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.
Some probably think that the playoff rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers began with The Catch in 1981.
Not true. The teams faced each other in the playoffs for three consecutive years from 1970 to 1972. Dallas beat San Francisco to reach Super Bowls V and VI.
In 1972, Dallas traveled to San Francisco for the third game in the series, and the Cowboys found themselves behind 28-13 heading into the fourth quarter.
This turned out to be Roger Staubach’s first miracle win, as he came off the bench to lead Dallas to a 30-28 win.
Staubach threw touchdowns to two receivers in the fourth quarter, but neither of these players played for the Cowboys after 1972.
The receiver who caught the game-winner was Ron Sellers, who played one more season with the Dolphins before his career ended.
The other receiver was our Most Obscure Player Award winner for 1972: Billy Parks.
Parks was a 6th-round pick of the San Diego Chargers in 1971. He had a productive rookie season, catching 41 passes for 609 yards for the Chargers, but he suffered a broken arm after 10 games.
The Cowboys finally had enough of running back Duane Thomas, and late in July of 1972, Dallas traded Thomas to San Diego for Parks and running back Mike Montgomery (yet another obscure player).
Parks only caught 18 passes for Dallas during the 1972 regular season, but he was a major factor in the win over the 49ers in the playoffs. He caught 7 passes for 136 yards and a score in what turned out to be his most productive game as a professional.
In May 1973, the Cowboys shipped Parks and former first-round pick Tody Smith to the Houston Oilers in exchange for a first-round pick and a third-round pick.
Those draft picks proved to be rather significant, as the Cowboys grabbed Ed “Too Tall” Jones in the first round of the 1974 draft and took punter/quarterback Danny White in the third round.
Parks had decent seasons in 1973 and 1974 with the Oilers but only caught one pass in 1975, his final year in the league.
His first catch as a sophomore was for a touchdown. When that season (1967) ended, Parks had caught79 passes for 1294 yards and 12 TDs. Injured much of his senior year, Parks finished with 169 career catches for 2919 yards and 22 TDs. After sitting out one season, Parks played five years in the NFL (San Diego, Dallas, Houston). He led the NFL in receiving in 10 games (41 catches) as a rookie in 1971 before being sidelined with a broken arm.
He unfortunately died of melanoma in 2009.
Tight end Billy Traux, who started 10 games that season?
Running back Joe Williams, who scored his only NFL touchdown against the Patriots in the first game ever played at Texas Stadium?
Obscure? Yes. An award winner? No.
I’m going with wide receiver Gloster Richardson.
He was a 7th round pick by Kansas City in the 1965 AFL draft and played four seasons with the Chiefs, including their championship season of 1969.
He never caught more than 23 passes in a single season, but he had a remarkable ability to score touchdowns with limited opportunities.
He scored at least one touchdown in seven of his eight NFL seasons. Throughout his career, he scored 18 touchdowns on 92 receptions in 92 games.
He lasted only one season in Dallas, but he brought his touchdown magic to the Cowboys. He caught passes in 5 games but only managed a total of 8 receptions. Nevertheless, he scored three touchdowns, including a 41-yarder against the Saints (from Roger Staubach) and a 45-yarder against the Bears (from Craig Morton).
If fantasy football existed in 1971, someone might take a flier on him, simply because of the chance that he could score. In fact, a site known as Fantasy Football Challenge has a page with Richardson’s stats.
Richardson’s final year in the league was 1974 after he played three seasons with the Browns.
I’m not sure what he’s done since then, other than serve as the guest speaker for the Oak Lawn Outlaws. It appears from the Facebook page that three people decided to attend while another was invited but had not yet confirmed.
Now that’s some obscurity. Congratulations, Mr. Richardson, on the 1971 MOP Award.
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.
Here are the remainder of the MOP Award “winners” from the 1960s. This list includes seasons from 1965 to 1969. I wrote several of these during the offseason in 2007 before I got a bit off track.
Click here for my previous recap covering the years 1960 to 1964.
He is famous as the author of North Dallas Forty, but few remember his performances on the field. Gent caught his first pass in 1965, finishing with 16 receptions for 233 yards and 2 touchdowns. His best season was 1966, when he caught 27 passes for 474 yards, a 17.6-yard-per-catch, but he only caught 25 more passes in his last two years with the team.
