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Cowboys CTK: Franchise Interceptions Leader Mel Renfro Takes #20

RJ Ochoa

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Franchise Interceptions Leader Mel Renfro Takes #20 5

I hope that you started off your Monday morning with a nice shower, because I know we ended Sunday evening with a good one.

Quarterback Jameill Showers raised the eyebrows of Cowboy fans yesterday when he showed us his wheels. It was a lot of fun and more than anything it was great to have football on a Sunday.

20 days from now will be another Sunday, the one where the Cowboys host the Giants in the 2015 season opener (totally not a Friends reference there with the whole “the one” thing).

We’re going to stay on this Countdown To Kickoff today with that number in mind. So hands and feet inside the vehicle please, flash photography is permitted, let’s get going with the Greatest 20 in Dallas Cowboys History.

The Following Players Have All worn 20 For The Dallas Cowboys:

  • Richie Anderson, FB
  • Alan Ball, CB
  • Bob Bercich, S
  • Michael Coe, CB
  • Ray Horton, S
  • Jason Kaiser, CB
  • Bruce Livingston, CB
  • Darren McFadden*, RB
  • Jerry Overton, CB
  • Tyler Patmon*, CB
  • Willie Pile, S
  • Mel Renfro^, S/RB/CB
  • Derek Ross, CB
  • Allen Rossum, CB
  • Phillippi Sparks, CB
  • Ron Springs, FB
  • B.W. Webb, CB
  • Sherman Williams, RB

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Active player on the Dallas Cowboys roster

The 1964 NFL Draft gave the Cowboys three Pro Football Hall of Famers. There was Navy quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, Roger Staubach. Of course the Dallas Cowboys sprinted away in world-record speed with the great Bob Hayes.

There is one other Gold Jacket owner who put a Star on his hat that year, though. When the Cowboys were on the clock in the 2nd round with the 17th overall pick they had a player in mind who they wanted, but he had an injury concern. In those days there were no time limits on draft picks so they figured, “let’s send a doctor to check this guy out!”

SIX HOURS LATER… the brain trust of the Cowboys collected $200 and passed go with the selection of the Greatest 20 in Dallas Cowboys History.

Mel Renfro

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Franchise Interceptions Leader Mel Renfro Takes #20

The University of Oregon product was quite the, yes I know what I’m about to say, running back during his time in Eugene. Over his career as a Duck, Mel ran 269 times for 1,540 yards and 14 touchdowns… coupled with 41 catches for 644 yards and 5 more scores.

The 60s were a time in pro football where coaches put their finest athletes on the offensive side of the ball. Well, sweet action! We’ve got ourselves this offensive superstar and we put the best guys on offense… this is going to be awesome!

Safety First

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Franchise Interceptions Leader Mel Renfro Takes #20 4

When Renfro arrived in Dallas there were already a few offensive playmakers. Frank Clarke was a starting receiver and the Cowboys had just traded for both Buddy Dial and Tommy McDonald. Coach Landry is one of the finest innovators in NFL History so, not wanting such athletic talent to sit on the bench, he devised a plan for Mel.

Coach Landry took this new offensive weapon and determined that the smartest thing to do was put him in the defensive backfield at safety. You see, Coach Landry was trying to put together a dominant defense and he figured that an athlete with Renfro’s skills could contribute there. After all the free safety position provided Renfro, who was blessed with speed like no other, with an opportunity to play the ball and get after it.

Landry was right. Renfro led the team in interceptions as a rookie with 7, but he also contributed to the team in the return game. Mel led the entire NFL in both punt and kickoff return yardage, with 418 and 1,017 respectively. Play like that and you get invited to the Pro Bowl, and this started a streak of 10 straight Pro Bowl nods for Mel Renfro.

Running Back To Running Back

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Franchise Interceptions Leader Mel Renfro Takes #20 2

Mel Renfro was a very gifted athlete. He’d had a lot of success as a defensive back, but he still had a hankering for the side of the ball that does the point scoring. Renfro supporters around Dallas organized the “MOO Club”, an acronym that stood for “Mel On Offense” in hopes of Mel getting some shots at running back.

