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Cowboys CTK: Cliff Harris Crashes His Way Through #43

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Blog - Cliff Harris Crashes His Way Through #43 5

Happy Saturday one and all! Isn’t it lovely to have football back in your lives? Everything just feels right when there’s Dallas Cowboys action in the air. You know what else is going to be in the air? Dez Bryant. In 43 days Dez and Co. will be fielding touchdown passes on the field at AT&T Stadium while the Cowboys trounce the New York Football Giants. To commemorate that inevitable joy, we’re going to get airborne for the Greatest 43 in Dallas Cowboys History.

The Following Players Have All Worn 43 For The Dallas Cowboys:

  • Greg Briggs, SS
  • Cliff Harris, FS
  • Elvis Patterson, CB
  • Don Perkins, FB
  • Izell Reese, FS
  • Gerald Sensabaugh, FS
  • Keith Smith, LB

The number 43 has belonged to two of the more revered Cowboys in franchise history. They played completely different positions and were instrumental to the team at their given points in time:

Cliff Harris

Cowboys Blog - Cliff Harris Crashes His Way Through #43

Don Perkins

Cowboys Blog - Cliff Harris Crashes His Way Through #43 1

As you probably know the Dallas Cowboys entered the world as an NFL franchise during the 1960 NFL season. What you may not know is that they entered the league too late to participate in the 1960 NFL Draft. This forced them to sign players if and when the Dallas Cowboys team would in fact become a reality. One of the first players that the Cowboys signed to such a deal was the fullback out of New Mexico, Don Perkins.

Technically the Baltimore Colts drafted Perkins in 1960, but the league allowed the Cowboys to retain his rights. Perkins didn’t hit the field at the Cotton Bowl until the 1961 season, a season in which he earned the NFL’s Rookie of the Year title.

Don #43

Now Don Perkins wasn’t exactly a long-distance type of runner. He was really shifty and had tremendous balance as he helped the Dallas Cowboys get off the ground as a franchise. In a game against the expansion Minnesota Vikings in his rookie year of 1961, Don Perkins became the first Dallas Cowboy to ever rush for 100 yards in a game. In 1962 Perkins’ 945 yards and 7 touchdowns made him the first Dallas Cowboy to ever be named All-Pro.

Cowboys Blog - Cliff Harris Crashes His Way Through #43 2

Don Perkins retired before the 1969 season, but not without some serious accolades. Perkins led the team in rushing six out of eight seasons, he ranks 3rd in franchise history in both yards and touchdowns, and in addition to his lone All-Pro team nod was named to 6 Pro Bowls. One of the greater accomplishments by Don Perkins was helping to desegregate the hotels that the team would travel to for road games in 1968.

The number 43 saw its first shoulders in Don Perkins, who took it a long way. In 1976 Don Perkins was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, along with his pal and fellow Don, Don Meredith. He helped the Cowboys reach a level of respect across the NFL, and he falls just short of being our Greatest 43.

Captain Crash

1970 saw the NFL and AFL finally merge to form one whole league. The draft that year saw a gentleman by the name of Cliff Harris taken by no one. The Dallas Cowboys invited the former Ouachita Baptist University defensive back to training camp in order to see what the kid was made of.

Cowboys Blog - Cliff Harris Crashes His Way Through #43 3

Harris managed to beat out the 3rd round draft pick Charlie Waters for the starting free safety spot in that year of 1970. Military service came calling and Harris valiantly took a step away from football to fulfill it. He returned well in time to be a part of the 1971 squad that beat the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.

Look Out, Here Comes 43

When Cornell Green retired in 1975 Charlie Waters joined Cliff Harris in the defensive backfield. They combined to be one of the greater safety tandems in the NFL throughout the 1970s.

Cowboys Blog - Cliff Harris Crashes His Way Through #43 4

Cliff Harris was widely regarded for his amazing speed. He made it a point to wear the same pads that kickers did so that absolutely nothing would impede his ability to move quickly. Harris generated plenty of speed that allowed him to punish opposing ball carriers. Pro Football Hall of Fame Coach George Allen once referred to Harris as a “rolling ball of butcher knives” due to the havoc that he would impose on people.

