Greatest Players by Number

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This series reviews every player in the history of the Dallas Cowboys, organized by their jersey numbers.

 

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #53

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #53

Twelve players have worn #53 for the Cowboys, including nine linebackers and three offensive linemen. This number presents another tough matchup.

John Babinecz, LB, Villanova, 1972-73

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Babinecz played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: He was a backup outside linebacker who played very little. He missed the entire 1974 season due to injury and was then traded to Chicago.

Bob Breunig, LB, Arizona State, 1975-84

Statistics: Since tackles were not recorded as an official statistic, it is difficult to state how good Breunig was with stats. Unofficially, Breunig had 466 assists, which was second in team history at that time, according to The Dallas Cowboys Encyclopedia.

Accolades: He was named to three Pro Bowls.

Longevity: He played ten seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Breunig was one of the Dirty Dozen of 1975. He replaced Dave Edwards at outside linebacker in 1976, then took over the starting job at middle linebacker from Lee Roy Jordan in 1977. He was strong and fast, and he was a great leader on defense. A back injury ended his career in 1984.

Mike Connelly, C, Utah State, 1960-67

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played eight seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Connelly was picked up by the Cowboys after his release from the Rams in 1960, and he became the team’s first center. He was a regular starter for four years, then served as a backup center and guard. An injury to starter Dave Manders put Connelly back in the starting lineup in 1967, but he was traded during the following season. A former marine, Connelly reportedly stuffed his shorts with weights during annual weigh-ins so that his recorded weight appeared higher than it actually was. He was listed at only 235 pounds.

Ray Donaldson, C, Georgia, 1995-96

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: He was named to two Pro Bowls with Dallas and a total of six overall.

Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas, ending his 17-year career after the 1996 season.

Intangibles: Dallas signed the veteran Donaldson to replace Mark Stepnoski in 1995. Donaldson was a great addition but suffered a broken ankle against Kansas City on Thanksgiving Day. He was forced to miss the remainder of the 1995 season, including the Super Bowl, but he returned in 1996 and was named to yet another Pro Bowl.

Note: Here is a piece discussing Donaldson’s election to the Georgia Hall of Fame.

Onzy Elam, LB, Tennessee State, 1989

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He dressed for one game with Dallas.

Intangibles: I believe that Elam is the only person named Onzy to play in the NFL. He was not with the Cowboys for long.

Garth Jax, LB, Florida State, 1986-88

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played three seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: He was primarily a backup with the Cowboys, but he went on to a lengthy career with the Phoeniz/Arizona Cardinals.

Randy Shannon, LB, Miami, Fla., 1989-90

Statistics: Although Shannon’s official statistics are unavailable, he recorded 11 tackles in his first career start, and he started four games as a rookie in 1989.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: In 1989, Shannon was the first rookie to start at outside linebacker since Dave Edwards in 1963. The former Miami (Fla.) player saw quite a bit of action in 1989, but when Dallas added talent in 1990, Shannon’s playing time dropped considerably.

Dave Simmons, LB, Georgia Tech, 1968

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: After playing in St. Louis and New Orleans to begin his career, Simmons played behind the great linebacking corps of Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan, and Dave Edwards in Dallas. Thus, he seldom played and retired after one season with the Cowboys.

Victor Simmons, LB, Central State, Ohio, 1987

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: Replacement player.

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

Intangibles: He is originally from Chicago.

Mark Stepnoski, G/C, Pittsburgh, 1989-94, 1999-01

Statistics: Stepnoski started a total of 121 games with Dallas.

Accolades: He was named to three Pro Bowls with the Cowboys and was named to several all-pro teams.

Longevity: He played a total of nine seasons with the Cowboys, first from 1989 to 1994, then from 1999 to 2001.

Intangibles: Stepnoski was an undersized lineman who earned a job as starting center in 1989. He developed into one of the best centers in the game by 1994, but the Cowboys took a salary cap hit after that season, and Stepnoski was a casualty. He played in Houston and Tennessee for four years before returning as a free agent in 1999. He was not as successful during his second tour of duty, but he was clearly an upgrade over Clay Shiver and Mike Kiselak.

Kalen Thornton, LB, Texas, 2004

Statistics: Thornton recorded six tackles with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Kalen Thornton is the son of Bruce Thornton, who played three seasons with the Cowboys from 1979 to 1981 (not to be confused with another Bruce Thornton– #25— who played at the same time as Kalen Thornton… too late, I’m confused myself!). Kalen Thornton was a talented college player but suffered a career-ending injury in 2005.

Fred Whittingham, LB, Cal. Poly SLO, 1969

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Whittingham had played with three teams in five years before joining the Cowboys in 1969. He was mostly a special teams player and was traded the following season.

Poll

Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #53.