Since he was looking to improve his offense anyway, Coach Landry decided that he would try Mel Renfro back at running back in 1966. That’s insane! Imagine that in today’s NFL game. Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints just pulls Kenny Vaccaro over at practice one day and says, “Dude let’s move you to running back.”

Renfro was injured in the opening game against the New York Giants which allowed the Greatest 30 in Dallas Cowboys History, Dan Reeves, to come in and show off what he could do running the rock.

While Mel Renfro ultimately ran 8 times for 52 yards and caught 4 passes for 64 yards, Coach Landry had seen enough. He decided that after his injury Renfro belonged back on defense and at safety… for a little while.

Cornered

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Franchise Interceptions Leader Mel Renfro Takes #20 1

In his 7th season Mel Renfro underwent one more change. While he had dabbled in it a bit before, Renfro made the full-time switch to the cornerback position in 1970. Traditionally defensive backs are moved from corner to safety, not the other way around, but in 1969 the Cowboys gave up 22 touchdowns in 12 games and Coach Landry wanted somebody to stop that - somebody named Mel Renfro.

Mel Renfro led the NFL in interceptions during the 1969 season with 10 as a safety/corner hybrid, and this number dropped radically once he became a full-time cornerback. Once he was closer to receivers and blanketing them, quarterbacks became fearful of throwing his way.

While his interception numbers drop beginning in the 1970 season this is indicative of quarterbacks shying away from him. Mel Renfro was someone who teams refused to test because they knew that there was no way that they could beat him, he was just too fast and would close gaps so quickly that it seemed impossible.

#20: Mel Renfro

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys CTK: Franchise Interceptions Leader Mel Renfro Takes #20 3

Mel and I on the night before the last game at Texas Stadium

Over 52 career interceptions Mel Renfro covered 626 yards returning them. Both of these numbers are 1st in Dallas Cowboys Franchise History. Renfro was selected to 10 straight Pro Bowls from 1964-1973, and he was a part of both the Super Bowl VI and Super Bowl XII winning squads.

Mel Renfro is a member of both the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor, Class of 1981, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1996. Today he joins our Countdown To Kickoff series as the Greatest 20 in Dallas Cowboys History.

Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 19 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: Franchise Interceptions Leader Mel Renfro Takes #20" 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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Will 2019 be the Storybook Ending to Jason Witten’s Hall of Fame Career?

Brian Martin

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Is Jason Witten Looking At A Lesser Role In 2017?

It's old news now, but Jason Witten will suit up for the Dallas Cowboys once again in 2019. After less than a year in retirement, he will return to the field with the hopes of chasing down that ever elusive Super Bowl ring that has eluded him, and the Cowboys, for nearly two decades. If successful, it would be the storybook ending to an impressive Hall of Fame career.

I may be in the minority here, but I actually wasn't too excited to hear Jason Witten was going to end his retirement and rejoin the Dallas Cowboys. I thought he retired at the right time last year, going out on his terms instead of letting father time force him out. He definitely didn't have anything else to prove on the field, but sometimes hunger gets the best of us all.

That's what Jason Witten is. He's hungry! He's not stupid. He's looked this Dallas Cowboys roster over and sees just how talented it is from top to bottom. He knows this team has a real shot at reaching the promised land this year, adding yet another Super Bowl trophy to their collection. He wanted in, and rightfully so.

Witten may not have a full tank of gas anymore, but he's got enough left to help get this team to their desired destination. Despite my hesitation at first, I'm really excited to have him back in uniform. I'm really looking forward to seeing him back in action now, but more importantly having him on hand to mentor these younger players around him.

Most importantly though, I'm really hoping the 2019 season can be the storybook ending he deserves. He's been such an important ambassador to the NFL throughout his career, both on and off the field. What better way to end such a decorated career than with a little jewelry to put on his finger?

