Dallas has had their fair share of great running backs such as Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, Don Perkins, Calvin Hill, and even Dan Reeves. Just like I wrote a couple of weeks ago, there is has to be that first player. We determined that Eddie LeBaron was the first quarterback #1. Who was the running back behind him on that September 24th game against the Pittsburg Steelers?
Don McIlhenny was the first running back in Cowboys history. He was also the first running back to score in team history. He ran it out from 5 yards out to get the Cowboys a 14 point lead over the Steelers. Unfortunately, that was the only rushing touchdown of the day for the young Dallas Cowboys. The Steelers would win that game, 35-28.
McIlhenny was drafted originally by the Detroit Lions in 1956 as a 3rd round pick, 27th overall from Southern Methodist University. So to have McIlhenny return to Texas to play football was only fitting to say the least. In that first season in 1960, McIlhenny ran 96 times for 321 yards. He was second in rushing to LG Dupre. McIlhenny played 2 seasons for the Cowboys, eventually going to the San Francisco 49ers. He played his last season with the 49ers in 1961.
Don Perkins was on the roster during that first season as he was signed to a personal services contract prior to the 1960 draft, which cost the Cowboys a 5th round pick the next year’s draft. Perkins had gotten injured during that first season or this article would have been about Perkins. As a history buff, I do appreciate those first players that took the steps for our Cowboys. I’m a firm believer in learning about and teaching the history of our great team, without a strong sense of history and respect to those first teams, you can’t truly appreciate today’s teams.
The 1960 Dallas Cowboys went 0-11-1 the first season. Without players like LeBaron and McIlhenny, players like Romo and DeMarco Murray wouldn’t be the players that they are today. Our earlier players set the building blocks for the history of the franchise.