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Cowboys CTK: Bill Bates Earned His Way To #40

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Bill Bates Earned His Way To #40 6

Can you believe that on Sunday - 5 days from now - we will get to watch a game of football played between two NFL teams? I know, I know, it’s preseason. But if you were stranded in the desert for six months, would you complain about the brand of water that someone was giving you? I didn’t think so.

My last name is Ochoa so that means I have to “ocho” everything, including the 5 days until Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game between the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers. 5 “ocho’ed” is 40 and that is the number of days until the Cowboys hit the field to take on the New York Giants in their quest for their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

Today we’re going to talk about a guy who knows a thing or two about winning those, the Greatest 40 in Dallas Cowboys History.

The Following Players Have All Worn 40 For The Dallas Cowboys:

  • Bill Bates, SS
  • Bobby Joe Conrad, WR
  • Keith Davis, FS
  • Jimmy Harris, FS
  • Eric Hurt, CB
  • Danny McCray*, SS
  • Will Smith, OLB
  • Jim Stiger, RB
  • Les Strayhorn, RB

*Active player on the Dallas Cowboys roster

Some of the most talented athletes that have ever lived have played in the National Football League. They come in and show off their God-given talents, leaping over people and hurdling defenders with such ease.

Then there are the other types of players… the ones who fight their way to greatness. These are the individuals who arrive earlier, stay later, work harder and want it more.

There is no player that personifies this more than the Greatest 40 in Dallas Cowboys History.

Bill Bates

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Bill Bates Earned His Way To #40

Dallas Cowboys Bill Bates plays in Super Bowl XXX against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Sun Devil Stadium on January 28, 1996 in Tempe, AZ. The Cowboys defeated the Steelers 27-17.
(AP Photo/Tom DiPace)

The 1983 NFL Draft is one of the more iconic in NFL History. Stanford’s John Elway was very vocal about not wanting to play for the team that had the number one overall selection, the Baltimore Colts.

The University of Tennessee’s William Frederick Bates was hoping just to be drafted period. Unfortunately, Bill Bates had run a 4.8 40-yard dash at the 1983 NFL Combine so teams steered clear of his services, leaving him undrafted. The USFL’s New Jersey Generals did try to sway him their way, but Bill elected to sign as an undrafted free agent with his favorite childhood team… the Dallas Cowboys.

You know how some players are a longshot to make an NFL team? Those dudes had it easy next to Bates, but nothing was going to stop him. Bill worked his tail off to ensure that he fulfilled his dream of playing in the NFL and doing so with a Star on his hat.

His perseverance paid off and he found himself on the team’s official roster.

Something Special

It is common knowledge that there are three phases to the NFL game: offense, defense, and special teams. Bates immediately stood out on the special teams unit... so much so that he was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Year after his rookie season.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Bill Bates Earned His Way To #40 1

As an NFL sophomore in 1984, Bates continued his dominance on Special Teams.

Cowboy fans will remember Bates running down the field on punt coverages like a mad man looking to unload on somebody. His play was recognized that year as he was voted to the Pro Bowl, a decision that caused the NFL to establish a roster spot specifically for Special Teams players… making Bates the first to receive the honor.

The Safety Experiment

From 1986 to 1988 Bates was a starter on defense at the strong safety spot. Bates was an NFL safety if there ever was one and he garnered comparisons to the Greatest 43 in Dallas Cowboys History, Cliff Harris, from Head Coach Tom Landry. Bates didn’t have quite the same success at safety that he did on special teams and found his role reduced to solely Nickel packages.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Bill Bates Earned His Way To #40 2

After the 1989 season, Jimmy Johnson was prepared to lose Bates in the NFL’s Plan B Free Agency.

The Minnesota Vikings were highly interested, but like he would later do so famously with Herschel Walker, Jimmy kept Bates and left the Vikings empty-handed.

Bates actually led the Special Teams in tackles during the 1989 season with 19. He led the unit again the following year with 23 which made Bill Bates the first player in Dallas Cowboys History to lead the Special Teams in tackles in consecutive years.

Buffalo Bill

Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys rose to prominence after that first year of 1989. They found themselves at the center of the NFL universe in 1992 when they beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII. Bill Bates had to watch that game from the sidelines as he was injured earlier that year and missed the entire season. He vowed to get back and help his team win another World Championship.

Bates rehabbed like a maniac in the 1993 offseason. He wanted to experience the glory of bringing a championship to a world-class organization like the Dallas Cowboys.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Bill Bates Earned His Way To #40 3

In 1993, Bates led the Special Teams in tackles yet again with 25 and helped the Cowboys reach their second consecutive Super Bowl… once again against the Buffalo Bills. Bates was award the Ed Block Courage Award from his teammates that season - a testament to overcoming his injury and leading the team back to the Promised Land.

Bates and the Cowboys would once again beat the Bills and sit atop the NFL as World Champions. He had finally done it.

#40: Bill Bates

There are football players who you admire for their abilities on the field. We all stared in awe every time Barry Sanders dazzled defenders and did things that we couldn’t. We all pretended to be Roger Staubach evading tacklers and tiptoed the sidelines of our make-believe end zones like Jerry Rice.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Bill Bates Earned His Way To #40 4

Bill Bates and I at Emmitt Smith's Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in 2010.

What made Bill Bates great was that he did things that we couldn’t, not because we didn’t have the natural ability, but because there was no way in hell that anyone could work as hard as him. There are very few men to grace the gridiron that have given the game more of themselves than Bill Bates.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Bill Bates Earned His Way To #40 5Bill Bates played 15 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys. This ties him with the Greatest 71 and 72 in Dallas Cowboys History, Mark Tuinei, and Ed “Too Tall” Jones, for the most in Dallas Cowboys Franchise History.