Dak Prescott, Jason Witten

Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten

The 11 time Pro Bowler still holds a lot of records in the NFL and with the Dallas Cowboys, despite not playing last season. I'll let you look those up for yourself if you want, but the impact he has had on the game throughout his career is undeniable, and should continue to be so. The Cowboys or Witten wouldn't have reunited if either thought that wasn't the case anymore.

I know many of you may be thinking I'm probably reaching little to suggest this 2019 Dallas Cowboys team has a chance at going all the way this year, but I don't think so. This is a team with Super Bowl aspirations and the roster to do it.

The Cowboys already had a championship caliber defense last season and they're even better now after making a few upgrades. This alone will make them a much more dangerous team this year, but they're not slouches on the offensive side of the ball either.

The offense was good last season after making the Amari Cooper trade, but should be able to take the next step this year. They only lost Cole Beasley, but replaced him with Randall Cobb, who has a chance to be even better if he can stay healthy. Then if you throw in the addition of Jason Witten and the development of a few players, this is looking more and more like one of the more dangerous offenses in the NFL.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the team that can finally get the Dallas Cowboys back to the Super Bowl and help Jason Witten end his Hall of Fame career in a storybook like manner. Hello Hollywood! You've got a blockbuster movie in the making.

Do you think Jason Witten can end his career in a storybook like manner?



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Travis Frederick’s Return Named Cowboys Biggest Reason For Excitement

Kevin Brady

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Dallas Cowboys 2019 Offseason Preview: Center

Overall, Cowboys Nation feels to be in a positive mood during this year's offseason. Despite early angst over lack of action at the start of free agency, and concern over the Cowboys' draft strategy, most within the fan base seem to have high, yet realistic, hopes for the 2019 season.

Most seem to believe the NFC East will be a two team race, with the last two champions battling for the crown once again down the stretch of the season. Others can see the potential for a dark-horse candidate in Washington, but still believe the Cowboys roster has the edge.

So while Cowboys fans may not think they need a singular reason to look forward to the Fall of 2019, Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski gave them one this week.

Every NFL Team's Biggest Reason to Look Forward to 2019 Season

NFL Brent Sobleski @@brentsobleski Twitter Logo NFL Analyst The offseason can be as thrilling for NFL fans as the regular season. Player movement constantly refreshes rosters-whether through free agency, the draft or trades. Significant changes inject excitement into franchises, personnel and fanbases. A one-time league doormat can become the league's "it' team simply through a string of acquisitions.

Brent identified the biggest reason for each team to look forward to 2019, with the return of center Travis Frederick being the Cowboys' submission. There's no question that when healthy, Frederick is one of the best centers in the game, and anchors an offensive line many still consider to be at the top of the league.

"A full year with wide receiver Amari Cooper and re-signing Demarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal are both reasons for the Dallas Cowboys to be excited. However, the return of Travis Frederick to man the middle of the offensive line is far more pertinent."

Frederick missed all of the 2018 season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disease that I am not nearly qualified enough to discuss. What I do know is that it can be very serious, and it kept Frederick out for the entire year.

The Cowboys offensive line suffered during the early part of 2018, largely due in part to Travis Frederick's absence. Yes, Joe Looney filled in and played as well as anyone could have hoped for, but the disconnect in communication across the offensive line was clear without their usual center. Especially during the first couple months of the season.

If Frederick is fully back and healthy, his presence alone will take the Cowboys offensive line back towards their peak. Combine his comeback with a healthy Zack Martin, and a now bulked up Connor Williams, and the interior of this line has the chance to be special.



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3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Make Pro Bowl Debuts this Season

John Williams

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Snap Judgments: Cowboys' Linebacker Depth Stands Out in Win

Every year, the Dallas Cowboys send quite a few players to the Pro Bowl. This year, the Cowboys sent eight players to the Pro Bowl with Leighton Vander Esch and Byron Jones being selected to their first Pro Bowl squad.

There is a lot of talent on this year's roster and the Cowboys will likely send someone to the annual all-star game that hasn't been there before. Here are three I think will make a push for Pro Bowl recognition in 2019.

Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback

In the first half of the season, Chidobe Awuzie got picked on a bit. His coverage was always pretty good, but he allowed a ton of receptions. Awuzie allowed the ninth highest passer rating in coverage, the 12th most receptions, the 10th most yards, and tied for the sixth most touchdowns allowed weeks 1-9 of 2018.

In the second half, including the playoffs, Awuzie was much better and showed a higher level of comfort. His passer rating allowed dropped 50 points and was the 17th lowest in the league among corners who played at least 197 coverage snaps. He allowed fewer receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the 10 games over the second half than he allowed in the first eight games of the season.

Awuzie is one of the tougher players on the team. He plays with a similar edge that DeMarcus Lawrence does on the defensive line.

After spending part of his rookie season injured and rotating in, Awuzie found his stride in the second half of 2018 and was one of the Cowboys better cover players. Going into his third season in the NFL, the Cowboys 2017 second round pick looks to be an ascending player that could make some noise for postseason awards.

Tony Pollard, Running Back/Kick Returner

The Dallas Cowboys went into the 2019 NFL Draft looking to find a gadget player they could use on offense, but just as important, they wanted a player who could contribute in the return game. They got him in Rookie Tony Pollard.

Over the course of three seasons and 87 returns, Pollard averaged 30 yards per kick return and returned seven kickoffs for scores. In 2017, Pollard averaged an insane 40 yards per return. He's an incredibly dynamic player with the ball in his hands and though he wasn't used much on punt returns, shows an ability to make people miss and read his blockers.

As Stephen Jones said, "he's got a little Alvin Kamara to him." As a ball carrier, Pollard averaged 7.7 and 7.1 yards per carry over his final two seasons at Memphis. He was dynamic as a receiver as well averaging more than 12.4 yards per reception over three seasons in college.

With Ezekiel Elliott, the Dallas Cowboys may not give Pollard enough snaps and touches to have an Alvin Kamara like rookie campaign (120 carries for 728 yards, 8 touchdowns and 81 receptions for 826 yards and 5 touchdowns), but if he's given half that workload, plus what he could do on returns, he'll make noise for Pro Bowl consideration.

Jaylon Smith, Linebacker

It was a bit surprising to go back and look at which linebackers made the Pro Bowl and not see Jaylon Smith's name. As good as Rookie Leighton Vander Esch was, Jaylon Smith might have been better. By standard metrics -- tackles, interceptions, tackles for loss -- Vander Esch totaled more. Advanced metrics like defensive EPA (expected points added) and playmaking EPA, favored Jaylon Smith's season.

Cowboys Stats & Graphics on Twitter

Overall playmaking EPA rank among all NFL defenders: 5. DeMarcus Lawrence 7. Jaylon Smith 58. Leighton Vander Esch

Jaylon Smith didn't rack up the tackles like Vander Esch, but he was far more impactful over the course of the season. That's not to diminish Vander Esch's contribution to the Cowboys success in 2018. It's important to show Jaylon Smith his due, though.

Smith recorded four sacks, two forced fumbles, four passes defended to go along with his 120 combined tackles in 2018. And that was just his second full season back from the devastating knee injury he suffered in college.

Another season removed from the injury should make Jaylon Smith more confident and more explosive in 2019, which should lead to another outstanding season for the Dallas Cowboys Middle Linebacker.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Don't let anyone tell you that Pro Bowls don't matter. They do. Sure, All-Pro awards are the more highly coveted recognition, but to the players and to their agents, Pro Bowl selections matter. It's not as exclusive, but in a league with 1,696 players being one of 88 is still a really nice honor. To be a Pro Bowl player mean's you're in the top 5% of NFL players.

Obviously, we'd all prefer none of the Dallas Cowboys play in the Pro Bowl. Because that would mean they'd be preparing to play for that elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy. The Cowboys have always provided quite a few participants to the Pro Bowl game, but if the participation was zero in 2020, it wouldn't be all bad.



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