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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!

Star Blog

2018 In Review: Byron Jones Emerges As CB1

Kevin Brady

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Byron Jones

Heading into the 2018 season Byron Jones was being asked to prove himself. The former first round pick had fallen out of the coaches' good graces during his third season, though many of his struggles could be attributed to those very coaches which were then questioning his ability.

Being asked to play out of position, or at least in a spot which did not maximize his natural ability, Jones struggled in 2017. Too often he was playing in the box as a safety where his lack of physicality was exposed by the opponent's run game. This was mostly due to the coaching staff falling in love with his tight-end-erasing ability in man coverage, but backfired when overused as a safety.

Once hired the following offseason, Kris Richard and company decided to move Byron Jones to cornerback full time, allowing him to utilize his excellent coverage skills and athletic ability to the fullest, rather than putting him at a disadvantage in the box.

The results? Well, Jones had one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football, earning All Pro and Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his young career.

Pro Football Focus on Twitter

Byron Jones had a dominant season for Dallas

Pro Football Focus graded Jones as the sixth best cornerback in all of football last season, allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snap. Despite not having an interception on the season, Jones still earned national recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league.

Down the stretch of the season, Chidobe Awuzie started to play up to the level which fans had hoped for during the preseason. He had been sticky in coverage most of the year, but now he was making plays on the ball at a much better rate, forcing incompletions. This led to an increase in targets to Jones' side, and though the increase resulted in more catches given up by the number one cornerback, I don't think Jones' play faltered as much as some will have you believe.

The fact is, when you get targeted more you are bound to give up more catches and yards. The key is to force them into contested catches, and make things as difficult for the receiver as possible when targeted.

Byron Jones continued to do this all season long, and fans should be excited for the next step of his growth in 2019.



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Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Time to Stop Making Excuses for QB Dak Prescott?

Por muchos años, el tema del tope salarial ha sido un tema sensible para los Dallas Cowboys. Entre dinero muerto y otros problemas, el equipo ha tenido una situación delicada en este aspecto. Sin embargo, para la temporada del 2019 tienen más espacio de lo que estamos acostumbrados.

Según Over The Cap, los Cowboys tendrán aproximadamente 48 millones de dólares disponibles en 2019. Es importante recalcar que este número no es definitivo y puede cambiar. Año tras año, esta administración ha sido aficionada de reestructurar los contratos de ciertos veteranos para liberar espacio salarial constantemente. Además de esto, hay varios jugadores bajo contrato que el equipo podría decidir cortar para liberar aún más dinero.

Al ver sólo 48 millones disponibles, es complicado imaginar un escenario en que el equipo logre satisfacer todos sus objetivos. Hay bastantes candidatos a grandes extensiones en el equipo, principalmente dos jugadores. En una liga en la que quarterback es la posición más importante, la segunda más importante podría ser la del caza cabezas, cuyo objetivo es ir tras el quarterback contrario.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Pues en Dallas, hoy dos  jugadores en estas posiciones que hay que extender. El más urgente sin duda es el defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. Lawrence se puso el jersey del equipo cuando este lo designó a jugar bajo la etiqueta franquicia. Afortunadamente, el atleta de 26 años la hizo de soldado y jugó sin amenazar con faltar a entrenamientos ni pretemporada.

Lo que sí comentó es que no pasaría por lo mismo en 2019. Ahora, el momento está aquí y es tiempo de que los Cowboys lo extiendan. El valor de Lawrence es difícil de predecir, pero es bastante seguro que se acercará a los números de Khalil Mack. Mack hizo historia ganando un contrato que en promedio gana 23.5 millones al año. Si bien no anticiparía que lo supere, la cifra estará cerca al contrato del defensivo de los Chicago Bears.

Además está Dak Prescott, cuyo contrato probablemente estará por encima de los 25 millones anuales. Son contratos caros, pero son piezas fundamentales para el equipo. Definitivamente se les tiene que pagar a ambos. Son pilares que año tras año buscan equipos en toda la NFL.