Greatest #53

  • Mark Stepnoski (58%, 76 Votes)
  • Bob Breunig (34%, 45 Votes)
  • Mike Connelly (2%, 3 Votes)
  • John Babinecz (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Victor Simmons (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Kalen Thornton (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Randy Shannon (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Ray Donaldson (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Dave Simmons (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Garth Jax (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Onzy Elam (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Fred Whittingham (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 131

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My Vote: Breunig

Bob BreunigThis was another tough one. I chose a 1990s linebacker (Ken Norton) over a 1960-70s center (Dave Manders) and a 1960-70s linebacker (Dave Edwards) over a very popular 1990s-2000s linebacker (Dexter Coakley). Now I am going to pick a 1970s-80s linebacker over a very popular lineman from the 1990s-2000s.

Few franchises can match the talent of the Dallas linebackers for more than two decades (early-1960s to mid-1980s), and a big reason why this continued into the 80s was Bob Breunig. He was clearly the leader of that defense, from his early years when Dallas was in two Super Bowls to his later years when Dallas couldn’t quite get into the Super Bowl. It is tough to compare him with others because of the lack of statistics, but probably only Lee Roy Jordan played the middle linebacker position with the Cowboys better than Breunig. And even accepting that as true, the results under either were awfully similar.

Stepnoski was a great center, and I don’t quite hold it against him that he left. Nevertheless, his departure meant that he didn’t have quite the longevity of Breunig, and since several factors are quite similar in terms of their importance to their respective teams, I had to go with the guy who did great things with the Cowboys for his entire career.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #53

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #53

Twelve players have worn #53 for the Cowboys, including nine linebackers and three offensive linemen. This number presents another tough matchup.

John Babinecz, LB, Villanova, 1972-73

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Babinecz played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: He was a backup outside linebacker who played very little. He missed the entire 1974 season due to injury and was then traded to Chicago.

Bob Breunig, LB, Arizona State, 1975-84

Statistics: Since tackles were not recorded as an official statistic, it is difficult to state how good Breunig was with stats. Unofficially, Breunig had 466 assists, which was second in team history at that time, according to The Dallas Cowboys Encyclopedia.

Accolades: He was named to three Pro Bowls.

Longevity: He played ten seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Breunig was one of the Dirty Dozen of 1975. He replaced Dave Edwards at outside linebacker in 1976, then took over the starting job at middle linebacker from Lee Roy Jordan in 1977. He was strong and fast, and he was a great leader on defense. A back injury ended his career in 1984.

Mike Connelly, C, Utah State, 1960-67

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played eight seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Connelly was picked up by the Cowboys after his release from the Rams in 1960, and he became the team’s first center. He was a regular starter for four years, then served as a backup center and guard. An injury to starter Dave Manders put Connelly back in the starting lineup in 1967, but he was traded during the following season. A former marine, Connelly reportedly stuffed his shorts with weights during annual weigh-ins so that his recorded weight appeared higher than it actually was. He was listed at only 235 pounds.

Ray Donaldson, C, Georgia, 1995-96

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: He was named to two Pro Bowls with Dallas and a total of six overall.

Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas, ending his 17-year career after the 1996 season.

Intangibles: Dallas signed the veteran Donaldson to replace Mark Stepnoski in 1995. Donaldson was a great addition but suffered a broken ankle against Kansas City on Thanksgiving Day. He was forced to miss the remainder of the 1995 season, including the Super Bowl, but he returned in 1996 and was named to yet another Pro Bowl.

Note: Here is a piece discussing Donaldson’s election to the Georgia Hall of Fame.

Onzy Elam, LB, Tennessee State, 1989

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He dressed for one game with Dallas.

Intangibles: I believe that Elam is the only person named Onzy to play in the NFL. He was not with the Cowboys for long.

Garth Jax, LB, Florida State, 1986-88

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played three seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: He was primarily a backup with the Cowboys, but he went on to a lengthy career with the Phoeniz/Arizona Cardinals.

Randy Shannon, LB, Miami, Fla., 1989-90

Statistics: Although Shannon’s official statistics are unavailable, he recorded 11 tackles in his first career start, and he started four games as a rookie in 1989.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: In 1989, Shannon was the first rookie to start at outside linebacker since Dave Edwards in 1963. The former Miami (Fla.) player saw quite a bit of action in 1989, but when Dallas added talent in 1990, Shannon’s playing time dropped considerably.

Dave Simmons, LB, Georgia Tech, 1968

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: After playing in St. Louis and New Orleans to begin his career, Simmons played behind the great linebacking corps of Chuck Howley, Lee Roy Jordan, and Dave Edwards in Dallas. Thus, he seldom played and retired after one season with the Cowboys.

Victor Simmons, LB, Central State, Ohio, 1987

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: Replacement player.

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

Intangibles: He is originally from Chicago.

Mark Stepnoski, G/C, Pittsburgh, 1989-94, 1999-01

Statistics: Stepnoski started a total of 121 games with Dallas.

Accolades: He was named to three Pro Bowls with the Cowboys and was named to several all-pro teams.

Longevity: He played a total of nine seasons with the Cowboys, first from 1989 to 1994, then from 1999 to 2001.

