Gather around for a story, everybody. Grab some snacks, preferably Teddy Grahams. Sour patch kids will work.
I went to a Dallas Cowboys game in 2007 and prior to saw some players arriving at the team hotel. Starting safety Ken Hamlin arrived to the hotel and people called him over to sign some autographs. A wide-eyed 17 year old in the crowd chimed up, “Hey Kenny!” Before this youngster knew, everyone was calling Kenny over. He started a trend!
Hamlin looked up from afar and with piercing eyes said, “My name’s not Kenny. Who’s calling me that?”
If this had happened at the NFL Combine I would have broken Chris Johnson’s 4.24-second 40-yard dash (set in 2008). The originator of Kenny was I, and I was nowhere to be found.
Ken Hamlin is one of the more accomplished Dallas Cowboys to ever slip #26 over his shoulders. As we continue our Countdown To Kickoff series with 26 days until the regular season, we’re going to find out exactly who the Greatest 26 in Dallas Cowboys History is.
If you’re reading this Ken, I’m sorry. Hopefully we’re still bros.
The Following Players Have All Worn 26 For The Dallas Cowboys:
Ken Hamlin had one of the more impressive seasons that anyone on this list has ever had in 2007. During his first year with a Star on his hat he recorded 5 interceptions and 45 tackles on his way to a Pro Bowl nod. It’s difficult for anyone to maintain that level of production over a long period of time, so unfortunately Ken falls just short today.
Preston Pearson Comes Up Close
Before we get to the Greatest 26, one guy deserves an honorable mention. Preston Pearson helped revitalize the Dallas Cowboys run game in 1975. He and the “Dirty Dozen” draft class from that year were a big reason why the Cowboys made it all the way to Super Bowl X.
What’s incredible about Preston Pearson’s presence in Super Bowl X is that – aside from Ralph Neely’s post-draft day trade to the Cowboys and the whole Houston Oilers fiasco – Preston Pearson was the only starter on the Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl X squad, and one of two on the entire roster with Clint Longley, that was not drafted by the Cowboys. That’s insane!
Get Down With Number 26
1981 gave way to a new dynasty in the NFL when “The Catch” happened and the San Francisco 49ers made their mark on NFL History. The Greatest 26 in Dallas Cowboys History could not let Bill Walsh and Co. have all the glory though!
After a productive career at Rice University, the Dallas Cowboys signed undrafted free agent safety Michael Downs in 1981. Downs captivated the attention of everybody out at training camp.
When Randy Hughes suffered an injury to his shoulder in the preseason the confidence was high in Michael and he became just the third rookie in Dallas Cowboys Franchise History to begin the season in the starting role.
Downs delivered on his hype and during his first career game, a contest against the Washington Redskins at the legendary RFK Stadium – he picked off Joe Theismann.
Michael Downs actually intercepted 7 passes during his rookie year, a performance he would repeat during the 1984 season, as he marched his way to the All-Rookie team.
The 7 interceptions in 1984 would be a part of the greatest season that Downs ever put together in the Cowboy 26. Among his picks he put together 93 tackles and was deemed a member of both the All-Pro and All-NFC teams. He accomplished all of this while serving as a captain of a Cowboy team that finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
#26: Michael Downs
The 34 career interceptions by Michael Downs ties him with the Greatest 34 in Dallas Cowboys History, Cornell Green, for the fifth most in Dallas Cowboys Franchise History.
Downs helped the Dallas Cowboys remain at a competitive level in the 1980s when the franchise tapered off a bit from the decade before.
He accomplished an incredible amount, especially for an undrafted player, throughout a decade littered with neon and the San Francisco 49ers dynasty.
Michael Downs was a team captain, is tied for fifth in franchise history in interceptions, and among many other things he is the Greatest 26 in Dallas Cowboys History.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 25 in Dallas Cowboys History is!