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Did You Know…
That Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder’s father played for the Dallas Cowboys?
I didn’t, so on the day after Father’s Day, David Ponder is our Most Obscure Player of 1985.
David Ponder was a defensive tackle who played at Florida State from 1980 to 1983. He was not drafted in 1985 and signed a free agent contract with the Cowboys.
Ponder played in only four games with the Cowboys. One of those was the 44-14 win over the Washington Redskins during the famous “Happy Birthday, Joe Theismann” game to open the season. Ponder recorded a half-sack during that game, and this was his only official statistic as a professional.
He apparently remained in the Dallas area, as Christian was born in Dallas and raised in Grapevine. Christian later played at Florida State before being drafted in 2011.
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Here is a story about Christian Ponder signing with FSU in 2005. It mentions David Ponder’s all-important contributions to his college fraternity.
Florida State’s decision is very good news for Pi Kappa Alpha. David Ponder was not only a great player for the Seminoles, he was also a popular leader and Brother of Delta Lambda Chapter. David was an active member of the Pike rush committee, and won the FSU Intramural All-Greek Heavyweight Wrestling Championship for the Pikes. In 1984, David received the coveted Ken Spence Award honoring the varsity athlete who best exemplifies the qualities of loyalty and devotion to Pi Kappa Alpha.
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Another point of obscurity: Ponder was one of two players who first wore a jersey number in the 90s. Ponder wore #97, while Kevin Brooks wore #99.
The Dallas Cowboys were still a talent-laden team in 1981 and featured plenty of household names. We had a few candidates for the Most Obscure Player Award, but the name we are going with made the cover of the prestigious Dallas Cowboys Weekly on December 26, 1981.
The player: linebacker and special-team ace Angelo King. Congratulations to him for the MOP Award, but I frankly know little about him.
Of course, if I spent 99 cents on Ebay, I could buy the December 26, 1981 issue of the Dallas Cowboys Weekly and would know much more about the obscure subject of this post.
But I didn’t.
His Wikipedia page in its entirety: “Angelo King was a professional American football player who played linebacker for seven seasons for the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions.”
He joined the Cowboys as a rookie free agent in 1981 and played in 15 games. He recorded two fumble recoveries and apparently made many special-teams tackles.
King lasted three years in Dallas before the team traded him to Detroit in 1984 for a sixth-round pick in 1986. King played two full seasons in 1984 and 1985 and played in 11 games in 1986.
He returned in 1987 to play in one game as a replacement player during the first of the infamous scab games. With the Lions (led the great QB Todd Hons) leading 10-0 over the visiting Buccaneers (led by the equally great QB Mike Hold), King had his career moment. He recovered a fumble and returned it nine yards for a touchdown. It was his first fumble recovery since his rookie season in 1981 and gave the Lions a 17-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Lions fell apart after that, though, and lost the game 31-27. Even worse was that King never played another game again.
Incidentally, the Cowboys used the sixth-round pick in 1986 to take quarterback Stan Gelbaugh, who did not end up playing a down in the NFL until 1989.
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I’m not sure what King is doing these days, but he showed up on the list of celebrities at a golf tournament benefiting citizens of Haiti. Other former Cowboys on the list included Drew Pearson, Too Tall Jones, Everson Walls, Rocket Ismail, and Doug Donley.
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 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.
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.
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.