Intangibles: Stepnoski was an undersized lineman who earned a job as starting center in 1989. He developed into one of the best centers in the game by 1994, but the Cowboys took a salary cap hit after that season, and Stepnoski was a casualty. He played in Houston and Tennessee for four years before returning as a free agent in 1999. He was not as successful during his second tour of duty, but he was clearly an upgrade over Clay Shiver and Mike Kiselak.

Kalen Thornton, LB, Texas, 2004

Statistics: Thornton recorded six tackles with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Kalen Thornton is the son of Bruce Thornton, who played three seasons with the Cowboys from 1979 to 1981 (not to be confused with another Bruce Thornton– #25— who played at the same time as Kalen Thornton… too late, I’m confused myself!). Kalen Thornton was a talented college player but suffered a career-ending injury in 2005.

Fred Whittingham, LB, Cal. Poly SLO, 1969

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Whittingham had played with three teams in five years before joining the Cowboys in 1969. He was mostly a special teams player and was traded the following season.

Poll

Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #53.

Greatest #53

  • Mark Stepnoski (58%, 76 Votes)
  • Bob Breunig (34%, 45 Votes)
  • Mike Connelly (2%, 3 Votes)
  • John Babinecz (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Victor Simmons (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Kalen Thornton (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Randy Shannon (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Ray Donaldson (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Dave Simmons (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Garth Jax (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Onzy Elam (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Fred Whittingham (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 131

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My Vote: Breunig

Bob BreunigThis was another tough one. I chose a 1990s linebacker (Ken Norton) over a 1960-70s center (Dave Manders) and a 1960-70s linebacker (Dave Edwards) over a very popular 1990s-2000s linebacker (Dexter Coakley). Now I am going to pick a 1970s-80s linebacker over a very popular lineman from the 1990s-2000s.

Few franchises can match the talent of the Dallas linebackers for more than two decades (early-1960s to mid-1980s), and a big reason why this continued into the 80s was Bob Breunig. He was clearly the leader of that defense, from his early years when Dallas was in two Super Bowls to his later years when Dallas couldn’t quite get into the Super Bowl. It is tough to compare him with others because of the lack of statistics, but probably only Lee Roy Jordan played the middle linebacker position with the Cowboys better than Breunig. And even accepting that as true, the results under either were awfully similar.

Stepnoski was a great center, and I don’t quite hold it against him that he left. Nevertheless, his departure meant that he didn’t have quite the longevity of Breunig, and since several factors are quite similar in terms of their importance to their respective teams, I had to go with the guy who did great things with the Cowboys for his entire career.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #52

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #52

Eleven players have worn #52 for the Cowboys, including nine linebackers and two offensive linemen.

Billy Cannon Jr., LB, Texas A&M, 1984

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played a total of eight games in the NFL.

Intangibles: Cannon was one of the biggest busts in team history. The son of a former Hall of Famer of the same name, Cannon Jr. was selected in the first round of the 1984 draft. After playing on special teams in the first half of the 1984 season, though, he suffered a career-ending neck injury.

Dexter Coakley, LB, Appalachian State, 1997-04

Statistics: Coakley had 544 tackles, 152 assists, and 10 interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: He was named to three Pro Bowls.

Longevity: He played eight seasons with the Cowboys.

Intangibles: Coakley was an undersized linebacker from a small school. But he began his career as a starter and missed only one game during the course of his career in Dallas. Even in a dreadful 5-11 season in 2001, Coakley provided two bright spots by returning a couple of interceptions for touchdowns. Coakley retired after playing two seasons with the St. Louis Rams.

Chris Duliban, LB, Texas, 1987

Statistics: Duliban recorded two sacks with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Replacement player.

Intangibles: Replacement player. As it turns out, Duliban is now the head coach of the CenTex Barracudas of the Intense Football League.

Dave Edwards, LB, Auburn, 1963-75

Statistics: Edwards recorded 13 interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played 13 seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Edwards was an unsung hero on the great Dallas defenses of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was overshadowed by stars Chuck Howley and Lee Roy Jordan, but he was a great player for many years.

Jim Eidson, G/C, Mississippi State, 1976

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Eidson played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: A second round pick in 1976, he suffered an injury in 1977 and never played again.

Wayne Hansen, LB, Texas Western, 1960

Statistics: Hansen recorded two interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Dallas signed Hansen to play in the inaugural 1960 season after he spent 10 years in Chicago.

Scott McLean, LB, Florida State, 1983

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played in less than one full season with Dallas.

Intangibles: He suffered a knee injury after making the team in 1983.

Mickey Pruitt, LB, Colorado, 1991-92

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: After the Cowboys acquired him from Chicago, Pruitt was one of the few veteran linebackers on the team. He played mostly as a backup.

Jim Schwantz, LB, Purdue, 1994-96

Statistics: Schwantz had 35 tackles with the Cowboys.

Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1996.

Longevity: He played three seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Schwantz appeared to be the second coming of Bill Bates, earning a spot in the Pro Bowl thanks to his special teams plays. However, that 1996 season was his last, as he defected via free agency to San Francisco. Two years after that, he was out of the league.

