The most important part of each season may be the daily practice grind in July and August, when a team is truly built. As a countdown to this year's training camp, we celebrate the 53rd year of Cowboys football by constructing the team's all-time 53-man roster, picking one player from each season.
Not so much the 53 best players in club history, DallasCowboys.com has constructed the ultimate team, filling out the depth chart and making room for contributors at every position, including special teams, while at the same time looking ahead to how this year's 53-man roster might shake out.
The series continues today with 1996 and fullback Daryl Johnston:
Name: Daryl Johnston
Why Him?The tearful embrace Emmitt Smith gave his long-time fullback after breaking Walter Payton's all-time NFL rushing record in 2002 told everything about Johnston's role on the 1990's Cowboys offense, particularly its vaunted power run game. Known best as "Moose," Johnston's blocking paved the way for most of Smith's 18,355 career yards. The 11-year veteran started on each of the decade's three Super Bowl teams. Drafted in the second round in 1989, Johnston was never a focal point on an offense featuring Hall of Famers Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. But he pitched in where needed, tallying 753 career rushing yards and 294 receptions, including 50 in his first of two Pro Bowl seasons (1993, 1994). His blue-collar contributions made him a sentimental fan favorite, and the fullback position became a fixture in the Pro Bowl due in large part to his performance.
The Role:Fittingly, Johnston is the lead blocker for Smith on our Ultimate 53 roster. As the starting fullback, he's responsible for opening running lanes and picking up blitzes in pass protection. An underrated part of Johnston's career was his work on special teams, and on a roster full of stars, that ability will be needed.
Back To The Future: If you listen closely enough to Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, Johnston's teammate throughout the '90s, you'll hear him emphasize the importance of a traditional fullback. More and more offenses have evolved into two-tight end formations, devaluing the role of a lead blocker. But these current Cowboys have made it a priority under Garrett, signing Tony Fiammetta last year and then replacing him this offseason with free agent addition Lawrence Vickers, whose hard-nosed, physical style is a throwback to Moose's days in the backfield.