The 53: Steady Rafferty Joins All-Time O-Line


/Click here to view the Ultimate 53-man depth chart.

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 for each season.

Not selecting the 53 best players in club history, 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 1985 and center Tom Rafferty:

Name: Tom Rafferty
Position: Center
College: Penn State
Height/Weight: 6-5/260
Cowboys Tenure:1976-89

Why Him? One of the steadiest offensive linemen in team history, Rafferty started 182 games at guard and center over 14 seasons. He was the starting right guard on the Cowboys' 1977 Super Bowl team, working alongside fixtures Herb Scott and John Fitzgerald. (Hall of Fame tackle Rayfield Wright was injured that season.) Rafferty moved to center in 1981 and held the job through Jimmy Johnson's first season as head coach in 1989. During that final season with the Cowboys, Rafferty was a mentor to future starter Mark Stepnoski, who went on to help anchor the championship offensive lines of the 1990s.

The Role:Rafferty is penciled in as the second center, the position he played for most of his career. His consistency earned him a spot on the all-time roster; he held middle of the pocket well, worked in tandem with the guards and showed great awareness (11 career fumble recoveries). Rafferty's strong work ethic and attitude made him into in a winner. He's a fighter, and he has used those traits to battle transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder, since 2008.

Back To The Future:Third-year veteran Phil Costa is trying to retain his job as the current starting center this offseason. Time will tell if Costa's career has Rafferty's longevity, but he also is a converted guard who earned playing time with the right toughness and approach.

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