Sean Scott, LB, Maryland, 1988

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

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

Intangibles: Scott was a reserve player.

Robert Shaw, C, Tennessee, 1979-81

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Shaw played three seasons with the Cowboys.

Intangibles: A first-round pick in 1979, Shaw was on the verge of developing into a top-flight center. However, he suffered a serious knee injury in 1981 and never returned to the NFL.

Poll

Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #52.

Greatest #52

  • Dexter Coakley (77%, 142 Votes)
  • Dave Edwards (20%, 36 Votes)
  • Robert Shaw (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Jim Eidson (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Sean Scott (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Jim Schwantz (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Billy Cannon Jr. (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Chris Duliban (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Scott McLean (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Mickey Pruitt (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Wayne Hansen (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 184

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My Vote: Edwards

Dave EdwardsI suspect that Coakley is going to receive the most votes (and frankly I am more familiar with Coakley). But the bottom line for me is that Edwards was an underappreciated player on some of the best defensive teams in team history, while Coakley was a standout on defenses that got progressively worse as his career progressed. It was a tough choice, but I stuck with the linebacker who started in three Super Bowls.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #52

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #52

Eleven players have worn #52 for the Cowboys, including nine linebackers and two offensive linemen.

Billy Cannon Jr., LB, Texas A&M, 1984

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played a total of eight games in the NFL.

Intangibles: Cannon was one of the biggest busts in team history. The son of a former Hall of Famer of the same name, Cannon Jr. was selected in the first round of the 1984 draft. After playing on special teams in the first half of the 1984 season, though, he suffered a career-ending neck injury.

Dexter Coakley, LB, Appalachian State, 1997-04

Statistics: Coakley had 544 tackles, 152 assists, and 10 interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: He was named to three Pro Bowls.

Longevity: He played eight seasons with the Cowboys.

Intangibles: Coakley was an undersized linebacker from a small school. But he began his career as a starter and missed only one game during the course of his career in Dallas. Even in a dreadful 5-11 season in 2001, Coakley provided two bright spots by returning a couple of interceptions for touchdowns. Coakley retired after playing two seasons with the St. Louis Rams.

Chris Duliban, LB, Texas, 1987

Statistics: Duliban recorded two sacks with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Replacement player.

Intangibles: Replacement player. As it turns out, Duliban is now the head coach of the CenTex Barracudas of the Intense Football League.

Dave Edwards, LB, Auburn, 1963-75

Statistics: Edwards recorded 13 interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played 13 seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Edwards was an unsung hero on the great Dallas defenses of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was overshadowed by stars Chuck Howley and Lee Roy Jordan, but he was a great player for many years.

Jim Eidson, G/C, Mississippi State, 1976

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Eidson played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: A second round pick in 1976, he suffered an injury in 1977 and never played again.

Wayne Hansen, LB, Texas Western, 1960

Statistics: Hansen recorded two interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Dallas signed Hansen to play in the inaugural 1960 season after he spent 10 years in Chicago.

Scott McLean, LB, Florida State, 1983

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played in less than one full season with Dallas.

Intangibles: He suffered a knee injury after making the team in 1983.

Mickey Pruitt, LB, Colorado, 1991-92

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: After the Cowboys acquired him from Chicago, Pruitt was one of the few veteran linebackers on the team. He played mostly as a backup.

Jim Schwantz, LB, Purdue, 1994-96

Statistics: Schwantz had 35 tackles with the Cowboys.

Accolades: He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1996.

Longevity: He played three seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Schwantz appeared to be the second coming of Bill Bates, earning a spot in the Pro Bowl thanks to his special teams plays. However, that 1996 season was his last, as he defected via free agency to San Francisco. Two years after that, he was out of the league.

Sean Scott, LB, Maryland, 1988

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

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

Intangibles: Scott was a reserve player.

Robert Shaw, C, Tennessee, 1979-81

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Shaw played three seasons with the Cowboys.

Intangibles: A first-round pick in 1979, Shaw was on the verge of developing into a top-flight center. However, he suffered a serious knee injury in 1981 and never returned to the NFL.

Poll

Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #52.

Greatest #52

  • Dexter Coakley (77%, 142 Votes)
  • Dave Edwards (20%, 36 Votes)
  • Robert Shaw (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Jim Eidson (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Sean Scott (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Jim Schwantz (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Billy Cannon Jr. (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Chris Duliban (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Scott McLean (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Mickey Pruitt (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Wayne Hansen (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 184

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My Vote: Edwards

Dave EdwardsI suspect that Coakley is going to receive the most votes (and frankly I am more familiar with Coakley). But the bottom line for me is that Edwards was an underappreciated player on some of the best defensive teams in team history, while Coakley was a standout on defenses that got progressively worse as his career progressed. It was a tough choice, but I stuck with the linebacker who started in three Super Bowls.

