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The year was 1961. The Dallas Cowboys were preparing for their second year in the league after going 0-11-1 in 1960.
The Cowboys had their training camp at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. The team was looking for some talent.
Found it did they (Yoda speak) in a little receiver from Oregon. Standing at just 5’4″ and weighing only 147 pounds, this player looked “like a loose helmet on the ground until he starts moving,” according to Dallas Morning News writer Charles Burton.
Moreover, Tom Landry called him a key to the Cowboys’ chances that year. More on that below.
The player caught everyone’s attention in camp with a 71-yard touchdown reception from Don Meredith during a scrimmage.
The player? Cleveland “Pussyfoot” Jones.
The DMN later noted that Pussyfoot’s legend grew “rather large” during training camp. But alas, the team cut him on August 28, 1961. He played in two preseason games but never touched the ball.
Apparently, news of Pussyfoot’s release travelled quite slowly. On September 6, 1961, more than a week after the Cowboys cut Pussyfoot, the Miami News published a piece entitled “‘Pussyfoot’ Key to Dallas Hopes.” The author of the piece was, of course, head coach Tom Landry.
Two of our biggest weaknesses last season were an inexperienced defensive secondary and lack of speed on offense.
We traded for veteran Dick Moegle during the off-season. Dicky has been a big help to us through training camp, although he was out of action for neary a month with an injured leg.
He has given our young defensive halfbacks and safeties some valuable pointers and has helped get them in a keen competitive frame of mind.
Offensively, we’ve found some pleasant surprises. Two of them are free agents we signed from Oregon State. [MC: Marsh played at Oregon State, but Jones played at the University of Oregon]
One is Amos Marsh, who was an end and sprint champion in college. We put him at fullback the first day of camp and nobody’s been able to get him out of that position yet.
The other is Cleveland (Pussyfoot) Jones, who towers 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs 147 pounds. He’s a quick, clever pass receiver as a wingback and he’s willing to take on any big man his blocking assignment calls for. He’s a real key to our chances.
Perhaps needless to say, Pussyfoot never played in the NFL.
The other players did have decent careers. Marsh played in Dallas from 1961 to 1964, plus another three years in Detroit. Moegle started 14 games in Dallas in 1961, but that was his final season in the NFL.
Three hours before the season finale against the New York Giants on December 19, 1965, Bob Hayes gave his thoughts about the game. His quote:
Yankee Stadium, man. It’s going to be fun.
Dallas Morning News writer Gary Cartwright’s reply: “Fun? It was a genuine riot.”
The Cowboys blew out the Giants, 38-20. The win allowed Dallas to finish with a .500 record at 7-7, marking the first time in franchise history that Dallas did not have a losing record. The Cowboys advanced to the 1965 Playoff Bowl, where Dallas lost to Colts, 35-3.
Hayes caught two touchdown passes from Don Meredith in the win. Meredith only completed 8 passes, but three were for touchdowns.
The trivia question for today is below—
The early history of the Dallas Cowboys is partially intertwined with the Chicago Bears. Chicago selected SMU quarterback Don Meredith in the third round of the 1960 NFL Draft and, thanks to an agreement between George Halas and the Dallas franchise, the Bears traded Meredith to Dallas for a third-round pick in 1962.
Dallas faced the Bears at Wrigley Field in 1960 and lost 17-7. Meredith did not play in that game, and third-stringer Don Heinrich threw the Cowboys’ only touchdown pass.
Two years later, Meredith did play when the Cowboys hosted the Bears for the first time. The game played at the Cotton Bowl turned into a bit of a wild affair. Chicago’s Billy Wade threw for 466 yards, 201 of which went to receiver Johnny Morris, but the Bears could not convert yards into points.
Dallas held a 13-10 lead at halftime thanks to two touchdown passes by Don Meredith. However, the Bears’ Joe Fortunato blocked Allen Green’s first extra-point attempt, which turned out to be critical at game’s end.
Rookie Amos Bullocks gave Dallas a 33-24 lead on a 73-yard touchdown run with nine minutes left in the game. At the time, it was the longest run from scrimmage in the team’s short history.
However, the Bears clawed their way back into the game, as Wade hit Morris on a 45-yard touchdown pass to cut the Dallas lead to 33-31. Then, with just 31 seconds left in the game, Roger LeClerc hit a 15-yard field goal to give Chicago the win.
Had the Cowboys won, they might have pulled out a winning record in 1962. However, the team slid down the stretch, losing five of their last six games to finish with a 5-8-1 record.
The Cowboys have faced the Bears 20 times and have an overall record of 11-9. The teams last played in 2010, when Chicago frustrated Dallas in a 27-20 win for the Bears.
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Incidentally, total attendance for the Cowboys’ opener against Tampa Bay was 81,984, and the numbers may be a bit higher on Monday night.
Total attendance for the 1962 game? 12,692.
The Cowboys don’t return home until September 23, when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A friend visiting Dallas asked whether it was worth taking a look at Cowboys Stadium.
As a venue to watch a game, it certainly is. Some have written that the stadium ranks has high as second among NFL stadiums. Other have written about Cowboys Stadium compared to other stadiums around the world.
Anyway, during a week with an away game, consider visiting the stadium and taking a tour. Cost is about $30, which is a bit high, but you get to visit field, locker rooms, and so forth. Worth the trip, especially if you’re a Cowboys fans.
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The Cowboys rank pretty high in various power rankings, which Dallas Morning News reporter Scott Bell has summarized. The high-end ranking has the Cowboys at #6 (Pete Prisco, CBS), while the low-end ranking (Ashley Fox, ESPN) has the Cowboys at #13.
Dallas receiver Kevin Ogletree managed to change the focus of conversations from “The Cowboys don’t have a third receiver” to “This Ogletree kid looked awfully good. Should I pick him up on waivers for my fantasy team?”
Anyway, the point of this post isn’t really about Ogletree. It’s about one of the greatest opening-day performances not only in Cowboys history but also in league history. A certain receiver once opened as season by catching 10 passes for 241 yards with 3 TDs, two of which were on pass plays of longer than 50 yards. For those scoring at home, that’s 42.1 fantasy points in most standard leagues and 52.1 points in PPR leagues.
The player was Frank Clarke. His 3 TDs helped the Cowboys to a 35-35 tie with the Washington Redskins on opening day in 1962. Those 241 receiving yards are the most by any receiver on opening day in league history, according to a post today at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Of course, without the fantasy football implications of today, reference to Clarke’s performance did not appear until the ninth paragraph of Charles Burton’s story in the Dallas Morning News:
The tie score obscured a brilliant day of pass receiving and running by Frank Clarke, the veteran wingback, who caught the ball 10 times, made the catches worth 241 yards and three touchdowns.
Incidentally, Clarke had some other monster games for the Cowboys. He had two games in 1963 alone where he had more than 150 receiving yards, including an 8-reception, 190-yard performance against the San Francisco 49ers.