The Cowboys may be getting ready for a new chapter with the opening of their stadium in Arlington, but this also marks the 50th anniversary season for the club.
With the help of a nine-person panel, DallasCowboys.com decided to compile a list of the Top 50 players in team history. The panel included Brad Sham, the play-by-play radio voice of the Cowboys for 32 years, Dallascowboys.com columnist Mickey Spagnola, and website beat writers Nick Eatman, Rob Phillips and Josh Ellis. Also on the panel were Bill Jones, a Dallas-area broadcaster for more than 25 years, along with Cowboys TV and radio producers Jon Ingham, Bill Carruthers and Douglas Barricklow.
Each day we'll count down from 50, providing a quick look back and highlighting another key player that has helped build the Cowboys to America's Team status.
| 26. Ed "Too Tall" Jones |
Position: Defensive end
Cowboys Career: 1974-78; 1980-89
Honors: Played in more games than any player in club history with 224, including a franchise-best 203 games started.
Highest Ranking From Panel: 18
Ever heard of Tody Smith and Billy Parks? They weren't exactly household names back in the 1970's. But they were good enough for the Houston Oilers, who received the duo from the Cowboys, in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick in the 1974 NFL Draft. Smith and Parks had decent careers in Houston. Ed "Too Tall" Jones played in more games than anyone else in Cowboys history. Not only that, but the Cowboys also received a third-round pick in which they drafted Danny White. But the Cowboys didn't need to get an eventual starting quarterback to win that trade. With an appropriate nickname for his 6-9 frame, Jones was an intimidating factor for the second version of the Cowboys' Doomsday Defense. He teamed up with Harvey Martin to form one of the top defensive-end duos in all of football. Jones decided to retire from the Cowboys after just five seasons in 1978 to start a professional boxing career. Although he won all six of his pro bouts, including five knockouts, Jones returned to the Cowboys in 1980, when he began a second stint that would last 10 more seasons. Jones made three straight Pro Bowls from 1981-83 and led the team in sacks three different years, including 13 in 1985. Jones also had a knack for batting down passes from opposing quarterbacks. Two of his most memorable deflections coincidentally occurred in similar situations. In 1985, Jones batted down a Phil Simms pass against the Giants at Texas Stadium, which was caught in midair by Jim Jeffcoat, who returned it for a game-deciding touchdown in a critical December win that clinched the NFC East title for the Cowboys. Two years later, Jones again swatted a Simms pass that landed to Jeffcoat, who also returned it for a touchdown at Texas Stadium. Suiting up 15 seasons, Jones is the only Cowboys player to serve as teammates to both Bob Lilly and Troy Aikman. Jones is currently third on the Cowboys' all-time sack list with 106, only eight behind team leader Harvey Martin (114).
| 27. Everson Walls |
Cowboys Career: 1981-89
Honors: Led NFL in interceptions three times; Only player to record 11 picks in a season in nearly 30 years
Highest Ranking From Panel: 21
Rookies from small colleges are usually just hoping to make an NFL roster, especially if they're undrafted. Becoming a starter in year one is certainly farfetched, and having one of the best seasons of player at your position is unheard of. So imagine what Everson Walls must have thought when he not only made the Cowboys' roster in 1981 out of tiny Grambling State, but went on to lead the league with 11 interceptions as a rookie. Walls exploded onto the scene with a Cowboys' single-season record, which still stands. In fact, Walls has two of the top three seasons in club history, picking off nine passes to lead the league in 1985. Walls' best season might have occurred in the strike-shortened 1982, when he had seven interceptions in just nine games. To put in perspective, Walls picked off 18 passes in his first 25 pro games. Walls made the Pro Bowl each of his first three seasons, just the third player in club history to do so, joining Mel Renfro and Don Perkins. Walls went to the four Pro Bowls overall, but despite the interceptions, he also had a rather dubious distinction that occurred at the end of his rookie year. Walls was covering San Francisco's Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC Championship Game when Joe Montana found Clark in the end zone in the play referred to as "The Catch" that sent the 49ers to Super Bowl XVI. It was the second of three-straight losses by the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. Walls ranks second in Cowboys history with 44 career interceptions, but never returned one for a touchdown in a regular-season game. His last season in Dallas came in 1989, when he gave up a last-second touchdown to the Cardinals. The Cowboys lost the game preventing them from consecutive victories in what turned out to be a 1-15 season. First-year head coach Jimmy Johnson got into a heated exchange with Walls, who was seen joking with Cardinals players, just minutes after allowing the game-winning score. Walls ended up with the New York Giants, where he not only helped win a Super Bowl ring, but found his way on the Sports Illustrated cover, celebrating his team's exciting win over the Bills. Walls is also known now for his courageous act involving Cowboys teammate Ron Springs. Walls donated his kidney to Springs, who is battling diabetes. Although both former players were honored before the Cowboys' regular-season opener in 2007, Springs' conditioned worsened dramatically following an unrelated surgery. Springs has remained in a coma for nearly two years now. While the story has taken a downward twist, it doesn't overlook the heroic act by Walls. Just like his playing career can't be overlooked as well. He might be known for different things, but Walls will always be considered one of the best cornerbacks in Cowboys history.
| 28. Jay Novacek |
Position: Tight end
Cowboys Career: 1990-96
Honors: Five-time Pro Bowl selection; Caught six touchdowns in post-season games.