Recap: Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers, 1-50

The series on the Greatest Players by Their Jersey Numbers began on March 11. In just under four months, here is a summary of this series:

* Total Players Reviewed (Jerseys 1-50): 366
* Total Votes: 6952
* Jersey Number Receiving the Most Votes: 21 (241 votes)
* Player Receiving the Highest Number of Individual Votes: Deion Sanders (231 votes)
* Jersey Number Receiving the Fewest Votes: 49 (41 votes)

As far as the players who have received the most votes per jersey number, here are a few stats:

Eras

No specific era of Cowboys’ history has dominated this series, as each decade is well-represented. In several instances, a player may be categorized under either of a couple of decades (e.g., Tony Dorsett played in the 70s and 80s), but here is a general breakdown:

1960s: 9 players
1970s: 8 players
1980s: 11 players
1990s: 11 players
2000s: 11 players

Positions

Since we’ve covered numbers 1-50, the number of positions represented thus far are obviously limited. Here is a summary of the positions represented thus far:

Defensive Backs: 19
Quarterbacks: 10
Punters/Kickers: 9
Running Backs: 9
Wide Receivers: 1
Linebackers: 1
Tight Ends: 1

Current Players

A total of six current players have been voted as greatest players by their jersey numbers, including the following:

#1 Mat McBriar, P
#6 Nick Folk, K
#9 Tony Romo, QB
#25 Pat Watkins, S
#31 Roy Williams, S
#42 Anthony Henry, CB

Finally, here is the complete update:

#

Total

Votes

Players Name Pos. Years
1 209 5 Mat McBriar (60%) P 2004-present
2 86 3 Lin Elliott (65%) K 1992-1993
3 111 5 Billy Cundiff (29%) K 2002-2005
4 109 6 Mike Saxon (76%) P 1985-1992
5 85 2 Clint Stoerner (80%) QB 2000-2002
6 112 3 Nick Folk (93%) K 2007-present
7 195 6 Steve Beuerlein (69%) QB 1991-1992
8 139 2 Troy Aikman (91%) QB 1989-2000
9 177 4 Tony Romo (98%) QB 2003-present
10 107 8 Ron Widby (76%) P 1968-1971
11 224 9 Danny White (96%) QB/P 1976-1988
12 189 2 Roger Staubach (96%) QB 1969-1979
13 133 2 Jerry Rhome (86%) QB 1965-1968
14 174 5 Craig Morton (74%) QB 1965-1974
15 141 4 Toni Fritsch (77%) K 1971-1973, 1975
16 140 4 Vinny Testaverde (65%) QB 2004
17 198 5 Don Meredith (88%) QB 1960-1968
18 134 7 Chris Boniol (64%) K 1994-1996
19 175 8 Lance Rentzel (37%) WR 1967-1970
20 190 11 Mel Renfro (88%) DB 1964-1977
21 241 10 Deion Sanders (96%) DB 1995-1999
22 222 7 Emmitt Smith (91%) RB 1990-2002
23 75 12 Robert Williams (36%) DB 1987-1993
24 104 10 Everson Walls (82%) DB 1981-1989
25 77 15 Pat Watkins (36%) DB 2006-present
26 179 10 Kevin Smith (31%) DB 1992-1999
27 159 12 Ron Fellows (39%) DB 1981-1986
28 210 5 Darren Woodson (100%) DB 1992-2003
29 195 10 Kenneth Gant (62%) DB 1990-1994
30 108 10 Dan Reeves (79%) RB 1965-1972
31 174 12 Roy Williams (65%) S 2002-present
32 154 10 Walt Garrison (65%) RB 1966-1974
33 176 11 Tony Dorsett (95%) RB 1977-1987
34 178 10 Herschel Walker (56%) RB 1986-89, 1996-97
35 150 12 Calvin Hill (90%) RB 1969-1974
36 70 9 Vince Albritton (43%) S 1984-1991
37 103 9 James Washington (93%) S 1990-1994
38 71 7 Sam Baker (46%) P/K 1962-1963
39 60 6 Lousaka Polite (53%) RB 2004-2006
40 177 6 Bill Bates (99%) S 1983-1997
41 204 8 Charlie Waters (78%) DB 1970-78, 1980-81
42 120 13 Anthony Henry (66%) CB 2005-present
43 130 5 Cliff Harris (77%) S 1970-1979
44 115 7 Robert Newhouse (95%) FB 1972-1983
45 60 8 Manny Hendrix (57%) DB 1986-1991
46 109 9 Mark Washington (68%) CB 1970-1978
47 106 6 Dexter Clinkscale (68%) S 1980-1985
48 87 3 Daryl Johnston (99%) FB 1989-1999
49 41 2 Brett Pierce (54%) TE 2004-2005
*49 n/a 1 Tom Landry Coach 1960-1988
50 69 11 D.D. Lewis (78%) LB 1968, 1970-81

*Honorary #49

Thanks to a suggestion by Fred Goodwin, I agree we should include Tom Landry in this poll somewhere. I chose not to remove Brett Pierce as the greatest #49, but by this post we are also going to include Landry. The only coach the Cowboys had for 29 years wore #49 as a member of the New York Giants.