#43: Cliff Harris

Cliff Harris suited up for the Dallas Cowboys for the entire 1970s decade. His career started in 1970 and ended at the culmination of the 1979 season. In that time he accomplished quite a bit:

  • 4 First-Team All- Pro Selections (1975, 1976, 1977, 1978)
  • 6 Pro Bowl Selections (1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979)
  • 5 Super Bowl Appearances (V, VI, X, XII, XIII)
  • 2 Super Bowl Victories (VI and XII)
  • 1970s NFL All-Decade Team
  • Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, Class of 2004

The safety position is largely defined in today’s NFL thanks to the style of play that Captain Crash brought to the Dallas Cowboys. Cliff Harris was a force on his Cowboy teams, the defense was top 10 every year with him in the lineup, and was the model of consistency in the defensive backfield. Among his many awards and achievements Cliff Harris can now add the Greatest 43 in Dallas Cowboys History to his collection.

Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 42 in Dallas Cowboys History is!


Want to share your opinions on who should be featured on our Countdown To Kickoff? Email me at rjochoa@insidethestar.com or Tweet @rjochoa.

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys CTK: Cliff Harris Crashes His Way Through #43" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!



I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

Star Blog

How Should The Cowboys, And The NFL, Value RBs?

Kevin Brady

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Will Cowboys' Offense Improve With Ezekiel Elliott's Return?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There is no one, stand-alone "best" strategy for winning in the NFL. There are, of course, common themes and ideals which run true year in and year out among the top teams.

Strategy in the NFL is dynamic, or at least it should be. Running in place for too long under the same leadership often breeds mediocrity, and refusing to move with current trends can put you at a severe disadvantage.

Succumbing to those trends without fully analyzing the confounding factors your situation presents, however, can also ruin a team building exercise.

With that being said, should teams pay elite running backs top dollar? Or are those running backs expendable, replaceable, and often forgettable within the NFL machine?

To be honest these aren't very fair ways to pose legitimately interesting questions. You can acknowledge that a running back is important to your offense while also acknowledging that you don't want to break the bank for a position with such injury risk and high turnover year-to-year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing this dilemma, as their star running back Le'Veon Bell asks to be paid like an elite "weapon," not as a normal running back. And when you examine how the Steelers deploy Bell within their offense, he clearly has a point.

Bell is not your traditional "running back." He lines up on the boundary, in the slot, and is a passing threat out of the backfield as well. On top of all of this versatility, Bell is an excellent pass protector, something which is often lost among other "versatile" backs.

Bell can quite literally do it all for an offense, but the idea of paying that position elite-level money makes teams cringe. As The Athletic's Marcus Mosher pointed out on Twitter, teams like the New England Patriots have been able to replicate Bell's production by using multiple speciality backs rather than one workhorse.

In theory, this takes away the injury risk component to a certain extent. Rather than giving one player 350-400 touches per season, you spread those touches out and allow for players to do what they do best.

Lately, the NFL has seemed to agree that this is the most efficient way to play offense. But when you have a player like Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, in what way is taking the ball out of their hands "efficient" at all? In addition, how is using three players to mimic the skill set of one efficient?

Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but when you have a playmaker who is of the caliber of a Bell or an Elliott, it is up to the offense to deploy in him ways that maximize his value. Teams should be using the Bells and Elliotts of the world as pass catching threats and as weapons all over the field. Force the entire defense to account for your running back rather than just jamming him between the tackles like it's 1975.

The movement towards "running back by committee" rather than the traditional one-back system can also be credited to the lack of workhorse-worthy backs entering the league.

Ezekiel Elliotts don't grow on trees, they are rare and special players. And when you have one, especially when you spend a premium pick on him, you should get the most out of him that you can. Playing winning offense in the NFL is about more than just "do you run or do you pass," and it often hinges on creating splash plays of 15-20 yards.

If you can get those plays through the use of an elite running back, that player becomes intrinsically valuable to your team. No matter what "position" he is labeled as. Of course you want to be able create mismatches in the passing game all over the field, so when you are able to do this with a running back, shouldn't that be deemed as highly valuable?

We can't say just yet if the Cowboys should re-sign Ezekiel Elliott once he enters free agency. After all, five seasons (and a franchise tag year) where he touches the ball more than most players in the league will almost certainly bring about some wear and tear.

But with the way the Cowboys have chosen to play offense, and the way in which they've built their roster, a workhorse back like Elliott is necessary for success.

