowboys still had John Fitzgerald, so Shaw played sparingly in 1979 and 1980.
Fitzgerald retired after the 1980 season. Shaw got his chance to start but only made it through three games in 1981 before suffering knee injury.
Shaw attempted to come back for the next 20 months but could not pass a physical. He officially retired in July 1983.
He returned to school and earned earned a degree in architectural design and management. Meanwhile, Tom Rafferty moved from guard to center and anchored the offensive line for the rest of the 1980s.
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Not sure what other obscure trivia there is about Shaw. On the other hand, there was once an actor named Robert Shaw, who was born in Dallas, Texas. This Robert Shaw lived to the age of 89 and was known to have owned one of the most unique signed baseballs by Babe Ruth. That ball is now in a museum in Arlington, Texas.
(See, it’s kind of Cowboys-related. Er, not really.)
The Cowboys managed to find a few possible role players after their first-round selection of Travis Frederick on Thursday. In light of the fact that I was on a fishing trip all weekend and did not post regular updates, here are some trivial facts about the selections from the first three rounds.
1. Center Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
The Cowboys have selected 20 centers in their history, but the team has only taken two in the first round: Frederick and Robert Shaw (1979). Shaw suffered through injuries and only lasted three years in the league.
Of these centers, only Mark Stepnoski made the Pro Bowl. Andre Gurode was also a Pro Bowl center, but he was originally drafted as a guard.
Below is a list of the centers (not including Gurode) drafted in the first five rounds of previous drafts.
2. Tight End Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
The Cowboys have taken 31 tight ends in previous drafts. With the selection of Gavin Escobar in the second round this year, the Cowboys have now selected a tight in the second round in three of the past eight drafts. The other two were Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett, neither of whom made much of a mark in Dallas.
Escobar is the third player from San Diego State to be selected by the Cowboys. The other two were receivers named Duke Ferguson and Robert West, but neither ever played a down for the Cowboys.
3a. Wide Receiver Terrance Williams, Baylor
After avoiding receivers for many drafts during the 2000s, the Cowboys used a pick to take a receiver for the fifth consecutive draft. Terrance Williams joins a recent list that includes Manuel Johnson, Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris, and Danny Coale.
In their history, the Cowboys have used picks in the first three rounds of a draft 18 times. Among the four taken in the third round were Butch Johnson and Tony Hill.
The other two, though, were Duke Ferguson (there’s that name again) and Stepfret Williams.
Despite being only 90 miles south of Dallas, few Baylor players have joined the Cowboys. Dallas has only drafted Baylor player four previous times: G Kelvin Garmon (1999), DB Ron Francis (1987), G Bob Crenshaw (1964), and LB Sonny Davis (1961).
3b. Safety J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern
Total number of players drafted from Georgia Southern in NFL history: Eight.
Most famous of these players: kicker Rob Bironas.
Other notable player: Adrian Peterson. Just not that Adrian Peterson (Bears, 2002-2009).
The Cowboys gave up their #18 pick in the first round of tonight’s NFL draft in a trade with San Francisco. Dallas finally made a selection with the #31 overall pick and took Wisconsin center Travis Frederick.
Here’s one positive comment, though, from DallasCowboys.com:
Ed Cahill: The best center in the draft. The Cowboys were known to covet Wisconsin’s center Peter Konz last season, and they go ahead and select his successor this season. He has lined up at both guard and center, but has show a good football IQ with great upper and lower body strength. I think he’ll be a good anchor for the Cowboys offensive line moving forward. The questions will be where the Cowboys project him, center or guard?
What was more disappointing than the Frederick pick was that the Cowboys only managed to pick up an extra third-round pick (#74 overall) with the 49ers. By comparison, the Patriots traded their pick at #29 to Minnesota in exchange for picks in the second, third, fourth, and seventh rounds.
But, of course, mediocrity is mediocrity.
The 1978 Dallas Cowboys featured several running backs that many (with memories of the 1970s) would remember. This list includes not only Tony Dorsett and Robert Newhouse, but also Scott Laidlaw, Preston Pearson, and Doug Dennison.