Tom Landry

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #50

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #50

Eleven players have worn #50 for the Cowboys, including ten linebackers and a center.

Bobby Abrams, LB, Michigan, 1992-93

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None

Longevity: Abrams played in parts of two seasons with the Cowboys in 1992 and 1993.

Intangibles: Dallas was one of five teams on which Abrams played in six seasons. He was mostly a special teams player while with the Cowboys.

Jamal Brooks, LB, Hampton, 2001-03

Statistics: Brooks recorded 10 tackles with four assists in Dallas.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He was on the roster for three years, but he only saw action in 2001.

Intangibles: Brooks made the team as a free agent in 2001 but never had much of a chance in Dallas. He last played in 2006 with the Rams.

Darrick Brownlow, LB, Illinois, 1991, 1994

Statistics: Brownlow recorded a total of ten tackles with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played with Dallas in 1991 before moving on to Tampa Bay. After starting a few games with the Buccaneers, he returned to Dallas in 1994.

Intangibles: Brownlow had the bad luck of playing on two Cowboys teams in the early 1990s that did not win the Super Bowl. Or perhaps Brownlow was the bad luck in 1991 and 1994?

Dave Harper, LB, Humboldt State, 1990

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None

Longevity: He saw action in six games in 1990.

Intangibles: Harper is one of six players from NCAA Div. II Humboldt State to play in the NFL. He saw some action on special teams but only played one season.

Steve Hendrickson, LB, California, 1989

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played in four games with Dallas in 1989 after being released by San Francisco.

Intangibles: The 49ers drafted Hendrickson in the sixth round of the 1989 draft, but he barely saw action there as a rookie. He developed into a part-time starter with San Diego.

D.D. Lewis, LB, Mississippi State, 1968, 1970-81

Statistics: Lewis recorded eight interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played 13 seasons with Dallas, missing the 1969 season due to military obligations.

Intangibles: Tom Landry once called Lewis the team’s most underrated player. He was a dependable player who took over as the starting weakside linebacker job when Chuck Howley retired. He was a mainstay with the Cowboys, though unfortunately the final defensive play of his long career was backing up Joe Montana before Montana hit Dwight Clark with “The Catch.”

Justin Rogers, LB, SMU, 2007-

Statistics: Rogers recorded 13 tackles and five assists with the Cowboys in 2007.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He first played with the Cowboys in 2007.

Intangibles: The Cowboys picked up Rogers off of waivers late in preseason in 2007. He’ll likely contribute on special teams again in 2008 if he makes the team.

Jeff Rohrer, LB, Yale, 1982-87

Statistics: Rohrer recorded 7.5 sacks with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played six seasons with Dallas.

Intangibles: Along with Calvin Hill, Rohrer was one of two Yale graduates to have played with the Cowboys. He developed into a starter by the 1985 season but suffered a serious back injury in 1988 that forced him to retire.

Clay Shiver, C, Florida State, 1996-98

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played three seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: The Cowboys drafted Shiver in the third round of the 1996 draft, and he became a starter in 1997 when Ray Donaldson retired. At 283 pounds, Shiver was smaller than most other Dallas lineman, and he was often blamed for the sharp decline in the Cowboys’ rushing attack in 1997. He was reduced to a part-time starter in 1998 before being released.

Brandon Tolbert, LB, Georgia, 1998-00

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Tolbert was on the roster for three seasons, but he never played a down for the Cowboys.

Intangibles: n/a

Jerry Tubbs, LB, Oklahoma, 1960-67

Statistics: Tubbs recorded 15 interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: He made the Pro Bowl in 1962.

Longevity: Tubbs played eight seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: The Cowboys acquired Tubbs in the 1960 expansion draft and convinced Tubbs to play for the Dallas franchise rather than work for Coca-Cola. Tubbs, Bob Lilly, and Don Bishop were the first three defensive players in franchise history to be named to the Pro Bowl. He was a key player in the Cowboys’ early years, using his great speed and aggression to man the middle of the defense. He transitioned into the job of player coach when Lee Roy Jordan took over at middle linebacker, and Tubbs remained as an assistant coach for more than twenty seasons.

Poll

Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #50.

Greatest #50

  • D.D. Lewis (79%, 100 Votes)
  • Jerry Tubbs (18%, 23 Votes)
  • Bobby Abrams (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Dave Harper (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Jeff Rohrer (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Darrick Brownlow (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Steve Hendrickson (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Jamal Brooks (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Justin Rogers (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Clay Shiver (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Brandon Tolbert (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 127

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My Vote: Lewis

D.D. LewisWhen Dwight Douglass Lewis retired after the 1981 season, there went the final link to the 1960s Dallas Cowboys. Lewis wasn’t a dominant linebacker by any means, but he was the type of hard-working defensive players who was always around the ball.

