Leon Lett, a former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman who won three Super Bowl titles and earned two Pro Bowl berths during his 10-year run with the club, has settled into the next phase of his NFL career as an assistant coach with the same organization that drafted him. Lett assisted the Cowboys during the 2011 training camp as a member of the NFL’s Minority Coaching Fellowship Program and was later hired on a full-time basis to assist with the team’s defensive line as a defensive assistant/defensive line coach during the 2011 season.
Lett’s second season (2015) working with the defensive tackles fostered a breakout season for Tyrone Crawford in which he totaled 44 tackles, five sacks and finished third on the defense with 27 pressures. Nick Hayden was once again a steady and strong presence in the middle of the line, plugging up running lanes and leading the defensive line with 54 tackles. An injury to Terrell McClain early in the season led to increased opportunities for Jack Crawford, who emerged as a do-it-all lineman, finishing with career-bests in tackles (18), sacks (four) and pressures (10). David Irving also showed flashes of raw ability in brief playing time under Lett’s tutelage, adding 14 pressures and blocking a field goal attempt.
In working with defensive tackles in 2014, Lett’s most notable task was helping the transition of Tyrone Crawford from defensive end to a three- technique defensive tackle. After spending the 2013 season on the team’s Reserve/Injured list with an Achilles injury suffered during the first day of training camp, Crawford had a strong response to his new position in 2014 to post career numbers with 37 tackles, his first three career sacks and 29 quarterback pressures - second on the team - while starting 15 games. Lett also received steady production from the team’s other starting tackle, Hayden, who logged a career-best 52 tackles. Following close behind the starters were a steady rotation that saw good production from veterans Henry Melton - who finished second on the team with five sacks - McClain and Josh Brent, and steady development from rookies Ken Bishop and Davon Coleman.
In 2013 Lett saw continued growth from defensive tackle Jason Hatcher. Hatcher led the team and all NFL interior linemen with 11.5 sacks while also registering 48 tackles on his way to the first Pro Bowl selection of his career. Veteran free agent acquisition George Selvie also flourished with Lett’s mentorship, recording a career-high seven sacks and starting all 16 games for a Cowboys defense that tallied 34.0 sacks on the season.
Lett’s work with the defensive line in 2012 saw Hatcher emerge as a full-time starter and establish personal-bests in several categories. He also helped oversee the development of Sean Lissemore in the absence of Jay Ratliff (injuries).
Prior to joining the Cowboys, Lett’s only previous experience as a coach came in 2010 when he served as the defensive line coach at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. He also served as a volunteer assistant at UNLV in 2009.
Drafted in the seventh round (173rd overall) of the 1991 NFL Draft, Lett became the first and only player ever selected by the Cowboys out of Emporia State to make the squad’s final roster. Nicknamed “Big Cat” by his teammates for his agility, Lett compiled 361 tackles, 22.5 sacks, 37 tackles for losses, 128 quarterback pressures, 26 pass breakups, eight forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and four blocked kicks while playing in 109 games with 73 starts during a 10-year career as a Cowboys player. He also appeared in 14 postseason contests with nine starts, including three Super Bowl victories.
Lett concluded his playing career with the Denver Broncos in 2001 where he totaled 15 tackles in 12 games.
During his collegiate career, Lett was a big part of a defense that held opponents to 4.1 yards-per-play and 3.1 yards-per-carry during his two years at Emporia State. He finished second on the team in sacks (four) and earned All-NAIA District 10 honors despite missing three games due to a leg injury as a senior. In his first season with the Hornets in 1989 after playing in junior college, Lett helped Emporia State to the Central States Intercollegiate Conference title and their first appearance in the NAIA Championship Game. He also earned honorable mention NAIA All-America, All-NAIA District 10 and ALL-CSIC honors after leading the team in passes defensed (10) and blocked kicks (two) and finishing second in tackles (83) and sacks (five) as a junior. In two previous seasons at Hinds, Miss., Junior College, Lett recorded 141 tackles, 10 sacks, nine passes defensed and recovered three fumbles.
Lett returned to school to earn his college degree in university studies with concentrations on sociology and history from UNLV in 2009.
Lett has a daughter, Leondra Rachel.