Highest Ranking From Panel: 18
After the first five years of his career, Jay Novacek was a little-known tight end hidden on a struggling Cardinals squad. But after signing a Plan B free-agent deal with the Cowboys in 1990, everything changed for Novacek, who caught just 83 passes in five seasons with the Cards. In his first two seasons in Dallas, Novacek caught 118 passes and made the Pro Bowl in 1991. More than just stats, Novacek became a perfect fit for Norv Turner's offense and developed into Troy Aikman's security blanket for the first half of the 1990's. Novacek was a clutch third-down receiver in an offense that featured Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin and even Alvin Harper as a big-play threat. As the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four seasons, Novacek was a big factor, not only in the passing game, but as a deceptive blocker, too. Novacek made the Pro Bowl five straight years from 1991-95, including three years on various All-Pro squads. Novacek also came up big in the playoffs. He ranks third in Cowboys' post-season history in receptions (62), receiving yards (645) and touchdown catches (six). Following the Cowboys' third Super Bowl win, a victory over Pittsburgh in which Novacek caught the game's first touchdown, the tight end suffered a back injury that not only caused him to miss the 1996 season, Novacek eventually retired in 1997. Novacek is tied with current Cowboys tight end
| 29. Charlie Waters |
Cowboys Career: 1970-78; 1980-81
Honors: Ranks third in club history with 41 career interceptions; He leads all Cowboys players with nine career post-season interceptions.
Highest Ranking From Panel: 18
Once the Cowboys finally figured out the best position for Charlie Waters, they discovered they had one of the NFL's top safeties. If he wasn't the best, he was playing next to the best, in Cliff Harris. Together, Waters and Harris teamed up to form the top safety duo in the NFL in the late 1970's. A third-round pick in 1970, Waters began his career at free safety, backing up Harris before taking over as the starter for the final six games. Waters earned All-Rookie team honors that year but returned as a backup safety before the Cowboys tried him out at cornerback, where he played for two more seasons. But in 1975, Waters settled in as the starting strong safety, alongside of Harris, and that's when both of their careers really took off. Waters was not only a big-time hitter, but had a nose for the ball, collecting 41 interceptions, which ranks third in Cowboys history. He also had nine more picks in the post-season, more than any other player in club history. Waters had a four-game streak of interceptions at the end of 1972 and the start of 1973. Waters made three straight Pro Bowls from 1976-78 and was a first-team All-Pro selection twice as well. A knee injury forced him out of the entire 1979 season, where he spent some time in the radio booth with play-by-play announcer Brad Sham. Waters and Sham teamed up for a memorable radio call in the 1979 regular-season finale when Roger Staubach engineered a comeback victory in what proved to be his final win at Texas Stadium. As the Cowboys rallied in the fourth quarter, Waters repeatedly told Sham on air "You Gotta Believe." Waters returned to the field in 1980 and played two more seasons before becoming a coach. Waters was a defensive coordinator in Denver, working with current Cowboys coach Wade Phillips. He also held the same title at the University of Oregon. Waters and Harris still remain close friends today, as well as business partners and co-authors of the book "Tales From the Dallas Cowboys."
| 30. Nate Newton |
Position: Guard / Tackle
Cowboys Career: 1986-98
Honors: One of only four Cowboys offensive linemen to earn at least six Pro Bowl selections.
Highest Ranking From Panel: 17
For most football teams, on any level, the quarterbacks garner the majority of the limelight with other skills players grabbing a few headlines as well. But when a team wins three Super Bowls in a four-year span, there is enough attention to go around . . . even to the offensive linemen. And Nate Newton didn't shy away from the cameras. Despite playing in the trenches, Newton was one of the more colorful players in Cowboys history. But locker room pranks and radio shows aside, Newton was also one of the best offensive linemen the club has ever had, too. After being cut by the Redskins early in his career, Newton joined the Cowboys in 1986 as a reserve offensive tackle. While he didn't immediately jump into the starting lineup, Newton's versatility landed him a spot at left guard before he moved to right tackle in 1990. Newton finally settled back at left guard in 1992 and that's when the rest of the league started to take notice. Newton made five straight Pro Bowls from 1992-96 and then another trip to Hawaii in 1998, which turned out to be his final season with the Cowboys. Newton retired in 1999 after a one-year stint with the Panthers and found off-the-field troubled that landed him in federal prison for 30 days. Since then, Newton has turned his life around. He has been a regular radio co-host in the Dallas area for the last three years. Only Larry Allen (10) has been to more Pro Bowls with the Cowboys on the offensive line. Newton is tied with Rayfield Wright and John Niland for six appearances each. Newton also made all of the major All-Pro teams during the 1994 and 1995 seasons.
31. George Andrie (1962-72)
32. Danny White (1976-88)
33. Erik Williams (1991-2000)
34. Calvin Hill (1965-78)
35. Herschel Walker (1986-89; 1996-97)
36. Tony Hill (1977-86)
37. Daryl Johnston (1989-99)
38. Billy Joe DuPree (1973-83)
39. Jethro Pugh (1965-78)
40. La'Roi Glover (2002-05)
41. Mark Tuinei (1983-97)
42. Leon Lett (1991-2000)
43. Flozell Adams (1998-present)
44. Pat Donovan (1975-83)
45. Ralph Neely (1965-77)
46. Terrell Owens (2006-08)
47. Walt Garrison (1966-74)
48. Bill Bates (1983-2007)
50. Mark Stepnoski (1989-94; 1999-2001)
Top Honorable Mention: