While it might be a down time in the glorious history of the Dallas Cowboys franchise and we wait until next year once again, that doesn’t mean we can’t reflect on better times and the players that have thrilled us though the years. With that in mind we present ScoreBoard’s ten best Cowboys of all time:
10. DeMarcus Ware – Defensive End (2005-Present)
The only active player on this list, DeMarcus Ware is only the second Dallas Cowboy to record 14 sacks in a season…a feat which he has accomplished four times. In 2011 he was on pace to break Michael Strahan’s single season sack record of 22.5, only to finish with 19.5. The 7-time Pro Bowler was named the 2008 NFC Defensive Players of the Year and he holds the Cowboys sack record with 117.
9. Mel Renfro – Defensive Back (1964-1977)
Along with Pittsburgh’s Mel Blount and Dick “Night Train” Lane, Mel Renfro was the predecessor to today’s modern corner. With a staggering mixture of size and blazing speed, Renfro is one of the all-time elite cover corners in the National Football League. The 10-time Pro Bowler (including being named Pro Bowl MVP in 1970) finished his career with 52 interceptions and a two-time Super Bowl champion, having retired after the Cowboys beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII, 27-10.
8. Larry Allen – Offensive Lineman (1994-2005)
One of the premier offensive linemen in the history of the NFL, Larry Allen has played in more Pro Bowls (10) than any other Cowboys offensive players. Not bad for a 2nd round draft pick out of slightly regarded Sonoma State. The 2013 Hall-of-Famer was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade team in the 1990s and the 2000s and also has a Super Bowl ring after the Cowboys 27-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.
7. Michael Irvin – Wide Receiver (1988 – 1999)
Self-proclaimed as “The Playmaker,” Michael Irvin delivered on his moniker to a T. The Cowboys wide receiver holds every career receiving record in the history of the franchise, including most catches (750) and yards (11,904). Irvin, who also was the vocal leader of the Cowboys during the 1990s, was selected to five Pro Bowls, boasts three Super Bowl rings, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
Half man. Half monster. When it comes time to snap the ball in the National Football League, “The Manster” was 100% unrelenting, ferocious, and most importantly…dominating. In Randy White’s 14-year pro football career, the 1978 NFC Defensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl XII co-MVP, and 9-time Pro Bowler only missed one game. White finished his career with seemingly a pedestrian 52 sacks…but there is one major catch. The NFL didn’t start recorded them as an official statistic until 1982…seven years into White’s NFL career.
5. Troy Aikman – Quarterback (1989 – 2000)
One could argue that the quarterback position is the only one in all of sports that is defined solely on winning or losing…and over his 12-year career, win is exactly what Troy Aikman did. The 6-time Pro Bowler from Oklahoma led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl victories in the 1990s…including being named the MVP for Super Bowl XXVII. Aikman is also the winningest QB in any decade having recorded 90 of his 94 victories in the 1990s. Unfortunately, Aikman’s career was cut short due to injuries.
When it comes to perfection on a football field, few have come closer than Tony Dorsett. The 4-time Pro Bowler is the first player ever to win the college football National Championship one year, and then win the Super Bowl the next. He is also one of two players to have won the Heisman Trophy, the CFB National Championship, the Super Bowl, and have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Marcus Allen is the other). Dorsett is most famous for record setting 99-yard touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football in 1983. What’s even more impressive is that Dorsett accomplished that feat with only nine other teammates on the field.
3. Emmitt Smith – Running Back (1990 – 2002)
As far as running backs are concerned, no one has done more in the National Football League than Emmitt Smith. No one. The 8-time Pro Bowl and 6-time All-Pro holds the career rushing record with 18,355 yards. While Detroit’s Barry Sanders was the human highlight reel of running backs, Emmitt Smith was a complete tailback capable of moving the pile, catching out of the backfield, and most importantly, blocking the opposition’s 300-pound defensive players. Smith set the NFL record for career rushing touchdowns (164) and 100+ yard games (78) and is a 3-time Super Bowl champion (including being named MVP of Super Bowl XXVIII) .
Described by legendary coach Tom Landry as “possibly the best combination of a passer, an athlete, and a leader to ever play in the NFL,” Roger Staubach was the unquestioned star of “The Star” in the 1970s. Having entered the league as a 27-year old rookie (due to his serving in the Navy), Roger “The Dodger” led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles in the 70s and retired from the game as the highest rated quarterback in the history of professional football. Staubach also coined the phrase for the most excited play on the football field…the Hail Mary…after his last second 50-yard bomb connected with Drew Pearson in a 1975 playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.
Most players in the NFL would be more than satisfied with a Hall-of-Fame career. But to be legendary, you need to revolutionize a position…and that is exactly what Bob Lilly did. Affectionately referred to as “Mr. Cowboy,” Lilly was the first ever draft pick of “America’s Team”…and he didn’t disappoint. In his 14 years in the league, Lilly was selected to the Pro Bowl 11 times, named All-Pro nine times, was selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and was the first ever inductee into the Dallas Cowboy’s Ring of Honor. NFL Films referred to him as the “Unblockable, unstoppable force of the ‘Doomsday Defense’” and is widely regarded as the finest defensive tackle in the history of professional football. Not bad considering Lilly was routinely double and triple teamed. Tom Landry once said while admiring his star tackle, “There won’t be another Lilly in my lifetime. He is a man who will become a legend. No one was better than Lilly.” More than 12 years since Landry’s passing, that statement still holds true.