Townes played three seasons with the Cowboys and started 25 games in the late 1960s. His first start came in 1966 in a game against the Steelers, and he was part of the NFL Championship Games against the Packers. However, he faded into obscurity after missing the 1969 seasons and playing six games for the Saints in 1970.
East joined the Cowboys in 1967 from Montana State. He played with the Cowboys for four seasons before being traded to San Diego in 1970 along with Pettis Norman and Tony Liscio for receiver Lance Alworth. East played for San Diego for three years, then moved from Cleveland, Atlanta, and Seattle. Someone left this note about him after I named him the MOP Award winner for 1967:
Ron East is now a Real Estate Developer in Seattle, WA. He was the 5th D-lineman for the Cowboys 67-71. Ron was a backup for defensive tackles Lilly and Pugh. He and others felt that he won the starting job in 1970 However they gave the job to Pugh. Because of that Ron Asked for a trade after the 1970 season and it was granted. He and two other players went to San Diego for Lance Alworth in 1971. I attended the Tom Landry ring of honor dinner with Ron and met Bob Lilly. I saw heard Bob say to Ron “Thanks for winning our first superbowl for us when you asked for the trade.” Ron was a Devensive standout in San Diego and Seattle. He was noted for solidifying Earl Morral’s legacy by breaking Bob Greise’s ankle in game 5 of the 1972 season.
Here is a blurb about Craig Baynham’s nickname, courtesy of Tim’s Cowboy’s History Page:
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.
Baynham caught a touchdown pass in the last Playoff Bowl game ever played between the Cowboys and Vikings. In the three seasons following his performance in 1968, though, Baynham amassed a grand total of 109 yards, including a loss of two yards on three carries in 1969.
Dennis Homan was the top pick of the Cowboys in the 1968 draft. In his three seasons with Dallas, the 1969 season was his best, catching 12 passes for 240 yards, but no touchdowns. He lasted one more year with the Cowboys before playing two seasons with Kansas City.
Homan joined the Birmingham franchise of the World Football League, where he became a star! There is, in fact, an entire page (with pictures) focusing on his accomplishments with the WFL. I also learned from that page that Homan was a kick holder in his final season with Birmingham, which makes his selection all the more appropriate.
This blog will turn seven years old next August. One feature I originally included was the Most Obscure Player Award for each season in franchise history for Rest Easily. I made it through the 1960s but never finished the series.
This has not been an interesting offseason from my perspective, so I am going to finish the old series. To kick this off, here is a list of the first five award winners:
1960: Dave Sherer
Dallas picked up Sherer in the 1960 expansion draft. One would think a punter for an 0-11-1 team would have quite a bit to do, and he came through with a 42.5 yard average on 57 punts. Not bad, except that this was his last year in the league. Allen Green took over the punting duties in 1961. Sherer was more of a legend in his home state of New Mexico than in Dallas, and his notoriety in New Mexico was enough to give him the award in the end. He is not only a member of the Carlsbad High School Hall of Fame, he ranked 47th on Sports Illustrated’s list of New Mexico’s greatest sports legends. (If it helps put this into context, Dewey Bohling ranked 46th).
1961: Don Bishop
Bishop played end for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958, catching three passes for 57 yards. In two years with Pittsburgh and the Chicago Bears, those three catches, along with four punt returns, remained his only professional statistics. Dallas picked him off of waivers in 1960, and he started at right cornerback for the team in its inaugural year.
In 1961, Bishop began to stand out, grabbing eight picks. Only Everson Walls (twice) and Mel Renfro had more in a season. Moreover, and probably the reason we are honoring him here, Bishop established a team record with interceptions in five consecutive games in 1961. He led the team in picks from 1960 to 1962 (those three years are also a team record), and finished his career with 22, ranking tenth on the team.
1962: Mike Gaechter
The winner of the MOP Award for 1962 was actually a Pro Bowl player, but he was overshadowed by other defensive backs such as Mel Renfro. Mike Gaechter had 21 interceptions during his eight-year career that spanned from 1962 to 1969. But it was two factors that gave him enough of an edge to win the coveted title.