Tubbs deserves special mention here. He was really the team’s first quality linebacker whom few people remember.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #49

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #49

Two players have worn #49 for the Cowboys. Both players were tight ends.

Johnny Huggins, TE, Alabama State, 2001

Statistics: Huggins caught eight passes for 36 yards for the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He saw action in 10 games in 2001.

Intangibles: There is not much to remember about the 2001 season, let alone Mr. Huggins. For those who would like a refresher, Huggins backed up starter Jackie Harris and the other blocking tight end, Mike Lucky. Huggins was picked up by Houston in the 2002 expansion draft but was later released. He did not play again.

Brett Pierce, TE, Stanford, 2004-05

Statistics: Pierce caught two passes for 15 yards.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Pierce played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: In 2004-05, Pierce was another third string tight end behind Jason Witten and Dan Campbell. He was mostly used as a blocker and on special teams.

Note: Pierce wore #49 in 2004 and #88 in 2005. Given that we have plenty of candidates for #88, I put Pierce here.

Poll

Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #49. This might help:

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #49

  • Brett Pierce (57%, 29 Votes)
  • Johnny Huggins (43%, 22 Votes)

Total Voters: 51

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My Vote: Pierce

Brett PierceLots of dilemmas here: (1) I could not find a picture of Huggins anywhere, other than the team picture for 2001; (2) I am not sure how to compare the quality of third string tight ends; (3) I don’t want to remember the 2001 season, so there is a bias against Huggins; (4) very few players have the right to wear #88, let alone a third strong tight end, so there is a bias towards Pierce.

In the end, Huggins was heads, while Pierce was tails. It turned up tails.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #48

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #48

I’d say we have an easy one today. Three players have worn #48, including two running backs and a cornerback.

Alex Green, CB, Indiana, 1987

Statistics: Green recorded one interception with the Cowboys.

Accolades: Replacement player.

Longevity: Replacement player.

Intangibles: He started all three replacement games in 1987.

Terry Witherspoon, FB, Clemson, 2001

Statistics: Witherspoon caught one pass for the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played in three games during the 2001 season.

Intangibles: Witherspoon was a two-year starter with Clemson, but he did little with the Cowboys.

Daryl Johnston, FB, Syracuse, 1989-99

Statistics: Johnston caught 294 passes for 2227 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also had a total of 753 rushing yards.

Accolades: Two-time Pro Bowler.

Longevity: He played 11 seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Johnston was the perfect complement to Emmitt Smith in the early 1990s. A fearless blocker, he would take on linebacker and lineman with reckless abandon, giving Smith just enough room sometimes to break off a long run. Dallas has never quite replaced Johnston at the fullback position.

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #48

  • Daryl Johnston (99%, 127 Votes)
  • Terry Witherspoon (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Alex Green (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 128

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My Vote: Moose

Daryl JohnstonJohnston is one of several of the 1990s-era Cowboys who should make the Ring of Honor but who probably won’t. He wasn’t merely a character– the “Moose” calls did, to be sure, become cliche after a while– but was mostly just a damn good football player. Hard to believe the well-spoken analyst on Fox right now is the same guy, but we should always remember him as one of the greats in franchise history.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #47

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #47

Six players have worn #47, including five defensive backs and a receiver.

Dextor Clinkscale, S, South Carolina State, 1980-85

Statistics: Clinkscale recorded nine interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played six seasons with the Cowboys, though missed the entire 1981 season due to injury.

Intangibles: Clinkscale was part of “Thurman’s Thieves.” He spent three years as a starter with the Cowboys before being traded to the Colts.

Clayton Holmes, CB, Carson-Newman, 1992-95

Statistics: Holmes had one career interception with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played three seasons in Dallas, having missed the 1993 season due to injury.

Intangibles: Holmes’ story is about as sad as it gets for a former athlete. Here is a story from ESPN that captures Holmes’ tale better than any other.

Pete Hunter, CB, Virginia Union, 2002-05

Statistics: Hunter recorded three interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played three seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: He is known for having gone from insurance salesman to starting cornerback when the Seahawks signed him in 2006 just in time for the playoffs. Seattle’s opponent: Dallas.

Ryan McNeil, CB, Miami, Fla., 2000

Statistics: McNeil recorded two interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None with Dallas.

Longevity: He played one season with the Cowboys.

Intangibles: Dallas signed McNeil in 2000 to make up for the loss of Deion Sanders (as well as Kevin Smith, who retired before the season started). He recorded eight interceptions with the Chargers one season after leaving Dallas, providing more evidence that Dallas simply had bad luck in 2000-2002.

Dick Moegle, S, Rice, 1961

Statistics: Moegle had two interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None with Dallas.

Longevity: He ended a good career with one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: Cowboycards has a good piece on Moegle, who was a standout running back at Rice and a Pro Bowler with the 49ers.

Chuck Scott, WR, Vanderbilt, 1987

Statistics: Scott caught one pass with the Cowboys.

Accolades: Replacement player.

