Welcome to Beyond the Clock! In between Sean Martin’s Cowboys On The Clock we will be analyzing the great Cowboy players that were not drafted.
Who better to start with than one of the first great Cowboys, Don Meredith? Instead of being drafted, Don Meredith signed a personal services contract on November 28, 1959, to play for a proposed NFL team that had no name, no coach and no other players.
It wasn’t until January 28, 1960, that the new team was approved and the NFL was officially coming to Dallas. The Dallas Cowboys – er, the Dallas Rangers, at that time – were born into existence. Clint Murchison, the team’s founder and owner at the time, made the decision to change the name to the Cowboys in March of 1960.
Unfortunately for Dallas, the city was granted a team after the draft had occurred. The only way for the Cowboys to acquire players to form the first team was to pick from other team’s rosters. Each of the then 12 NFL teams could protect 25 of its 36 players, with Dallas selecting three from every club. Essentially the Cowboys were getting every team’s worst players. They were getting the leftovers.
Out of the mayhem of building a roster without the help of the NFL draft, the Cowboys managed to pick up one particular quarterback’s personal services contract. It was some guy out of Southern Methodist University named Don Meredith.
“Dandy” Don Meredith was a two-time All-American at SMU where he broke all of SMU’s passing records. Throughout his nine-year career with the Cowboys, Meredith was one of the Cowboys’ most recognizable stars. His humor and outgoing style epitomized the city he played for. Teammates remembered Meredith as the guy who sang in huddles, shot mid-70s in golf, and read Hemingway.
Aside from being the funny guy on the team, Meredith was regarded as one of the toughest. He was often the recipient of many physical beatings years before the league showed any interest in protecting the quarterback. It’s rumored that Don Meredith broke his nose 26 times and never took himself out of the game.
Meredith was also a great quarterback. During the 1966 season, the Cowboys’ first winning season in franchise history (10-3-1), Meredith was named NFL Player of the Year, throwing a career-high 24 touchdown passes that season. He also was one of nine Dallas players named to the Pro Bowl that year, his first of two career Pro Bowl selections. Meredith is still one of only three Cowboys quarterbacks (alongside Roger Staubach and Danny White) to have thrown for at least 300 yards in three games during a single season. He still holds the record for the longest pass completion in franchise history, a 95-yard touchdown pass to “The Bullet” Bob Hayes on November 11, 1966.
Although many critics overlooked his career because of his 1-3 playoff record, out of 104 total games, he finished his career with 17,199 yards, 135 touchdowns and a 48-33-4 record.
His lasting legacy will be that of leading his team to three straight division championships and two consecutive NFL Championship games following the 1966 and 1967 seasons, losing both times, though, to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
In 1976, Meredith joined former Cowboys running back Don Perkins as the second and third members of the Ring of Honor.
He was the first face of the franchise, the local kid from Mount Vernon, Texas, a SMU great, an Undrafted Wonder, and a great Dallas Cowboy.