The number 79 isn’t sexy like 88 or 21, but I have been very excited to begin this phase of our countdown here at Inside The Star. For the most part all players to wear numbers in the 90s or 80s play the same position; therefore it’s a little bit easier to evaluate one against the other. Both offensive and defensive linemen have worn the 70s, and if you have thought ahead there’s one of each that are going to make today’s decision lots of fun.
The following players have all worn 79 for the Dallas Cowboys:
- Ben Bass, DE
- Kenneth Boatright*, DE
- Willie Broughton, DT
- Sal Cesario, OT
- Char-ron Dorsey, OT
- Ron East, DT
- Ken Frost, DT
- Forrest Gregg, OT
- John Hunt, OT
- Dick Klein, OT
- Pepa Letuli, OG
- Harvey Martin, DE
- Marques McFadden, OT
- Rob Petitti, OT
- Jacob Rogers, OT
- Daryle Smith, OT
- Larry Stephens, DE
- Erik Williams, OT
*Active player on the Dallas Cowboys roster
This whole sha-bang comes down to two guys who played completely opposite positions: Harvey Martin and Erik Williams.
Erik Williams, aka Big E, was taken by the Cowboys in the 3rd round of the 1991 NFL Draft (via the Steve Walsh trade for all you know-it-alls out there!). His rookie year was spent mostly behind Nate Newton, but when that sophomore season hit in 1992 Erik really took off. Big E gained national notoriety that season after not allowing a single Reggie White sack on November 1st, 1992 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He (along with fellow linemen of that era Mark Tuinei, Mark Stepnoski, Kevin Gogan, and the aforementioned Nate Newton) began to really find their way as a unit, which propelled the Cowboys to their 90s dynasty. E had a very physical and aggressive play style and disposition that was rarely seen at his position. He put fear into opponents on a regular basis, enough that Michael Strahan credited him during his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech a year ago. Many believe that if not for a serious car accident that caused Williams to miss a majority of the 1994 season he would have gone on to become one of the greatest offensive linemen to ever play the game. Erik is still one of the greatest as he has 3 Super Bowls victories, 4 Pro Bowl Selections, and 2 First-Team All-Pro Selections to his name. Most impressive of all Williams' and his teammates accomplishments is that Emmitt Smith, the main man that they blocked for, became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher under their watch.
As incredible as Erik Williams was and as much as he meant to the Cowboys dynasty of the 1990s, #79 belongs to one player…and his name is Harvey Martin. Martin was also a third round selection, although in the 1973 NFL Draft, and from jump street was coached to be the player that the staff wanted him to be. Landry and Co. wanted to instill a sense of aggressiveness and tenacity in Harvey, and he began to embrace this persona…in fact one of Harvey’s eventual nicknames was “Too Mean.”
While quarterback sacks did not become an official NFL statistic until 1982, there are unofficial records that we can somewhat base production off of in the time before then. “The Beautiful” (as he was also known) has the following unofficial accolades:
- 114 career sacks
- Martin led the team in sacks 7 times in a 9 year period
- Martin had 23 sacks in 1977 (which is more than Michael Strahan’s official 22.5 in 2001)
- Martin has the most sacks as a Cowboys rookie with 9
These stats are unofficial as sacks were not officially counted in the NFL until 1982
Perhaps most impressive of all of Harvey Martin’s accomplishments was his 1977 season. You already read how he had an unofficial 23 sacks, but it was so much more than that. Keep in mind that while 23 sacks is a monstrous accomplishment in today’s NFL (noted by the fact that it has never happened officially) Harvey did it in only 14 games. His play was noticed by all of those around him as he was announced as the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year and he helped the Cowboys reach Super Bowl XII. Not only did Harvey help the Cowboys reach the promised land in 1977, but he was an instrumental part in securing the Cowboys’ second Super Bowl Victory. Martin’s contribution was so large that he was named co-MVP (the only time in Super Bowl History that there have been two MVPs) with defensive tackle Randy “The Manster” White.
Harvey Martin was a defensive monster and a part of the famed Doomsday Defense. Interestingly Harvey played his high school (Dallas South Oak Cliff High School), collegiate (East Texas State University which is now Texas A&M University Commerce), and professional football (obviously the Dallas Cowboys) careers all within the confines of the Dallas, Texas area. In his football life he never once played a home game on any level outside of there. The Dallas king is the Greatest 79 in Dallas Cowboys History.
Check back tomorrow to find out who the Greatest 78 in Dallas Cowboys History is!