Longevity: He played two replacement games with Dallas.

Intangibles: Scott was a second round pick of the Rams in 1985. He saw his only “real” action in 1986 before playing the two replacement games with Dallas.

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #47

  • Dextor Clinkscale (69%, 83 Votes)
  • Clayton Holmes (12%, 15 Votes)
  • Pete Hunter (7%, 9 Votes)
  • Ryan McNeil (6%, 7 Votes)
  • Dick Moegle (4%, 5 Votes)
  • Chuck Scott (2%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 121

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My Vote: Clinkscale

Dextor ClinkscaleThe good about Clinkscale: Tom Landry called him one of the smartest players he ever coached. The bad: in 1998, Clinkscale was charged with sexual assault, apparently with an 18-year old male. Fair to say this gives me pause, but I think he is the best player on this list.

Moegle earned an honorable mention MOP Award, but he only played one season and did not do a great deal with the Cowboys. Hunter was only a part-time starter, and McNeil did more with other franchises than he did with Dallas.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #46

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #46

Nine players have worn #46, including five running backs, three defensive backs, a linebacker.

Craig Baynham, RB, Georgia Tech, 1967-69

Statistics: Baynham rushed for 442 yards and six touchdowns with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played three seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Baynham was the winner of the MOP Award for 1968. Here is a blurb about him, as reported in that post:

Baynham’s biggest moment came in the 1967 conference playoff game against the Browns when he filled in for the injured Walt Garrison. He scored 3 touchdowns in the 52-14 win. In 1968 he subbed for Garrison gaining 438 yards on the ground and grabbed 29 passes for 380 yards. He led the team in kickoff returns in 68 with 590 yards. He didn’t get much playing time behind a healthy Hill and Garrison in 69 and was traded to Chicago in 1970 and finished his career with St. Louis the next year. Nicknamed “John One Dozen” because he always signed footballs “Craig Baynham – John 1:12?, he became a pastor in later years.

Erik Bickerstaff, RB, Wisconsin, 2003-05

Statistics: Bickerstaff rushed for 56 yards with one touchdown in Dallas.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He was on the roster for three seasons, but much of that was spent on the practice squad. He played in four games, all during the 2003 season.

Intangibles: Bickerstaff was something of a fan favorite during the preseason. He rarely had the opportunity in regular season action, though.

Ricky Blake, RB, Alabama A&M, 1991

Statistics: Blake rushed for 80 yards with one touchdown.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played part of one season with the Cowboys.

Intangibles: In 1991, Blake played in the World League, the Canadian Football League, and the Dallas Cowboys. His career highlight was a 30-yard touchdown run against Cincinnati.

Jon Condo, LB, Maryland, 2005

Statistics: Condo did not record any notable statistics with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He saw action in three games in 2005.

Intangibles: Nothing worth noting.

Joe Fishback, S, Carson-Newman, 1993-94

Statistics: Fishback did not record any notable statistics with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Fishback was primarily as special teams player.

Todd Fowler, FB, Stephen F. Austin, 1985-88

Statistics: Fowler caught 17 passes for 113 yards in Dallas.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played four seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Fowler was a 1,000-yard rusher in the USFL, but he did not accomplish much in the NFL.

Oliver Hoyte, FB, NC State, 2006-07

Statistics: Hoyte caught three passes for 12 yards.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played two seasons in Dallas but will not return in 2008.

Intangibles: Hoyte was a converted linebacker who eventually started several games at fullback. He was generally and adequate blocker but could do very little else.

Roland Solomon, S, Utah, 1980

Statistics: Solomon had one punt return for eight yards in Dallas.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played part of one season with the Cowboys.

Intangibles: He made the roster in 1980 as a free agent but was released during the season. He also played for Buffalo and Denver.

Mark Washington, CB, Morgan State, 1970-78

Statistics: Washington recorded 13 interceptions with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played nine seasons in Dallas.

Intangibles: Washington was a part-time starter who is probably (and very unfortunately) remembered for being the corner who was torched by Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X. The evidence clearly shows that none of those plays were really Washington’s fault; they were instead just incredible plays by Swann. Washington spent three more seasons in Dallas after that game before moving on to New England for one final season.

Poll

Here are the results of the poll for this number:

Greatest #46

  • Mark Washington (68%, 83 Votes)
  • Craig Baynham (16%, 19 Votes)
  • Oliver Hoyte (9%, 11 Votes)
  • Todd Fowler (4%, 5 Votes)
  • Erik Bickerstaff (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Roland Solomon (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Ricky Blake (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Jon Condo (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Joe Fishback (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 122

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My Vote: Washington

Mark WashingtonMost of the players on this list were either role players or special teams players. Washington was a quality player in Dallas who has the unfortunate label of the victim of SB X. In fact, ESPN named Washington as one of its Super Victims. The others: Max Lane of the Patriots (Super Bowl XXXI vs. Green Bay) and Don McNeal of the Dolphins (Super Bowl XVII vs. Washington).

Mark Washington, Lynn Swann