Once again, at least it is for now.



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Star Blog

Is DE Kony Ealy At Risk Of Not Making Cowboys Final Roster?

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: As Late FA Signing, New DE Kony Ealy Brings Value at DE

As training camp approaches and we draw closer to the 2018 NFL season, fans are beginning to get excited for new faces, old stars, and new beginnings for the Dallas Cowboys.

One player which has been a bit forgotten about over the last few months, and even overlooked when he was first signed back in April, is defensive end Kony Ealy. Of course, some of this overlooking is justified, as Ealy's career has been filled with more valleys than peaks thus far.

With a fresh start in Dallas, though, some expect Kony Ealy to rekindle his career, and look like the player he was during the Panthers' Super Bowl 50 loss just a few seasons ago. The problem is, that game looks like the outlier and not the norm over his professional career.

Originally drafted by the Carolina Panthers, Ealy has had a shaky start to his career. Now joining his third team in the same number of seasons, it's certainly fair to say he hasn't lived up to his second round draft selection.

At 6'4" and 275 pounds, however, Ealy fits the mold of a 4-3 defensive end in the Cowboys' scheme. While he isn't the explosive pass rusher that other players on the roster are (and can be), he could provide solid rotational depth across the defensive line.

With fellow former second round pick Randy Gregory gaining reinstatement to the NFL this week, Ealy could struggle to salvage any real playing time with the Cowboys at all. Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and Taco Charlton all feel like locks to make the team.

Then there is 2018 day three pick Dorance Armstrong and former fourth round pick Charles Tapper providing competition as well.

Tapper and Armstrong are unproven, but have the athletic profiles to become solid edge rushers at the professional level. For both, especially Tapper, health is of the upmost concern going forward. If Tapper can remain healthy, he has a real shot of making the team and having his impact felt as early as 2018.

That "if" has been a serious one thus far, however.

When the Cowboys first signed Kony Ealy back in April, I really believed he could provide solid and cheap depth along their defensive line. Now in July, I still have those beliefs, but it's become fair to question if he will even find himself on the final 53-man roster based on the competition around him.



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Star Blog

Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin’s Footsteps?

Brian Martin

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Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin's Footsteps?

Connor Williams has yet to play a single snap the NFL, but there are already some pretty high expectations for the rookie Guard. That's because he will be sandwiched between two Pro Bowl players in Center Travis Frederick and Left Tackle Tyron Smith. But, it's the Dallas Cowboys third Pro Bowl offensive lineman Williams should try to emulate and follow in the footsteps of.

Yes, I'm talking about Zack Martin.

Zack Martin's career couldn't have gotten off to a better start coming out of Notre Dame. He hit the ground running as a rookie with the Cowboys and put together a dominating performance his first year in the NFL, earning his first Pro Bowl bid as well as being named to the All-Pro team. He continued to play at a high level ever since and has not only turned into the best player at his position, but continued his Pro Bowl streak every season since entering the league.

To ask, or even expect Connor Williams to have the same kind of immediate success as Zack Martin is probably a little unfair, if not impossible. The kind of success Martin has had already in his career is almost unheard of. But, that's not to say Williams isn't going to try to follow in Martin's footsteps and to become the best player he can.

Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys OG Zack Martin

The footsteps I think Connor Williams should try to follow as it pertains to Zack Martin is how well he made the transition from a collegiate Offensive Tackle to an NFL Guard. I think that should be Williams' main focus right now with training camp coming up.

Williams will be inserted into the starting lineup as the Cowboys new Left Guard. It will be a new position for him after playing mainly Tackle at the University of Texas, that will require an entirely new mindset and technique. But, it's in transition I believe he can make rather smoothly.

Connor Williams should benefit from Zack Martin's similar transition from college OT to an NFL OG. I wouldn't be surprised if we see the rookie shadowing Martin throughout training camp to soak up as much knowledge as possible. It's probably the best way for him to jumpstart his career.

Now, I fully expect to see some growing pains from Williams throughout the 2018 season. It's to be expected from any rookie, especially one transitioning to a new position. But, I do believe he will not only be an upgrade at LG for the Cowboys, but will make the entire OL even better.

I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see what kind of player Connor Williams ends up being this season.

Do you think Connor Williams can follow in Zack Martin's footsteps?



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