You would be hard pressed to find a tougher man than Walt Garrison. From his playing days as a Fighting Farmer, to a Cowboy, then on to a career with THE Cowboys, this man was made Ford tough. God doesn’t make ‘em like that anymore. Walter Benton Garrison was born July 23, 1944, in Denton, Texas, and grew up around the Denton / Lewisville areas. He held the position of linebacker at Lewisville High School which he would be the first to tell you he “wasn’t any good.”
Without any college offers coming in, through his family connections, the governor of New Mexico called in a favor and got him an offer from New Mexico State. Days later they would learn that the Aggies and their want-to-be Pistol Pete would go on probation. New Mexico’s governor called the governor of Oklahoma, Mr. Henry Bellmon, and off to Oklahoma State University and the real Pistol Pete, he went. Back in the 1960’s, linebackers set up at center or fullback positions. Garrison ended up a fullback when they decided he could carry the pigskin. For the first time in 20 years, Garrison’s senior season, the Cowboys beat the Oklahoma Sooners, which is a BIG deal in Stillwater, OK (we have a LOT of catching up to do.) Garrison was later inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma State University Hall of Honor
In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys drafted Garrison at #79, in the fifth round. His signing bonus – a horse trailer. The 6’ tall, 205 pound running back wore the #32 jersey. Out of ten Cowboys to wear that number, he was voted the most favorite. After Don Perkins retired in 1969, Garrison took over at fullback. His toughness, grit, and blocking abilities would eventually earn him Pro Bowl honors. Running-back-by-committee was actually introduced when Garrison, Calvin Hill, and Duane Thomas carried the team, literally, to the Super Bowl VI victory. He played in two Super Bowls, winning VI against Miami. Statistics included: nine seasons, 3,886 yards rushing, and 1,794 yards receiving. Due to a knee injury he sustained during his off-season rodeo circuits, he was forced to retire. It’s said that he only made $68,000 per year in those days, but the great memories and a championship would make it easier on this old cowboy to walk away from the game.
Don Meredith always thought he talked funny and told this story about the running back. Coach Landry sent Garrison to the airport to pick up a kicker. The kicker supposedly couldn’t speak English. Coach Landry said, “that’s okay, Walt doesn’t speak English so that anyone could understand it anyway.” He also had this to say:
If it was third down, and you needed four yards, if you’d get the ball to Walt Garrison, he’d get ya five. And if it was third down and ya needed 20 yards, if you’d get the ball to Walt Garrison, by God, he’d get you five.
Most people growing up in the 1970’s / 80’s remember his Skoal television commercials, after he retired. He was the Marlboro man for smokeless tobacco. That rugged cowboy, with the Stetson hat, “just a pinch between the cheek and gums.” He also wrote his biography “Once a Cowboy.” He established the Walt Garrison Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and is involved in many activities, to this day, around the Denton area. He is also an inductee of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in Fort Worth and was named to the 25th anniversary All-time Team and All-time Dallas Cowboy team.
Garrison doesn’t come back to watch the Cowboys play, but he watches and cheers them on from his home in north Texas. I don’t remember ever watching him play, but from what I read, he was one of the best. One funny quote I came across, when asked if he had ever seen Tom Landry smile:
Nope. But I have only been here nine years.
Ride on Cowboy!