As we continue to trudge through the seemingly endless dog days of summer I have decided to take a look at a few things past and present that make the Cowboys so special.
For any NFL franchise, there are a few jersey numbers that bring images of one particular player to mind. The Cowboys are certainly no exception. The #12 will always illicit memories of “Captain Comeback,” Roger Staubach; while #8 is forever associated with his counterpart from the glory days of the 1990s, Troy Aikman. In the case of #22, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith, shares star billing with Hall of Famer “Bullet” Bob Hayes.
Then there is #88…
In Dallas, #88 is perhaps the most hallowed jersey on the roster. For fans like yours truly, it brings back a wintry playoff game in Metropolitan Stadium when the original #88 hauled in what was to become the most famous catch in Dallas Cowboys history: The Hail Mary. Although he is known for that memorable moment in Cowboys lore, Drew Pearson was the recipient of many more comeback clinching catches for Dallas. It was Pearson who saved Thanksgiving for the Cowboys and their fans in 1974 against the hated rival Washington Redskins with rookie Clint Longley at the helm. Danny White also turned to the most clutch of Cowboy receivers when he needed a miracle to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in a 1980 playoff match up.
When Mr. Clutch hung up his cleats after the 1983 season, #88 was far from finished. Michael Irvin brought plenty of swagger with him when he came to Big D after being drafted in the first round by legendary coach Tom Landry in 1988. After suffering through a couple of lean years, Irvin’s flamboyant style and circus-like catches earned him the well-deserved “Playmaker” moniker. Like Pearson, Irvin wore the star for the duration of his NFL career. Despite some off the field antics that caused him to fall out of favor for a while, Irvin was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007. Although it would be nearly impossible to name a receiver who has meant more to any NFL franchise than his predecessor, Drew Pearson is still waiting for his call from Canton. He did, however, finally take his rightful place alongside Irvin among the greatest Dallas Cowboys of all time when he was inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2011.
Better late than never, Mr. Jones…
The jury is still out on the latest receiver to put on #88. When Dallas drafted Dez Bryant fresh off a yearlong suspension at Oklahoma State University, Cowboys fans held their collective breath. After a few instances of off the field drama and injury issues, Bryant has shown flashes of the kind of excitement that the Cowboys have come to expect from those wearing their most famous of jerseys. He was literally a fingertip away from becoming part of what would have been one of the most dramatic finishes in recent Cowboys’ history when the New York Giants came to town in 2012. His punt return abilities have also brought fans to their feet on numerous occasions since he arrived in Dallas. If Bryant can keep his emotions in check and stay healthy, hopes are high that 2013 will finally bring the magic of #88 back to the Cowboys with its’ latest prodigy.