And The Best Draft Class In Dallas Cowboys History Is…


How would ESPN’s NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr grade a Dallas Cowboys draft class that produced three NFL Hall of Famers?  I’m guessing he would have to give it an A+.

What grade would Kiper give a Cowboys draft class that featured nine players that would never start a game in the league and their first round pick (4th overall) was a bust?  That draft analysis would surely warrant a big fat F.

What if I told you the 1964 Dallas Cowboys draft class contained all of the above?

                  1964 Dallas Cowboys Draft Class

1964 Dallas Cowboys Draft Class

I know what you are thinking… Scott Appleton!  Who the heck is he?  In the first round of the Cowboys best draft ever they blew their first pick on him!

Well… not exactly.  According to then Cowboys VP of player personnel, Gil Brandt, a pre-draft deal had been struck with with the Pittsburgh Steelers that sent stud wide receiver Buddy Dial (1,295 receiver yards in 1963) to Dallas in exchange for the Cowboys first round pick.  The Cowboys simply drafted whoever Pittsburgh told them to.

The Steelers selection of Texas Longhorn defensive tackle Scott Appleton would complete what many Pittsburgh fans would later refer to as the worst trade in their franchise’s history.  Appleton would never even play for the Steelers.  He was also drafted by the AFL’s Houston Oilers and chose to play for them rather than the Steelers.

The Cowboys first real pick in the draft would be their 2nd round selection of Oregon University’s Mel Renfro.  In a strange twist, perhaps the darkest day in the history of the city of Dallas had a hand in Renfro falling to the Cowboys.

"Shortly before the draft, Mel had informed me that he had become so distraught over the Kennedy assassination that he slammed his fist through a glass medicine cabinet and had sliced his wrist. The injury scared off many teams, but we stayed the course with him. — Gil Brandt"

Renfro would go on to play 14 seasons in Dallas and would ultimately be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

The Cowboys would swing and miss for the most part on their next four picks in the draft.  It wasn’t until the 7th round that Dallas would strike gold again.  This time, with the 88th overall pick, the Cowboys would take a chance on Olympic sprinter “Bullet” Bob Hayes.  A few months after the draft, Hayes would win two gold medals in the 1964 summer Olympic games in Tokyo.

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Hayes was considered a risky pick because nobody knew if his world class speed would translate to success in the NFL.  Over 7000 receiving yards and 71 touchdowns later, the “Word’s Fastest Human” would be recognized as one of the NFL greats at the 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. (Unfortunately that honor would occur well after his death in 2002.)  Hayes is still the only athlete to bring home both an Olympic gold medal and an NFL Super Bowl ring.

A few hours later in the 1964 draft proceedings, in the wee hours of the morning, Dallas would slip in their 10th round pick.  The 129th player selected in the 1964 NFL draft would change the course of history for America’s Team.

That pick would be the 1963 Heisman Trophy winner from the Naval Academy, Roger Staubach.

So how the heck does the top player in college football fall to the 10th round?  A little something called a five year commitment to the U.S. Navy may have had something to do with it.  Imagine how far Jameis Winston would slide in the 2015 draft if he announced he was going to take five years off before reporting to the team that selects him.

The Cowboys had their eye on Staubach even before his senior season at Navy.  In fact, legend has it that Brandt even visited Roger’s parents in his home town of Cincinnati Ohio to check and see if there was any way their son could wiggle out of his military commitment.

"Gil likes to tell the story about talking to my mother and she threw him out of the house. “Roger has an obligation to the Naval Academy,” Mom said. And that was that. — Roger Staubach"

The rest, as they say, is history.  Staubach would go on to become the face of “America’s Team” as well as a two-time Super Bowl champ, NFL MVP, and an NFL Hall-of-Famer.

Landing three future NFL Hall of Famers in 1964 not only makes that class the best in Cowboys draft history, but is also ranks right up there as one of the best team drafts in NFL lore.   Only the Steelers 1974 draft class provided more Canton-bound players (Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster).

Honorable Mention: The 1975 “Dirty Dozen” draft class that featured NFL Hall of Famer Randy White as well as four other future Pro-Bowlers.