The team did not have great candidates for the Most Obscure Player Award, so we’re going with one of the lesser-known running backs.
Option #1 was Alois Blackwell, with his 9 carries for 37 yards in 1978.
Option #2, our winner, was Larry Brinson.
Brinson joined the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 1977. He saw action in all 14 games in 1977 but was cut during training camp in 1978.
He rejoined the Cowboys and saw action in 10 games in 1978. He only carried the ball 18 times but he scored two touchdowns in mop-up work against the Redskins (a 37-10 win) and the Jets (a 30-7 win).
He made it on the stat sheet for Super Bowls XII and XIII as a kick returner. Against the Steelers, he averaged 20.5 on two returns.
He played three years in Dallas and one in Seattle. After leaving the NFL, he became a college running backs coach. He has served on the coaching staffs at Arkansas, Clemson, Rice, Kentucky, and Kansas.
It was yet another struggle to find an obscure player on a Super Bowl-winning team. I found one, though, thanks to Super Bowl XII itself.
John Facenda famously said of Super Bowl XII, “It was fiercely fought, but frightfully flawed.” The Cowboys’ 27-10 win over the Denver Broncos featured a total of 10 turnovers, including eight by the Broncos. Of those eight, four were fumble recoveries.
In the second quarter, the Cowboys led 13-0. A Dallas drive stalled, leading to a punt. Denver’s John Schultz fumbled the ball on the return, and the player who recovered the fumble is our Most Obscure Player for 1977—
He signed as a rookie free agent in 1977. He played in all 14 games that year, primarily on special teams.
His fumble recovery in Super Bowl XII was a main career highlight. However, the play did not lead to any points. Dallas drove into field-goal range, but Efren Herrera missed a 43-yard field goal attempt.
Huther played four seasons in Dallas before being traded to the Cleveland Browns in 1981. He played one year in Cleveland and another in Chicago before returning to the Cowboys as a free agent in 1983.
He signed with the Chicago Blitz of the USFL in 1983 but was involved in a trade before ever playing with the Blitz. Chicago traded Huther to the Pittsburgh Maulers in exchange for none other than Efren Herrera, the same kicker who missed the field goal after Huther’s fumble recovery in SB XII.
Huther finished his career in Denver (another small irony) as a member of the Denver Gold in 1984.
Sandwiched between Super Bowl appearances in 1975 and 1977 was the 1976 season, which was much better than people may remember. The Cowboys began the year at 9-1 before finishing at 11-3. However, a 14-12 loss to the Rams in the playoffs ended the season.
(If you want to suffer through that game, it is available on YouTube).
Many of the stars from the Super Bowl teams were the main contributors on the ’76 squad, so there were not many good candidates for the Most Obscure Player Award.
Ah, but I found one. He attended the University of North Texas, where I received one of my degrees. He grew up in Waco, where I live. This is my blog and my award, so congratulations to…
You might remember Reece as a color commentator with NBC and CBS. He also worked as an analyst for NBC during the 1992 Olympics. As a player, he was not a bad defensive back with the Giants in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Before that, though, he was special teams player with the Cowboys. Drafted in the ninth round in 1976, he saw action in 10 games. However, he only showed up on the stat sheet one time.
Against New Orleans in week 2, Reece caught his only NFL pass, which went for 6 yards. He also fumbled on the play.
Apparently his one reception with a fumble was not enough to convince Tom Landry to keep Reece, so the Cowboys waived him in September 1977. He became a starter with the Giants, though, and played with the team until 1983.
He recorded his highest total of interceptions in 1983, but strangely it came with two different teams. After recording 2 interceptions in 7 games with New York, the Giants waived him. He was picked up by Tampa Bay. He played in 9 games with the Buccaneers and recorded six picks, giving him a total of 8 for the season.
He was a starter for most of the 1984 season, which was his final as a pro.
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I do not have any videos or pictures of Reece with the Cowboys, but highlights of the 1976 matchup with the Saints is available online. Here we go:
The 1975 draft for the Cowboys remains part of the team’s great legacy. Twelve players made the squad in 1975, which turned out to be a Super Bowl year. The draft class produced a number of starters, including Randy White, Hollywood Henderson, Bob Breunig, Mike Hegman, and Herb Scott.
