The Ultimate 53

Perkins was the first running back inducted into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor.

/ 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 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 1963 and running back Don Perkins.

Name: Don Perkins
Position: Running back
College: New Mexico
Height/Weight: 5-10/204
Cowboys Tenure: 1961-68

Why Him? Perkins wasn't the greatest running back in Cowboys' history, but he was the first great back of the franchise, leading the team in rushing in all eight of his pro seasons in Dallas. He wasn't considered a speed demon, or an overpowering back, but yet a player who got the job done by whatever means necessary. The 1961 NFL Rookie of the Year, Perkins made six Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro selection. He went in with Don Meredith as the first offensive players inducted into the Ring of Honor in 1976.

The Role: Without revealing the rest of the list, it's probably rather obvious what two tailbacks will be higher on the depth chart than Perkins, who does fit into our third running back role. In today's game, it's not uncommon to use three tailbacks, and for this team, it's good to have a well-rounded player such as Perkins, who can be used in short-yardage, third downs, or just to take over a series and finish out a game. The third back is generally used on special teams, but with a fast, tough player like this, he shouldn't have a problem in that role, although clearly Perkins' best attributes were displayed with the ball in his hands.

Back To The Future: It's hard to compare any Ring of Honor player to someone who has yet to prove himself. So it needs to be put into context that Perkins is the third running back on this team, yet arguably the third best in franchise history, at least from a production standout. For the 2012 squad, the Cowboys are likely looking at someone like Phillip Tanner to handle the third running back role. An undrafted player out of Middle Tennessee State in 2011, Tanner came on the scene last year in training camp and was productive enough in the preseason to stick around. He had a few moments last year as a rookie before an injury cut his season short. Perkins was coming off Rookie of the Year honors entering his second season, but for Tanner, he enters Year 2 just trying to make the squad. While both players are considered well-rounded backs who can do many things, it's hard to put these two in the same sentence. But as the third tailback, Tanner can only hope to have a fraction of the career Perkins enjoyed.

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