FRISCO, Texas – This season will mark the 55th anniversary of the Ice Bowl, Cowboys-Packers at a frozen Lambeau Field on Dec. 31, 1967. Yep, that long ago when Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr snuck in from the 1-yard line in the final seconds for a Green Bay, 21-17, victory over the Cowboys in the NFL Championship Game, earning the right to play in the second eventually named Super Bowl.
And this occurred to me after Cowboys Ring of Honor running back Don Perkins passed away last month, realizing five members from that 1967 Eastern Conference championship team having gone 9-5, just the Cowboys' second winning season since the franchise entered the NFL in 1960, had passed away over the past calendar year.
Starting center Mike Connelly.
Starting running back Dan Reeves, an eventual Cowboys assistant coach.
Perkins, the other starting running back.
Starting right tackle Ralph Neely.
And lesser-known backup offensive tackle Malcolm Walker.
So made me think: How many more Cowboys players from that 40-man, 1967 NFL Championship gameday roster already had passed away. Fifty-five years is a long time when considering the youngest guy on the Cowboys gameday roster was 21-year-old defensive back Phil Clark and the oldest was 32-year-old Jerry Tubbs, the linebacker's final year as a player/coach who passed away in 2012. And there were two 31-year-olds on the team, Connelly, who passed away on Oct. 4 of last year at 85, and Ring of Honor linebacker Chuck Howley, who just turned 86 on June 28.
Well, 23 of the 40 players on that roster already have passed away, and that would include such notables as Ring of Honor quarterback Don Meredith (2010), Hall of Fame/Ring of Honor wide receiver Bob Hayes (2002) and five-time Pro Bowl defensive end George Andrie (2013). Other starters listed on the official gameday flip card who have passed away include left tackle Tony Liscio (2017), right guard Leon Donohue (2016), defensive end Willie Towns (2017), defensive tackle Jethro Pugh (2015), linebacker Dave Edwards (2000), cornerback Mike Johnson (2003), safety Mike Gaechter (2015) and kicker/punter Danny Villanueva (2015).
The Cowboys at the time only had five coaches on the team, including Tubbs (2012), and all have passed away: Head coach/offensive and defensive coordinator Tom Landry (2000), offensive line coach Jim Myers (2014), defensive line coach Ernie Stautner (2006) and defensive backfield coach Dick Nolan (2007).
Also leaving us were the five men on the television broadcast: Ray Scott (1998), Jack Buck (2002), Tom Brookshire (2010), Pat Summerall (2013) and Frank Gifford (2015).
Just another reminder of why these various Ring of Honors and Hall of Fames are so important to preserving history into perpetuity after the participants are long gone.
- Just For Kicks: Let the competition begin in exactly 21 days from today. The Cowboys kicking competition on that first day of training camp practice, July 27, in Oxnard, Calif., between undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay and the recently signed Lirim Hajrullahu for his second tour of duty with the Cowboys. This was always going to happen, the Cowboys signing another kicker for training camp to challenge Garibay, and who knows, there still might be a veteran kicker to be named later. And there we'll be, once again charting each kicking session at the River Ridge Sports Complex fields documenting distance of each kick, marking a make or a miss. Sort of takes me back to 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio when the Cowboys brought in a bevy of kickers, with some undrafted rookie from Oklahoma State named Dan Bailey the last man standing once the smoke cleared. At least Hajrullahu has kicked in four NFL games, one with the Cowboys last year and then three with Carolina, making four of five field goal attempts and all eight extra points in his short career. Plus, the 32-year-old from Kosovo has CFL experience, having kicked six seasons for Winnipeg, Toronto and Hamilton. The competition will be legit.
- Moose Call: Was reminded at the end of the USFL title game, won by the Birmingham Stallions, 33-30, over the Philadelphia Stars, that former Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston is the league's executive vice president of football operations. There was DJ carrying the trophy out for the victory celebration, presenting it to the Stallions after their last-second victory. By the way, Cowboys 2018 seventh round draft choice Bo Scarbrough led Birmingham with 135 yards rushing. Oh, and betting between now and the start of training camp that some NFL team will give the game's MVP, Stallions wide receiver Victor Bolton Jr., another looksee after having bounced around in the NFL with San Francisco and practice squads with the Niners, Bills and Lions over the past four seasons. The guy can scoot. "I feel like I'm an ambassador for the game of football, it's provided me so much," Johnston said in a recent podcast prior to this past Sunday's title game from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where the championship game was played at Tom Benson Stadium. "It's the reason I'm married to my wife (Diane). I was in Dallas, Texas. We met there. If I'm not playing professional football that never happens. It has brought me my family." Also, three Super Bowl rings, a broadcasting gig with Fox and now this position with the USFL.
- Intercepting History: We're all well-aware that Trevon Diggs tied Everson Walls' Cowboys single-season interception record at 11 this past year. Also, those 11 picks the most single-season interceptions in the NFL since Walls also grabbed 11 in his 1981 rookie season. But often overlooked is this: Only three NFL players during the Super Bowl Era (1970-2021) ever had more in one season. Lester Hayes owns that distinction with 13 in 1980. And tied for second with 12 are Mike Reinfeldt (1979) and Emmitt Thomas (1974). Now then, only one player in the entire history of the NFL had more in one season than Hayes' 13, that being the memorable Dick "Night Train" Lane with 14 in 1952, his rookie season with the Rams. Amazing since Lane, from Austin, Texas, having attend segregated L.C. Anderson High School in Austin and dying at age 74, only played one season of college ball for Scottsbluff Junior College in Scottsbluff, Neb. Then Lane, who played minor league baseball in the Negro Leagues, served four years in the Army where he did play for a military team. Ever more shocking than all that on his way to NFL immortality? In 1952, Lane was working at an aircraft plant in Los Angeles after his service stint when his bus ride to work one day passed the Rams facility. Came back, walks in and asks for a tryout. The rest is history.
And today, following a week's worth of stay-vacation, I'll take the last word while wondering just what this world is coming to.
First, the Browns finally agree to trade quarterback Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers, the team previously insisting during the draft that they weren't interested in a quarterback. That they were good with Sam Darnold, yet still ended up drafting quarterback Matt Corral in the third round. Now this. But all the Browns reportedly received in return for Mayfield, the former first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, was a Carolina 2024 fifth-round draft choice that could become a fourth, depending on Mayfield's playing time with the Panthers. That's it. And … and … the Browns agree to pay $10.5 million of Mayfield's $18.8 million base salary in 2022 just to get him off their hands and lessen the Panthers' cap burden. Man, splitting with QB1s is mighty expensive.
Also expensive to find the next one, the Browns, having acquired Deshaun Watson from Houston for a king's ransom, giving up first round picks in 2022, 2023 and 2024; a third-round pick in 2022; and a fourth-round pick in 2024. Plus, signing Watson to a five-year, $230 million GUARANTEED deal – yet are awaiting NFL independent officer Sue Robinson's decision on if their presumed starting quarterback will be suspended for personal conduct violations. Maybe the Browns already know something the rest of us don't to now dump Mayfield.
And lastly, finally had a chance to attend our little town's Fourth of July parade. Stopped by the parade route while riding my bike Monday morning, getting ready for our glorious morning rides during training camp in Oxnard. The parade began around 9:30. Could hear the firetruck sirens blaring in the distance, sounding the start to the parade.
About then, caught myself looking around, scoping out the surroundings, for some reason thinking back to our active shooter training at The Star a month or so ago. Wondering where I'd go in case. At a darn flag-waving Fourth parade.
And 45 minutes later, little did I know, Highland Park, Ill., occurs.