Happy Fourth of July from Inside The Star!
There are so many things to celebrate today: the independence of the United States of America, the fact that it’s Saturday, the amazing coincidence that the Fourth of July fell on a Saturday, all forms of barbecue, and the Greatest 71 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The following players have all worn 71 for the Dallas Cowboys:
- Everette Brown, DE
- Paul Dickson, DT
- Mike Dwyer, DT
- Andy Frederick, OT
- Charley Granger, OT
- Donald Hawkins, OG
- Alcender Jackson, OG
- Nate Livings, OG
- Cory Procter, OG
- Don Talbert, OT
- Willie Townes, DE
- Mark Tuinei, OT
- Rodney Wallace, OT
- Tyson Walter, C
In the spirit of freedom I am going to exercise mine. There is nobody on this list that is even in the same stratosphere of on or off the field talent as the late Mark Tuinei. The former 71 played a record 15 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (a record he shares with Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Bill Bates) and achieved an incredible amount in that time.
Joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 1983, nobody thought much of the backup defensive tackle Tuinei. He got by for two years and when the offensive line needed some help in 1985, Tuinei sprung to the rescue. While Mark found some initial success along the line it wasn’t until 1987 that he fully flourished.
1987 brought forth another NFL player strike and the emergence of Mark Tuinei at the all-important left tackle position. He became one of the original members of the “Great Wall of Dallas” that featured the likes of Nate Newton, Erik Williams, John Gesek, and Mark Stepnoski. Tuinei and Co. helped establish the elite level of play that the Cowboys needed in the phase of the game where it's seen the least but matters most, the trenches.
What’s most impressive about Mark Tuinei is the way that his former teammates speak about him, even after Mark’s death in 1999. Tuinei is one of the more admired Cowboys of his generation and is still held in extremely high regard. When Darryl Johnston was asked about Mark in 2013, he expressed his sadness that his children never got to meet Mark. All NFL teams inevitably reach a family type atmosphere, but when you have a winning culture as those Cowboys did it reaches new levels. Mark was a beloved member of that family and will always be remembered by fans and players alike.
Mark Tuinei set the standard for the famed “Great Wall of Dallas”. He helped the Cowboys win three Super Bowls in four years (XXVII, XXVIII, and XXX), protected the blind side of Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, and he helped pave the way for the NFL’s All-Time Leading Rusher…Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. Much has been made about the offensive line of 2015 and how it's comparable to that Great Wall. It's important to remember that before there was Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, La'el Collins, or any others…there was Tuey.
It seems fitting that on a day when America is highlighted that we remember one of the greatest to ever play for America’s Team. Thanks for the memories, Mark. #71 belongs to you.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 70 in Dallas Cowboys History is!