Like any great running back pushing for more we are inching our way to the goal line of the 2015 NFL season. A mere 33 sets of the sun are what separate us from our weekly rituals of wearing our favorite jersey, grilling some barbecue, and gluing ourselves to the best seat in the house.
In just 48 hours we will finally get to see the Dallas Cowboys in their uniforms and playing a game of football. How awesome is that?
Unfortunately those games count about as much as rock, paper, scissors… but hey, it’s football. The real deal goes down in 33 days and to help maintain our sanity until then we are going to continue our Countdown To Kickoff with the Greatest 33 in Dallas Cowboys History.
The Following Players Have All Worn 33 For The Dallas Cowboys:
^Pro Football Hall of Famer
In 1975 the Dallas Cowboys had the second overall pick in the NFL Draft. With a man named Walter Payton on the board they decided to pull a Pete Carroll and pass on running the ball. Who’d they pick? Just a guy named Randy White. Worked out pretty well, I’d say.
In 1977 the Dallas Cowboys had the second overall pick in the NFL Draft. Yes, again. When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took USC’s Ricky Bell the war room just about jumped through the roof.
The University of Pittsburgh’s all-time leading rusher was there. The very Pitt Panther that helped them win the 1976 National Championship. This was such an illustrious collegiate player that he was deemed the best in the nation, winning the 1976 Heisman Trophy. Who was he?
The 1977 Dallas Cowboys were thought to be a running back away from being Super Bowl contenders. They had been unable to run the ball effectively in Super Bowl X, a big factor in why they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Names like Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, Tony Hill, and Billy Jo Dupree graced the offensive side of the depth chart. Doomsday took care of the defense.
The Dallas Cowboys had a fine running back combo of Robert Newhouse and Preston Pearson, but they were missing that one ingredient. They needed a playmaker. They needed somebody who could be the difference and pose as a viable threat in the run game. With Roger Staubach airing the ball out, teams already feared that aspect. The Cowboys needed teams to fear their entire offense.
Run To Daylight
Upon arrival, Dorsett and the man in charge, Head Coach Tom Landry, had differing opinions on how Tony should run the ball. You see, Tom Landry was one of the most methodical men to ever live. He viewed football almost as a play with each motion of the game happening almost in a scripted and predetermined fashion.
One day in practice while preparing for the Cardinals Dorsett took a sweep right. The offensive and defensive players clashed leaving little room to run. The shifty Tony Dorsett cut his run back all the way to the left and picked up a huge gain.
“It will NEVER, in 100 years, happen like that!” screamed Landry. Dorsett was supposed to hit the hole Landry had drawn up, not run to what he saw.
That week against the Cardinals… it happened like that. Dorsett broke his cut back and danced his way down the Texas Stadium turf – 77 yards for a touchdown.
After that Tom Landry changed the way that he put together game plans. He instructed his linemen, the famed “Zero Club”, to block and hold their man… Tony would take care of the rest.
World Champs – And Everything Else
The Cowboys rode their rookie running back, and third down specialist Preston Pearson, to a 12-2 record. They cruised through the playoffs – vanquishing the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, and Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. The Dallas Cowboys were World Champions.
Just one year prior to winning Super Bowl XII in the Superdome down in New Orleans, well technically 379 days earlier to be precise, Tony Dorsett had won the National Championship as a Pitt Panther in that same building.
In back-to-back football seasons Tony Dorsett accomplished what no one else in the history of football ever had. He had won the Heisman Trophy, the collegiate National Championship, and the Super Bowl.
In chronological order, this is Tony Dorsett’s senior year at Pitt through winning Super Bowl XII with the Dallas Cowboys:
- 1976 Rushing Yards – 2,150
- 1976 Rushing Touchdowns – 22
- 1976 Receiving Yards – 67
- 1976 Receiving Touchdowns – 8
- 1976 Heisman Trophy Winner
- 1976 National Champion
- 1977 Second Overall Pick
- 1977 Rushing Yards – 1,007
- 1977 Rushing Touchdowns – 12
- 1977 Receiving Yards – 273
- 1977 Receiving Touchdowns – 1
- 1977 NFL Offensive Rookie Of The Year
- 1977 Super Bowl Champion
It’s pretty hard to follow up a run, no pun intended, like Tony Dorsett had from 1976 to the wee beginnings of 1978, but he managed to put together quite the career. He began his career with 5 straight 1,000-yard seasons, including an astonishing 1,646 in 1981. Tony Dorsett was not just immediately an impact player, but he was immediately a significant contributor and a star. It’s rare that a running back has entered the NFL and immediately shown that level of dominance.
His streak was broken in 1982, but to be fair this was a strike-shortened season where Tony only played 9 games, still racking up 745 yards; however, in the final regular season game Tony etched his name in the record books in one of the most unique ways in NFL History.
In the season finale, and first primetime game ever played in Minnesota’s Metrodome, Tony Dorsett was his usual star-studded self. With the Cowboys backed up as far as possible, literally the ball sat on the goal line, Tony took off.
Tony broke through the line of scrimmage and tight-roped his way down the sidelines – 99 yards for a touchdown. It is the longest play from scrimmage in NFL History and can never be beaten, only matched.
This play cemented Dorsett’s legacy as one of the great running backs of his era, especially considering that fullback Ron Springs was not on the field for the play. That’s right, Tony Dorsett accomplished the longest possible play on a football field with only 10 men on the field, the absentee being his primary blocker.
#33: Tony Dorsett
Tony Dorsett racked up 12,036 yards and 99 touchdowns in his time with the Cowboys (he played one final year with Denver before retiring). He retired as the Dallas Cowboys all-time leading rusher and as one of the franchise’s most decorated players.
He was a first-ballot member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1994, which felt only fitting to the career that he had. Everything else happened on the first try, why not the Hall of Fame? Tony Dorsett accomplished arguably everything that one aspires to in the game of football.
Tony Dorsett’s career accomplishments include:
- Heisman Trophy Winner
- National Champion
- First Round Draft Pick (2nd overall)
- NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
- Super Bowl Champion
- Unbreakable NFL Record
- Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor Member
- Pro Football Hall of Fame Member (Class of 1994)
Tony Dorsett did it all. He is one of the most prolific players in NFL History and one of the finer men to ever put on the Dallas Cowboys uniform. His mantle is probably pretty cluttered, but allow me to give Tony Dorsett one final award… The Greatest 33 in Dallas Cowboys History.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 32 in Dallas Cowboys History is!