If you’ve ever seen the cult classic Dodgeball (shout out to Steve the Pirate) then you are pretty familiar with ESPN 8: The Ocho. This is cool for two reasons today of all days: 1) My last name is Ochoa which is just Ocho with an a… pretty sweet, right? 2) There are exactly OCHO weeks that stand between you and some high-octane Dallas Cowboys football going on!
So calm yourself down, grab a dunkaroo (who else misses those?), and settle in. Today we’re talking the Greatest 56 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The Following Players Have All Worn 56 For The Dallas Cowboys:
There are a lot of great things in life that come in threes: cheers, company, musketeers, blind mice, and the top gentlemen to wear 56 for the Dallas Cowboys.
Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson
The Hart Lock 56
We’ll start with Eugene Lockhart (no relation to Professor Lockhart from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). “Mean Gene the Hitting Machine” grew up pretty quickly after Dallas selected him out of the University of Houston in the 6th round of the 1984 NFL Draft.
Lockhart came out of the gate ready to roll and he became the first rookie in franchise history to ever start at middle linebacker.
Lockhart donned the blue and silver from 1984-1990 and was one of the better players in a darker time in Cowboys History.
Throughout his 7 years with the club he led the team in sacks 4 times and had more than 100 tackles all but once. Eugene wound up being traded to the New England Patriots by Jimmy Johnson as part of a package that ultimately became the number one overall pick in 1991 (Russell Maryland). His time served under the star was very impressive, but Eugene falls short of the Greatest 56 honor.
56 Goes Hollywood
The 1975 Cowboys Draft Class, aka the Dirty Dozen, has been featured plenty on our Countdown to Kickoff. The 18th pick of that draft was none other than Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson out of Langston University. Now this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, but you don’t get the nickname “Hollywood” for being quiet and doing puzzles.
Hollywood was one of the most flamboyant personalities that ever graced Texas Stadium.
As a linebacker, Henderson was unquestionably great, and he showed this by earning the strong side starting gig in 1977… and the Cowboys rode his success – among many others – to their second Super Bowl in franchise history. Thomas was extraordinarily talented on a football field and the Cowboys took every opportunity to give him the ball… even using him as a return man.
Thomas delivered on that investment when he returned a punt 97 yards for a score during his rookie season.
Thomas Henderson was one of the most physically gifted linebackers to ever play, not only for the Cowboys but at the position in general.
While his Cowboy Career spanned only 5 years he made an NFL-wide impact. Lawrence Taylor, arguably the greatest linebacker to ever live, has stated many times that he was inspired to wear 56 by none other than Hollywood. While that tidbit is amazing, unfortunately, it’s not enough to let 56 live in Hollywood permanently.
A Very Bradie 56
It’s hard to believe that the 2003 NFL Draft was twelve years ago. Cornerstone players Jason Witten and Tony Romo strapped on their Cowboy boots that year, but it’s 4th round draft choice Bradie James out of LSU that we’re here to talk about.
Like most young linebackers, Bradie James spent some time on the special teams unit and earned his stripes.
When the Cowboys changed to a 3-4 defense in 2005, James became the starting middle linebacker and began to shine as he led the team in tackles. In regards to tackles, Bradie James conquered unchartered territory for the Cowboys as he became the first player to lead the team in this category for 3 straight seasons.
Bradie would add to his streak and eventually lead the team in tackles for 6 straight seasons, setting a franchise record.
Bradie James was a statistical machine. He had 5 straight seasons of 100+ tackles, but he was so much more than that.
James was the leader on the Cowboys defense and a leader in the community. He took the torch of Cowboy linebackers from Dexter Coakley before his time and passed it on to Sean Lee after it. 56 features some formidable competition, but the Greatest 56 in Dallas Cowboys History boils down to the one and only Bradie James.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 55 in Dallas Cowboys History is!