ARLINGTON, Texas – Maybe the only person possibly as happy as Trevon Diggs and son Aiden were Sunday afternoon when the Cowboys cornerback swiped his franchise record-tying 11th interception was the guy whose record he tied.
The 62-year-old former Cowboys corner who set that record in 1981 has been Diggs' biggest cheerleader all season, outwardly pulling for the second-year ball-hawk on DallasCowboys.com's Mick Shots podcast all season long to not only equal the mark he set 40 years ago but to break it.
Walls, growing up a huge Cowboys fan in the Hamilton Park area of Dallas – actually as a kid riding his bicycle over to the old practice facility on Forest and Abrams to hoist himself up on the fence to catch a glimpse of his favorite team working out – figures it's been time someone has finally at least equaled his longstanding mark. Past time.
"When it first happened, I knew it was going to happen. When I saw the ball in the air, I was already up, had my hands in the air," Walls said. "I knew that was going to be it."
Sure was, and on the Cowboys' first defensive play of the game, maybe Washington was a little full of itself, thinking, _We'll catch the Cowboys napping_. The Football Team went to its No. 1 receiver, Terry McLaurin – Diggs' responsibility all game long – on a deep-9 route.
Diggs doesn't sleep on the field. He rises up to pick off Taylor Heinicke at the Dallas 29-yard line just 3 minutes, 33 seconds into the Cowboys' 56-14 victory, clinching the NFC East title that day.
And how 'bout this for a coincidence? Walls was at the game, the club's Community Legend of the game, sitting appropriately in a Ring of Honor level suite with his daughter Charis and former Cowboys teammate Michael Downs' daughter Carolyn, along with former Cowboys Dixon Edwards and Chad Hennings.
Says he had just been introduced on the big screen.
"I barely saw the play. We were talking trash, laughing, having fun. My daughter was on social media, telling me stuff. And before we could look up …" said Walls, who played for the Cowboys from 1981-89, coming aboard as an undrafted free agent out of Grambling State.
"I remember when he caught it, I remember standing up, 'There it is.' I had my fist up like, 'Mine!' Like I got the interception. Everybody is going crazy in there. The first thing we see is his son (on the screen), and that was hilarious. We all sat down and started cracking up because the son, he was doing all his moves."
While Walls' interception record came in a 16-game season, his 11th took place in Game 15, just like Diggs'. His came off Philadelphia's Ron Jaworski on Dec. 13, one of four Cowboys interceptions that day.
"And you're going to tell me that didn't look like an Everson Walls interception?" said Walls, known for his leaping grabs underneath receivers just like Diggs' 11th. "Come on, man. That's the same way I surpassed Mel Renfro. Same side of the field, against the Philadelphia Eagles. Same route."
At the time, the rookie Walls really didn't comprehend the significance of 11 interceptions in one season for the Cowboys and especially in the NFL.
"I knew the numbers were good," Walls said, "and when they started talking about Mel Renfro, that's why I keep giving him love, that was amazing. He was the Deion of DBs at the time."
Renfro, the Cowboys' Hall of Fame cornerback previously held the franchise record at 10, set in the 14-game season of 1969. Growing up in the Dallas area, Walls knew all about Renfro, who played for the Cowboys from 1964-77, and whose 52 career interceptions is still the team's franchise record, as is his career 626 interception return yards total.
But the true significance of Diggs matching Walls single-season interception mark set in 1981 is this: No NFL player intercepted more than 10 passes over the next 39 seasons. Not Charles Woodson. Not Ed Reed. Not Rod Woodson. Not Deion Sanders. Not Ronnie Lott.
Now Diggs has the opportunity to become the first NFL player with more than 11 interceptions since Lester Hayes had 13 in 1980. And get this, the only man with more than those 13 is Dick "Night Train" Lane, who grabbed 14 picks in 1952, still standing as the NFL single-season record going back all the way to 1940. And he did so in a 12-game season.
"And on Twitter, he finally rose up," Walls said of Lane's accomplishment in an era when quarterbacks weren't throwing the ball nearly as much. "Dick 'Night Train' Lane's son, he sent out a Tweet, like finally Cris Collingsworth called out his dad's name, which is extremely cool, there it is."
As for the rest of the story, Walls actually finished that 1981 season with two more picks in the playoffs, those two off Joe Montana that rarely get mentioned occurring in what became known as "The Catch" game, Montana's game-winning throw to Dwight Clark with Walls in chase to win the NFC title game, 28-27.
Plus, as Walls says, he had like three more during the four-game preseason that year, though at the time just scrambling to make the final roster as an undrafted free agent.
"I was just trying to survive, I was just trying to survive," said Walls of his rookie season. "Now, I knew the numbers were good because I had just gotten 11 at Grambling my senior year. Led the nation."
Look, that's 22 interceptions in two seasons. Walls, with a little self-deprecating humor, but a sliver of truth since he was a rookie out of a Division I-AA school, saying NFL teams must have thought that 1981 season, "Oh, let's try this guy. Throw on him out there."
They soon learned better, Walls finishing with seven picks in the strike-shortened, nine-game season of 1982 and nine more in 1985. He finished with a Cowboys' career total of 44, second behind only Renfro, but added another 13 playing for the Giants (11) and Cleveland (2), a career total of 57 (plus four more in the playoffs) and having led the NFL in interceptions three times.
So, thanks to Diggs now, you know the significance of Everson Walls' career, but Walls so ready to celebrate Diggs' accomplishment.
"I'm looking for the moment he finally takes the lead," Walls said after a Zoom hookup with Diggs arranged by CBS-11's Bill Jones, that exchange between the two airing Tuesday night on the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.
"I've been carrying that on my back for 40 years."