Welcome back to Cowboys on the Clock! This ongoing series has been getting Cowboys Nation ready for April 28th, and the first round of the NFL Draft, by taking a look at the most recent players the team has selected in the first round with the corresponding pick to the amount of days until the draft.
The 2005 draft was a good one for Dallas, as they selected twice in the first round, and ultimately walked away with a number of long-term starters over the full seven rounds. Their first selection of the draft came with the 11th overall pick, when they scooped up some guy out of Troy named DeMarcus Ware.
They also used the 20th overall pick on a defensive linemen, this one out of LSU. Here is his story…
Spears would play in the SEC for his college career at LSU with Head Coach Nick Saban from 2001-2004. In just his second full season as a defensive player in 2003, the Tigers would go on to win the national championship over Oklahoma. Spears recorded a pick six in the Sugar Bowl win.
He would follow up this storybook season with another dominant year in 2004, entering the NFL Draft after a 49 tackle season with 17 of those coming for a loss. Adding 9 sacks, he also was a first-team All Sec player.
The Dallas Cowboys, at the time being coached by Bill Parcells, entered the 2005 draft with the 11th and 20th overall picks. Parcells wanted to take Spears with the first of these selections, but Jerry Jones and the rest of the front office agreed that Ware was a player that could not be passed up at #11.
The team would add Ware, who was named the greatest Cowboys player to ever wear #94 this summer by our Staff Writer RJ Ochoa.
The Chargers, Saints, Panthers, Chiefs, Texans, Bengals, Vikings, and Rams would all pass on Spears with picks #11 through #19, allowing Dallas to add both of their first round targets.
Despite battling through injuries in his first training camp, Spears would see time as a rotational defensive end through the early portions of the 2005 season. He would earn a job as a starter in the final 10 games, recording six QB pressures and finishing off 1 and a half sacks.
The team would switch from a 4-3 defense to the 3-4 going into the following 2006 season, where Spears again came out of training camp banged up. Still, he would start all 16 games, but fail to record more than 1 sack. His production in total tackles and tackles for loss went up, but through two seasons the LSU product had just 2.5 sacks.
The Cowboys were bounced from the playoffs in the Wild Card Round to end the 2006 season in heartbreaking fashion in Seattle against the Seahawks. The same would hold true in 2007, when a team that was expected to make a run fell to the rival Giants at home in the Divisional Playoffs.
It was a similar season for Spears as well, who totaled just 2 sacks in 15 starts. He did set career highs in pressures, tackles, and tackles for loss, which would set him up for another milestone in the 2009 season.
For the third time in Marcus’ career, the Cowboys were in the playoffs. With losses in the first round in his past two appearances, the Cowboys rallied past the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round for a monumental playoff win. The fiery Spears helped lead a defense that did not surrender a rushing touchdown in that game, a first for this franchise in playoff competition.
Unfortunately for Spears, with a loss the following week at Minnesota, he would never see the playoffs again during his time in Dallas. The typically durable player would appear in just 8 games in 2010, snapping a streak of 88 consecutive games that he had set.
His limited role in 2010 would become even more limited upon the hiring of Rob Ryan prior to the 2011 season. Playing in the first year of a brand new 5 year deal, he was slated as a backup for the first time in his career. Kenyon Coleman and Jason Hatcher started at the defensive end positions.
The team would then look to transition back to a 4-3 defense after 2012, where Spears was once again playing in a reduced role. Dallas released Spears due to a knee injury, ending his Cowboys career and essentially his time as a pro.
Marcus appeared in 5 games for the Baltimore Ravens in 2013 before being waived by the team. His time in Dallas was marked by not only unmet expectations from him, but from the entire team – which won just 1 playoff game during his career despite 3 appearances.
Spears was never a superstar, but he did provide a durable and consistent presence to the Cowboys defense, while being a pivotal locker room component. In RJ’s same series that named his team mate DeMarcus Ware the greatest #94 in team history, Spears was named the greatest Cowboy to ever wear #96 right here on Inside The Star.
The following players have also been selected with the 20th overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys:
Dennis Homan, WR, 1968
Homan played just two seasons in Dallas before requesting a trade. He was a member of the Super Bowl V team that lost to the Baltimore Colts.
Billy Joe DuPree, TE, 1973
DuPree led the team in receiving yards in just his rookie season. A dynamic tight end for his time, he played in Super Bowls XII, X, and XIII. Although he was a major contributor in all three games, the only one the team won was Super Bowl XII when he had a game high 66 receiving yards.
Billy DuPree never missed a game during his run in Dallas from 1973-1983.
Kelvin Pritchett, DT, 1991
Pritchett was immediately traded to the Detroit Lions on draft day following his selection by the Cowboys. In return, the team received picks that were used on Dixon Edwards, James Richards, and Tony Hill
Ebenezer Ekuban, DE, 1999
Ekuban was a disappointment in Dallas through his 5 seasons with the team, as he never developed into the bookend pass rusher across from former college team mate Greg Ellis that the Cowboys expected him to be when they traded up for him in the 1999 draft.
Cowboys on the Clock will return on Sunday with the team’s most recent 18th overall pick, meaning that Inside The Star will once again go Beyond the Clock tomorrow to continue this series!
Enjoy the countdown to draft day, and share your thoughts on this piece (or any of the past editions) right here with a reply below or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on Twitter @ShoreSportsNJ!