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Cowboys Alumni Series: Catching Up With Larry Cole


Hawaii offers relaxing vacation spots, hula skirts, pineapples, a job as a televised bounty hunter, and as the Cowboys discovered in 1968, a 6-5, 252-pound defensive end named Larry Cole.

"The draft was held in February and they flew me to Dallas in March," said Cole, who was chosen in the 16th round out of the University of Hawaii. "We did a general workout and I really wasn't in shape. But in those days, you didn't really train year-round like they do now. And so they didn't really have a lot of high expectations.

"But I went back home and just got into a mental frame of mind. I'd learned a lot of discipline when I went to the Air Force Academy, and I just zeroed in for about 30 days. I would do drills and got myself physically and mentally ready and I went out there and kind of had the attitude of 'show me that I can't do this.'"

Cole wasted little time showing head coach Tom Landry and his staff what he could do.

"I got off to a pretty good start, nothing spectacular, but I recovered a fumble in the first preseason game against Chicago and then I got a couple of traps against Green Bay (three games later)," Cole said. "The trick as a rookie is to just get noticed.

"And it didn't hurt in those days to be a big blond guy and look a little bit like Bob Lilly. We are built similar, but different. From his knees down, he's got bird legs, but that made him really quick on the feet. I was quick on the eye and hands, but not on the feet."

With 10 starts as a rookie, Cole joined his look-a-like, Jethro Pugh and George Andrie on the line and helped make Dallas' defense tougher than a-doomed-from-the-start-blind-date to get through. The Cowboys allowed only 85 rushing yards per game. And their opponents ran for just two touchdowns all season. That helped them post a then-franchise best 12-2 record.

"The first year we were America's Team and Cleveland beat us up there (in the conference playoffs)," said Cole. "And the next year Cleveland beat us down here. And then the third year, 1970, we started to come together as a team and that's the reason we went to the first Super Bowl [V].

"And, of course, that was a devastating three-point [16-13] loss against Baltimore. But in that party after the game the pressure was off and we just kind of relaxed. We were collectively proud of ourselves and were determined to come back the next year and just win it all. And we did and left do doubt about it by beating Miami in Super Bowl VI, 24-3."

Cole played in five Super Bowls, winning twice, and contributed wherever Dallas needed him. After lining up at defensive end during his first seven seasons, he moved inside and played at either defensive tackle position over the next six.

And while the NFL did not officially begin keeping statistics for sacks until 1982, they did kept track of touchdowns, and Cole crossed the goal line four times during his career. That may have helped contribute to the longstanding rivalry between the Cowboys and Redskins because each of his scores occurred in games against Washington. And Dallas won each time.

His trips to the end zone began during the 1968 season. The first was on a fumble recovery and 21-yard return at Washington's D.C. Stadium on November 17. And the next was 11 days later on Thanksgiving at the Cotton Bowl, when the rookie returned his first career interception five yards for the score.

The following season, Washington's stadium may have been renamed to RFK, but Cole still knew how to put points on its scoreboard, and did so on November 16 with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown.

And in 1980, Cole capped off his scoring barrage during his 13th and final season when he found paydirt against Washington at Texas Stadium on November 23. Trailing by three points in the fourth quarter, he came through with the game-winning touchdown after coming up with an interception and returning the ball 43 yards to the end zone.

"It took me 13 years to have a little flair for the dramatic and I spiked the ball in the end zone," laughed Cole. "That's one of the highlights of Cowboy history. Not so much the play itself, but the spike."

Excluding the spike, the success Cole enjoyed during his football career mirrors his second career as a real estate developer, which he began while still playing for the Cowboys.

"I invested the Super Bowl bonus into a townhouse project. First I invested money and then I invested myself and took over half the development and started building houses and developing lots," said Cole, whose company, Larry Cole Communities, has developed 15 communities and 1,200 to 1,500 lots in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.


"I like the finding of a piece of land, romancing it, and the creativity. Deciding where you can put a road here, a pond there, a common area of trees over here. I built Tara Plantation 30 years ago and you can drive by and the community is still there. That's one thing about my kind of work is that you can leave your work behind. I'm proud of that. I think my neighbors and the people that live in my neighborhoods are very happy."

Over the past few years, Cole has also owned and operated a general contracting business, Larry Cole Construction, and has built church sanctuaries and remodeled some existing churches in Tarrant and Wise counties.

He and his wife, Linda, recently celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary. They have two children and five grandchildren.

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