Además de esto, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Cole Beasley y más podrían tener un impacto en el tope salarial. Algunos buscan un contrato nuevo, otros una extensión. Pero honestamente, me parece que habrá más espacio en el tope salarial de lo que pensamos. Sólo es cuestión de tiempo para que los Cowboys comiencen a reestructurar a sus veteranos para ahorrarse unos cuantos millones para utilizar en agencia libre.

Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford entre otros pueden ser buenas opciones para comenzar este proceso. Antes era Jason Witten uno de los candidatos favoritos para este proceso, pero él ya se encuentra comentando partidos para ESPN. En Inside The Star, continuaremos actualizándote con contenido al día de los Dallas Cowboys.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Comentando el Tope Salarial" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Star Blog

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

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Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 2

Super Bowl LIII is in the books, and the Dallas Cowboys can look back on a better-than-expected 2018 campaign. Having won the NFC East with a 10-6 record and bowing out to eventual finalists Los Angeles Rams, the Cowboys' young team can look ahead to 2019 as a chance to take another step forward.

The offseason is now upon us, with the NFL free agency period opening in the middle of March and the NFL Draft coming around at the end of April. Until those times, experts, pundits, and fans are left to assess their teams and predict their activities in the running to the start of next season.

The Dallas Cowboys are in a precarious position, with the team exceeding expectations, still being very young and having plenty of cap space, but also having many top-end players set to become free agents and being without a first-round pick in this year’s draft. There does, however, appear to be a way for the team to make improvements and solidify their place atop the NFC East and potentially go on to win in the Conference Finals.

Lock Down the Big Guns

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason?

@Randy81MossRetires, via Twitter

Many see DeMarcus Lawrence as the top potential free agent this spring, so the Dallas Cowboys need to do everything in their power to lock down the 26-year-old defensive end.

Vice President Stephen Jones has emphasized the team’s target of retaining their own stars, per Star-Telegram, with Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and perhaps Byron Jones being in the discussion for long-term deals.

As it stands, the team will have roughly $48.5 million in cap space for next season, which leaves plenty of space to re-sign their top players. They look set to let go of Tavon Austin, David Irving, and quite possibly Cole Beasley, among others, leaving a need to add reinforcements.

Adding New Talent

Can the Cowboys Become Legitimate NFC Conference Contenders this Offseason? 1

@brkicks, via Twitter

One of the most heavily rumored moves for Dallas in this free agency is picking up native Texan and former Legion of Boom linchpin Earl Thomas, per Forbes.

Against the Rams in the playoffs and throughout the season, the Cowboys lacked a defenseman who could make plays on the pass. Thomas is one of the notorious ball hawks in the league, boasting 28 career interceptions, three of which came in just four games of last season.

If the Cowboys can re-sign their stars while keeping some space for an Earl Thomas-sized contract, which clocked in at $10.4 million in 2018 for the Seattle Seahawks, their odds of going all the way next season will significantly increase.

Right now, the expected names of the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lead the odds to win the next Super Bowl at +750. Behind them, the Rams sit at +900 having suffered a suffocating defeat in this year’s Super Bowl. Much further down are the Cowboys at +2500 right now with redbet. If they re-sign Lawrence, pay their young stars, and bring in Thomas, they’ll shoot up the table of favorites.

Then, there’s also the additions in the draft to consider.

The Cowboys may be without a first-round selection, but that may end up working in their favor. Round one of the 2019 NFL Draft is set to be laden with defensive selections according to most mock drafts, with a few quarterbacks sprinkled around and a minimal selection of offensive weapons. If the Cowboys re-sign Lawrence, they’ll be looking good at defensive end, so should then turn to giving Prescott another weapon in the passing game, which will also help to keep defenses honest and give Elliott more room to operate.

As stated, the NFL is a passing league, and Prescott exploded once he was given a viable option in Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup is expected to take another step forward next season, but just in case, the Cowboys can add another strong receiving option in the draft thanks to the strength of the defensive class. A.J. Brown of Ole Miss will almost certainly go in the first round, but exciting talents in D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, and Deebo Samuel could all still be available when Dallas rings in during the second round.

Improving Dallas' pass options and pass defense will go a long way toward improving the team and allowing them to push on to a bigger and better campaign in 2019.



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