Bob Lilly aka Mr. Cowboy

Cowboys Flashback: Hit and Miss on defensive first rounders’



The Dallas Cowboys are hinting around that they might choose Kenny Vacarro, the Safety from the University of Texas.  We are going to highlight a few picks from each decade.  Vacarro would be the second safety ever chosen in the first round by the Cowboys.  The first was yet another player from the Big 12 Conference that being Roy Williams from Oklahoma.  Williams is now with


Why Worry?

retired from the NFL but many around the league remember the rule that is called the Roy Williams rule, the “horse-collar tackle”.  Williams played for Dallas for 6 seasons eventually finishing his career with the Cincinnati Bengals for 2 seasons.


The most famous of all defensive draft picks was the first pick the Cowboys made, Bob Lilly from TCU became Mr. Cowboy as played 13 seasons from 1961 to 1974.  He was an 11 time Pro Bowl selection and holds the record for the longest sack yardage while chasing Bob Griese in Super Bowl VI for a 29 yard loss.

Two years later, the Cowboys selected Linebacker Leroy Jordan from Alabama.  Jordan was another 13 year player who made 5 Pro Bowls.  Jordan retired with 36 interceptions in 186 games.


Tody Smith was selected by Dallas in 1971 as the 25th pick in the NFL Draft.  He lasted 2 seasons as moved on to the Houston Oilers in 1973.  He played only 3 more seasons finishing his career with the Buffalo Bills.  Smith is probably best remembered as the brother former NFL Pro Bowler Bubba Smith.

For two years in a row, Dallas went on the defensive with their draft picks.  In 1974 and 1975, the Cowboys had 2 first round picks using 3 of those picks for their defense.  Ed “Too Tall” Jones was the first pick in the 1974 draft while in ’75 Randy White and Duane “Hollywood” Henderson were selected.

Aaron Kyle was selected in 1976 and played 4 seasons until the Denver Broncos claimed him from free agency.  He played 3 more seasons until his retirement in 1982.  Kyle’s claim to infamy was missing a tackle in Super XIII as John Stallworth had a 75 yard touchdown play.

Larry Bethea played for 6 seasons after being drafted in the 1978 draft.  After the 1983 season, he was released after failing to become a starter and live up to his potential.


The 80’s had a lot of busts as far draft picks.  Among the choices were Rod Hill (1982), Billy Cannon Jr. (1984), and Kevin Brooks (1985).  Dallas hit it big with their 1983 selection in taking Jim Jeffcoat from Arizona State.  Jeffcoat played 12 seasons for Dallas and also returned to coach the defensive line for 6 seasons.


Dallas had 10 picks in the ‘90’s and they chose 7 defensive players.  Out of those 7, 4 were considered good picks such as Russell Maryland (1991), Kevin Smith (1992), Robert Jones (1992), and Greg Ellis (1998).  The other 3 didn’t pan out as well.  Kelvin Pritchett (1991) ended being traded to the Lions and played there for 10 years.  Shante Carver (1994) played for the Dallas Cowboys for 4 years before joining the now defunct XFL.  After his one year stint in the XFL, he joined the Dallas Desperados Arena Football team in 2001 playing for 4 seasons.  Ebenezer Ekuban (1999) played 4 seasons before joining the Cleveland Browns eventually retiring with the Denver Broncos.


Dallas had no first round picks in 2000 or 2001 but then selected Roy Williams in 2002.  Terence Newman was selected in 2003.  Newman was released in 2012, he played for the Bengals for one season and is currently a free agent.

Demarcus Ware was drafted in 2005 and still a mainstay with the organization.  Marcus Spears was drafted in the same year. He played up until this past season, he recently signed a free agent deal with the Baltimore Ravens.

Bobby Carpentar was selected in 2006 and did not pan out as anticipated.  He is currently playing for the New England Patriots.

Anthony Spencer was selected in 2007 and was franchise tagged for two seasons in a row (2012 and 2013).  He will be making $9.6 million this year.

Mike Jenkins (2008) was selected and currently not on the Cowboys roster, according to their team website.  He is an unrestricted free agent.  Dallas also selected Morris Claiborne in 2012 and the jury is still out on him.

As you can see, there are many names you recognize that were drafted first but then there are some that we assume we can forget.  It’s a hit and miss with the NFL Draft, let’s hope the Cowboys find themselves finding a diamond in the rough this coming draft.

*Cowboy Flashback will be a series of articles on the history of the Dallas Cowboys.  I will find some history of the team and share it in one of my weekly articles on a monthly basis.  If you have any suggestions or questions, email me.  My email information is in bio on this page.


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