There are a lot of passionate Dallas Cowboy fans in the state of Oklahoma. AT&T Stadium is, after all, closer to the Oklahoma border than it is to most major cities in Texas. But even with the state being firmly established as Cowboys country, there still might be one football team that barely inches them out in terms of state loyalty and passion: the Oklahoma Sooners.
As soon as last season came to a close, concluding Jason Garrett's contract as head coach, there was speculation that the Cowboys would try to lure away Oklahoma's young and accomplished head coach, Lincoln Riley. Considered a "quarterback whisperer" who coached Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts, the notion of Riley getting a shot at working with Dak Prescott was certainly intriguing to some.
Of course, the Cowboys instead decided to go with an accomplished NFL veteran coach in Mike McCarthy. But McCarthy and his mostly new coaching staff – the first new coaching regime in Dallas in over a decade – decided to add four recent and former Sooners to the roster of his new team.
While we'll never know the extent to which the Cowboys reached out to or even considered hiring Riley, Cowboys VP of player personnel Will McClay hinted at a possible relationship between the Cowboys and Sooners staffs when he discussed the decision to draft All-American wide receiver CeeDee Lamb with the No. 17 overall pick. "We have a lot of connections and people that we know at Oklahoma, so through the course of the work we had done leading up to the draft and the Combine we felt had good information on him," McClay said.
Lamb joining the Cowboys was perhaps the splashiest selection in the entire draft. But the Cowboys also used their third round pick on Neville Gallimore a four-year defensive tackle at Oklahoma who Dallas will likely expect to grow into a starting role in his first few years. But he'll get to learn from a six-time Pro Bowler in Gerald McCoy, who was signed in free agency. Of course, McCoy was a star standout at Oklahoma before being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Bucs.
Dallas also added one of Oklahoma's most intriguing players from last decade in free agency in tight end Blake Bell. A converted quarterback, Bell threw, caught, and rushed for touchdowns during his career at Oklahoma. Bell's immediate role with the Cowboys will be as a tight end, but Sooner fans are likely eager to see him utilized in a variety of different packages among McCarthy's system.
Perhaps these four acquisitions simply represent a series of coincidences, but Oklahoma is a nearby program that knows something about sustained success, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the Cowboys are looking at players that developed about 200 miles to the north.
So it got us thinking to the best OU players in Cowboys history. There have been some first-round picks, some Pro Bowlers and even some in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So let's look at the very best Sooners to wear the star.
Before we get to the Top 10, here are some honorable mentions:
- Manuel Johnson, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboy in 2009: Johnson started 26 games in his four seasons as a Sooner and recorded 17 touchdowns. The Cowboys drafted him in the seventh round in 2009, but ultimately was assigned to the practice squad in favor of Kevin Ogletree. He was briefly promoted to the active roster in December and appeared in two games.
- Derrick Shepard, Wide Receiver, Dallas Cowboy 1989-1991: Shepard walked on to the Sooners football team as a freshman and turned that opportunity into a four-year NFL career. He signed with the Cowboys after an injury sustained to Michael Irvin. He registered a 92-yard, one-touchdown
- Wendell Davis, Cornerback, Dallas Cowboy 1996-1999: After two redshirted years at Oklahoma, Davis was drafted in the sixth round by the Cowboys where he was a valuable special teams player before a knee injury ended his third season in Dallas before it started.
- Joe Bowden, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboy in 2000: A Dallas native, Bowden was an All-American in his senior season at Oklahoma. The Cowboys signed Bowden in 2000 to provide linebacker depth, and Bowden played in all 16 games, registering 46 tackles.
- Remi Ayodele, Defensive Tackle, Dallas Cowboy in 2007: Ayodele went undrafted out of Oklahoma and was eventually signed by the Cowboys and assigned to NFL Europa. The next season he joined the Cowboys to provide depth in the wake of an injury to Jay Ratliff.
Under Mike McCarthy, the Cowboys have already tapped into a well of players who developed at Oklahoma. It got us thinking to the best Sooners in franchise history.