The team’s fifth-round pick was a center named Kyle Davis, who was an All-American at Oklahoma. At the time, the team had John Fitzgerald, who had replaced Dave Manders at the center position.
Fitzgerald played most of the 1975 season, so Davis hardly had a chance to prove himself. When Dallas traveled to Minnesota for the divisional playoffs, though, Fitzgerald hurt his arm.
Dallas had brought the shotgun back to the NFL in 1975 and was running it late in the game while trailing the Vikings 14-10. Fitzgerald was having problems snapping the ball thanks to his injury, and one of his snaps ended up costing the Cowboys a six-yard loss late in the game.
Davis replaced Fitzgerald, and Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson performed their magic. Staubach hit Pearson on a sideline route to convert a 4th-and-16 play, and Staubach then hit Pearson on the famous Hail Mary.
The snapper? Davis, who wins the Most Obscure Player Award for 1975.
Davis was injured and missed the 1976 and 1977 seasons. He did not return to the NFL until 1978 when he played in seven games for San Francisco.
Best obscurity about Davis, other than the Hail Mary? He was not only the deep snapper for the Sooners in college, but he also punted.
The 1974 season was not a good one for the Dallas Cowboys. The team had made the playoffs for eight consecutive years, but the streak came to an end in ’74 thanks to a bad start.
A big part of the problem was last-second losses early in the year. Dallas fell to 1-4 after five games, and three of the four losses came on last-second field goals by the opposing teams.
The last of these losses came against the St. Louis Cardinals, who had one of the best seasons for the organization while it was located in St. Louis. In week 5, a 31-yard field goal by Jim Bakken gave the Cardinals a 31-28 win over Dallas and improved the Cardinals’ record to 5-0. St. Louis finished the season at 10-4, while Dallas finished at 8-6.
A play during that loss to the Cardinals gave us the Most Obscure Player for 1974, though. In the first quarter, a rookie running back named Dennis Morgan returned a punt 98 yards for a touchdown. It tied an NFL record and established a franchise record.
The video below shows highlights of the game. Morgan’s punt return starts at about :29.
That play was Morgan’s career highlight. The Cowboys cut him at the end of the season. He played in four games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1975 but did not play again.
According to his Wikipedia page, Morgan’s nickname was “Strawberry” because of his red hair. That’s the extent of the obscurity about Dennis Morgan the football player.
If folks had just done their homework, they may have discovered an actor named Dennis Morgan, who appeared in a number of movies between 1936 and 1956.
The last of those movies was Uranium Boom, a story about two mining partners striking uranium pay dirt. Apparently there wasn’t much more to the story, because the movie only lasted 67 minutes.
I like the title, though, so while we are giving out the MOP Award retroactively, we might as well give Dennis Morgan the football player a nickname retroactively: The Uranium Boom.
The 1973 Cowboys featured a few lesser known players, including several who played running back. Les Strayhorn, Larry Robinson, and Mike Montgomery were or are hardly household names.
For the Most Obscure Player Award, though, we are going to take a look at jersey numbers. A total of 11 players have worn the number 33 for the Cowboys, including Tony Dorsett and Duane Thomas. Two others included Wendell Hayes (1963) and Timmy Smith (1990).
The other running back to wear #33 was Cyril Pinder, our MOP Award winner for 1973.
Pinder was a star running back and indoor sprint champion at Illinois but was declared ineligible for receiving funds through the athletic department. The Eagles took him in the second round of the 1968 draft, and he played three seasons in Philadelphia before joining the Chicago Bears in 1972. He played two seasons with the Bears before his release.
The Cowboys added Pinder in late September of 1973, and he saw action in five games. Final stats: 12 carries, 15 yards.
He caught the interest of the Chicago Fire of the WFL, and he became the team’s star running back. He gained 925 yards and scored 8 touchdowns in 1974. He remained in Chicago for the 1975 season, playing for the Chicago Winds.