5. Dennis Thurman
No other unit was named for a single player, but the safety-gone-cornerback from USC earned that distinction as the charter member of “Thurman’s Thieves,” the 1985 secondary consisting of teammates Ron Fellows, Everson Walls, and Michael Downs. Thurman only played in one Pro Bowl (1981) and one Super Bowl (1978). His most prolific game was in the 1982 playoffs when he had an interception hat trick against Green Bay quarterback Lynn Dickey, returning one pick for a touchdown. Thurman left the Cowboys in 1986 third all-time in interceptions (currently fourth). He played one final season with the St. Louis Cardinals. Thurman has coached in the NFL for 13 seasons as defensive backs coach. His name is always linked to the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator vacancy, for fans would relish in seeing the next incarnation of Thurman’s Thieves.
4. Don Perkins
Though the Baltimore Colts drafted him in the 9th round of the 1960 NFL draft, the league honored his previously signed “personal services contract” with Clint Murchison. All Dallas had to surrender was a 9th round pick in the 1962 NFL draft for this future Ring of Honor member. Sitting out the entire 1960 season with a foot injury, Perkins made good on his next eight seasons at fullback. His 945 yards in 1962 was a team record until Calvin Hill’s 1,007 yards ten years later. Perkins remains the fourth all-time rushing touchdown leader in franchise history with 42. The six-time Pro Bowler retired in 1968 with Don Meredith, with whom he also joined in the Ring of Honor eight years later.
3. Frank Clarke
Originally a tight end left unprotected by the Cleveland Browns in the 1960 NFL Expansion Draft, Tom Landry converted Clarke to a flanker. Clarke made All Pro in 1964, but his best season went unnoticed in 1962, which started off with a 10-catch, 241-yard, 3-touchdown performance against Washington. In 1962, Clarke caught 47 passes for 1,043 yards and 14 touchdowns, setting franchise records in the last two categories. It took the immortal Bob Hayes, a self-proclaimed understudy of Clarke’s, to break the yards record in ’66, while the touchdown record stood for 45 seasons until Terrell Owens recored 15 2007. Clarke retired from the NFL after the Ice Bowl and went on to become a sports media personality in Dallas.
September 29, 2012; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs former player Herschel Walker on the sidelines before the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs won 51-44. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
2. Herschel Walker
The 1986 USFL pickup was a talented player on the field, as was the case in 1988 when Walker caught a team-second 53 passes for 505 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 1,514 yards and 5 scores on 361 carries. However, it is his contributions off the field in 1989 that Cowboys fans remember most. Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson sold Vikings general manager Mike Lynn a bill of goods. In return, the Cowboys netted five players and eight draft picks, among whom included Emmitt Smith, Alvin Harper, and Darren Woodson. After stints with the Vikings, Eagles, and Giants, Walker returned to Dallas in 1996 for two seasons before retirement.
1. Don Meredith
Dandy Don began his pro career with the expansion Dallas Cowboys in 1960. It seemed like a natural fit for Jeff and Hazel’s boy to transition from SMU hero to Cowboys star. Though he backed up Eddie LeBaron for two seasons, Meredith eventually led the Cowboys to back-to-back NFL Championship game appearances against the league’s kings, the Green Bay Packers. His best statistical season was in 1966, when Meredith set franchise records going 177/344 for 2,805 yards with 24 TD’s. His completion record stood until Craig Morton broke it in 1972, his attempts record until Roger Staubach broke it in 1974, and his yards and touchdowns records until 1978 when Staubach broke both in a 16-game season. That and the Cowboys’ 10-3-1 record earned Meredith the Bert Bell Award. In 1969, amidst hydrophobic fan criticism, which included booing Meredith out of a restaurant after playing with broke ribs and a punctured lung, the three-time Pro Bowler retired and began his illustrious sports broadcasting career a season later.
Honorable Mention: Roy Williams
In 2006, the superstar safety sat his Destiny’s Child girlfriend on the bed and broke off their engagement. Something must have happened that day which broke his mojo, because Roy Williams was never the same after 2006. Until that time, he was the face of the franchise. He earned five Pro Bowls and an All-Pro selection. He had picked off Peyton Manning, Jake Delhomme, Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Brunnel, and Donovan McNabb multiple times. Opposing receivers were afraid to come across the middle when they played Dallas, which inspired a myriad of fan-made highlight videos. Whether it was the horse-collar outlawing or the league cracking down on big hits, Roy Williams lost his superstar ability and became as bad as the other Roy Williams. To think that the Dallas Cowboys could have had Ed Reed 16 picks later in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft is one thing. To waste five good years of a playmaking safety backing into the playoffs is another. In 2007, Williams only recorded two interceptions and earned a suspension from the league for horse-collaring Donovan McNabb. In 2008, Williams only played two games before fracturing his forearm. He returned from a Week 7 contest in St. Louis with the receiver Roy Williams, but he only played special teams and re-injured his arm, earning him a release the following season. Williams played two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals under former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, but like Lockhart, Nguyen, and Coakley, he never experienced a postseason win. Roy Williams was last seen on “Storage Wars: Texas,” possibly still looking for what left him a shell of himself from 2007 to the end.