Gaechter started strong as a rookie free agent with the Cowboys in 1962. He had five interceptions that season, and had at least two picks in seven of his eight seasons. In 1962, during a week five thrashing of Philadelphia (which Dallas won 41-19), Gaechter and teammate Amos Marsh achieved a feat unrivaled in NFL history. They both had 100 yard returns not only in the same game, but also in the same quarter.
In addition to that distinction, and the real reason he wins the MOP Award, is that he made the Clark College Track and Field Honor Roll.
1963: Billy Howton
In seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers during the 1950s, he had two seasons with 1000 yards receiving. In fact, he is one of three players who reached 1000 yards by the 11th game of their rookie season. The Cowboys picked him up for the 1960 season, and he turned in four solid seasons. In his final game, a 28-24 win by Dallas over the St. Louis Cardinals, he caught a 48-yard pass that set up a score near the end of the game.
More importantly, Howton became the NFL’s all-time leading receiver in 1963, with 503 receptions for 8459 yards. If his stuff is good enough to be listed as a hidden treasure by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he is good enough to make it as a MOP Award winner.
1964: Buddy Dial
The MOP Award for 1964 goes to receiver Buddy Dial, who played with the Cowboys from 1964 through 1966 after being traded from the Steelers. In 1963, Dial made the Pro Bowl after hauling in 60 receptions for 1295 yards. He was injured early in the 1964 season and managed only 11 receptions for 178 yards. He was never very productive in Dallas, catching only 42 passes in three years. Congratulations, retrospectively.
Here’s the story of the team’s season finale in 1964, when Dial caught several key passes in a 17-14 win over Dial’s former team, the Steelers:
Remember now that when the Steelers traded Dial to Dallas it was with the understanding they would sign No. 1 draft choice Paul Martha as his replacement. Martha was no sooner signed than Dial was injured, infrequently to be heard of since except on Saturday afternoon television.
With less than 15 minutes remaining in the season, Dial came back to punish the Steelers.
Dallas was clinging to a 10-7 lead and losing momentum in the fourth quarter when Lee Folkins dribbled a 17-yard punt and this time the ball hit him as though he were a pin ball cushion, banking straight to the hands of Dallas’ Mike Connelly on the Dallas 48.
With this break of gigantic magnitude the Cowboys started losing ground. On third down, needing 17 from the Pittsburgh 49, Meredith skittered out of a big rush, laid the ball for Dial who was blanketed by Pittsburgh’s Brady Keys.
Dial somehow got his hands on the ball, he and Keys fell in a heap and Dial retrieved the ball with one palm, flat on his back, Keys swinging wildly.
That placed the ball on Pittsburgh’s 28. Meredith hit Dial across the middle for another 18, limped away from a Steeler rush for another nine, and Perry Lee Dunn, who did a determined job all afternoon, pushed it over from the 3 for the touchdown which made it 17-7.
Dial is known to students of labor law and sports law for his role in Dial v. NFL Player Supplemental Disability Plan, a case where Dial’s ex-wife sued for half of the benefits awarded to Dial in the NFL’s 1993 collective bargaining agreement. He is a member the College Football Hall of Fame and has the second highest career yards-per-catch average (20.83) in the history of the NFL. The record is held by Homer Jones, the player who invented the spike.
The Dallas Cowboys have won a single playoff game between 1997 and right now. That occurred in 2009 when the team beat the visiting Philadelphia Eagles in the playoffs.
Members of the 2008 draft class were rather prominent in the victory.
Felix Jones (1st round in 2008) carried the ball 16 times for 148 yards and helped to put the game on ice with a 73-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Tashard Choice (4th round in 2008) helped in the effort, carrying the ball 14 times for 42 yards with a touchdown.
The other first-round pick from 2008, Mike Jenkins, recorded an interception.
Martellus Bennett (2nd round in 2008) and Orlando Scandrick (5th round) weren’t as prominent in the 2009 playoffs, but both of the played roles.
Now it’s 2013. Choice and Bennett have been gone for some time.
Sixth-round pick Erik Walden never played a down in Dallas but became a starter in Green Bay.
Now it looks like Jones and Jenkins will leave the team via free agency. They are among five free agents the Cowboys will likely lose according to the Dallas Morning News.