Cowboy fans will forever cherish Bill Bates and the incredible amount of himself that he gave to be great.

He is a testament to the idea that if you work hard enough that anything is possible. Bill Bates went from undrafted in 1983, to winning 3 Super Bowls, to becoming the Greatest 40 in Dallas Cowboys History.

Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 39 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: Bill Bates Earned His Way To #40" 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!

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Star Blog

Why I’m Not Buying The Jason Witten Rejuvenation Story

Kevin Brady

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Jason Witten, FOX Sports, and the Future at Tight End for the Dallas Cowboys
Photo by James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Last week, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett made headlines with some quotes about the return of Jason Witten. Neither Garrett nor Witten tend to make headlines with their words often, but the two combined to do so with a quote this week.

“Yeah, absolutely. He’s been excited about every part of it ever since I met him and that hasn’t changed,” coach Jason Garrett said. “The work that he’s done in the weight room in the off-season program has been outstanding. His testing numbers and all of that are what they’ve been or even better. And he just has an unbelievable way about him. Tremendous passion for the game. And he demonstrates that every day. Witt looks good. He’s excited to be back and we’re certainly fortunate to have him back.” - Jason Garrett on Witten.

Multiple Cowboys' media outlets ran with these quotes, looking to show that the Cowboys have found a version of Jason Witten that they have not seen in quite some time. They are, publicly, stating that they believe a year away from the game did Witten some good, and that he will be a much healthier and fresher player in 2019 than he was back when he last played in 2017.

As a fan of the team, I sure hope this is the case. But as a realistic human being, I can't get behind this at all.

Jason Witten hasn't been very good for quite some time now. I know he's a Cowboy legend, and will forever be a fan favorite, but the facts are the facts. As a run blocker Witten has regressed greatly in his later years. More often it seemed he was re-adjusting his jersey after a missed block than he was making blocks to spring Ezekiel Elliott on the edge.

As a receiver, Witten's much slower than he used to be. And while he was never a blazer who relied on his speed to win, his lack of speed certainly holds him back in today's game. And if the Cowboys want to be multiple and versatile on offense, I'm not sure how a greatly-aged tight end helps them to do so.

He's still the smart, instinctive route runner he's always been, but at 37 years old what can we realistically expect from him?

I'll be honest, I'm very skeptical that Jason Witten is going to give the Cowboys anything in 2019. Maybe earlier in the season he will look better than expected, but can he withstand a full NFL season? It's impossible to say for sure now, but I'm absolutely not buying that he's rejuvenated or extra-fresh after a year off from football.



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Star Blog

Connor Williams Hopes Added Weight, Experience Aids Him In 2019

Kevin Brady

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Connor Williams

Offensive lineman Connor Williams had himself an interesting start to his young career. The second round pick was expected to be a plug-and-play guard for the Cowboys, earning the starting left guard spot from just about the first day of training camp.

The results from Williams' play were mixed, however. At moments Connor Williams looked like his athletic, technically sound self, working well on the Cowboys outside zone runs. Other times, though, he was simply overpowered by bigger and stronger defensive tackles.

Williams lost his left guard spot due to injury late in the season, and when Xavier Su'a-Filo came in and played relatively well, fans soured a bit on the then-rookie lineman. Still there was no question that Williams was the better player between the two, and he rightfully started in both the Cowboys playoff games last season.

Now entering year two, and with third round pick Connor McGovern potentially competing for a guard spot and rumors of a move to right tackle swirling around him, Williams believes he's done enough to improve before his Sophomore year.

Connor Williams spoke to DallasCowboys.com, and gave some decent quotes on what his offseason preparation has looked like thus far. Williams emphasized that his main goal was to add strength and size, something he looks to have clearly done based on recent photographs.

“I think I’ve put myself in a good position. Now it’s just about refining the technique and feeling comfortable.” - Connor Williams

According to Williams he played at a "light 300" pounds in 2018, but is now tipping the scales at 315 pounds. That's quite the difference, especially considering that Williams carries the weight pretty well in his frame.

All Pro veteran guard Zack Martin has taken Williams under his wing, as the young lineman credits Martin for being his lifting partner this offseason.

Right tackle might be in Connor Williams' 2020 future, but as of now, he has to ready himself to compete at left guard against the heavier defensive tackles he once struggled with. It's very encouraging to see the progress he has made so far.



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Star Blog

Travis Frederick’s Return Highlights Start Of Cowboys’ OTAs

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Center Travis Frederick Still Hoping to "Be a Rock" for Teammates Despite GBS Syndrome
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys opening of voluntary OTAs came with some serious excitement from football-starved fans. But as we all know, these workouts are just about meaningless in terms of storylines for the upcoming season.

I say "just about meaningless" because there are some storylines which matter, though. Travis Frederick's return, of course, is one of those storylines.

After missing all of 2018 due to Guillain-Barre syndrome, Frederick appears to have gained his strength and ability back heading into 2019. Now he is back where he belongs, as the starting center for the Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys on Twitter

@tfrederick72 🔙 at it! 💪🏼 #OTAs https://t.co/wht2Lh5yr5

Travis Frederick's importance to the Cowboys cannot be understated. In addition to being one of the best linemen in all of football, the All-Pro veteran center is responsible for much of the pre-snap communication across the offensive line. His absence was clearly felt in 2018, even as Joe Looney played well-above the preseason expectation level.

Frederick returns to anchor an offensive line which is surrounded with some serious pre-season hype. With Zack Martin back to full health, Connor Williams having a year under his belt, and newly-drafted Connor McGovern comes in with high hopes of starting on the interior.

Regardless of how the rest of the Cowboys' offensive line works itself out, it was great to see Travis Frederick back in action, even if it was during a non-contact voluntary practice.



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