Cowboys Top 10
Top 10: Best Athletes In Club History
By Nick Eatman
IRVING, Texas - To make it in the NFL, you have to be a great athlete. That part is a given. Every player who has ever worn a Cowboys uniform, even in just a preseason game, should be considered athletically gifted.
But like any sport or profession, some stand out more than others.
This week’s Top 10 countdown focuses on the best pure athletes the Cowboys have ever had. No, it’s not a list of the best players. That’s why you won’t find names like Emmitt, Lilly or Aikman on this list. It’s not the greatest players this franchise has ever seen, but arguably the most gifted players athletically.
Now, many times in sports, especially in football, we tend to relate athleticism to being fast. But this list is not exactly the fastest players either. It’s a combination of speed, power, strength and even some versatility as well. Not surprisingly, two-sport players got major play, especially in the top-half of the list.
Again, it’s all subjective because what one person believes to be a great athlete will obviously differ from another. But let’s see who the three of us picked as the Cowboys’ Top 10 pure athletes of all time:
10. Walt Garrison
Any list involving the Cowboys should probably have a real Cowboy right? Walt Garrison played nine years for the Cowboys (1966-74) as a running back and fullback. He was often considered one of the toughest players in franchise history and his involvement with the rodeo was a big reason for that. Garrison’s signing bonus in 1966 included a horse trailer. Many of his offseasons were spent at the College National Rodeos, where a knee injury in 1974 subsequently ended his football career.
9. DeMarcus Ware
Not a two-sport star but from a pure physicality standpoint, there aren’t many specimens like Ware. At 6-4, 260, Ware plays the game with a rare combination of speed and power. Not only is he one of the NFL’s best pass-rushers, leading the league in sacks two of the last three years, but Ware is widely considered as one of the best run-stoppers as well. Not many pass rushers have three career touchdowns and one of them is a big reason he made the list. Ware’s interception off Michael Vick in Atlanta in 2006, where he plucked the ball in midair and then outran Vick to the end zone will go down as one of the most athletic plays in franchise history.
8. Mel Renfro
Playing in an era where pure athleticism wasn’t as prominent, or at least visible because of the lack of TV exposure, Renfro was a rare case during his playing days, and even before that. At Oregon, Renfro was an All-American running back and cornerback, and also ran track at national meets. He was part of the 1962 world-record setting 440-yard relay team with a time of 40.0 seconds. With the Cowboys, Renfro was an electrifying punt and kickoff returner, leading the NFL in both categories in 1964. Just as impressive, he was a 10-time Pro Bowler and often did so switching back and forth from cornerback to safety.
7. Tony Romo
Although he’ll never be pegged as a “running quarterback,” we’ve seen Romo use his athleticism, which is more savvy and shifty, to his advantage in the pocket. His signature play on the field might have come in a 2007 blowout over the Rams when Romo fielded an errant shotgun snap some 35 yards behind the line of scrimmage but still scooped it up, made a few moves and scrambled for a first down in one of the wildest four-yard runs in club history. Aside from football, Romo is more than just a scratch golfer, often competing in tournaments, including making the regional qualifying tournament for the U.S. Open. In high school, he was the runner-up to NBA star Caron Butler for Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin.
6. Terrell Owens
Remember, it’s about pure talent. Yes, Owens spent just three years with the Cowboys, but despite being on the downward slide of his career, he still put together a three-year run that rivals any this franchise has ever seen. Drama or not, T.O. put up some impressive numbers on the field, scoring 38 touchdowns in three years. Even at the age of 37, he had another solid year with the Bengals in 2010, recording 983 yards and nine touchdowns. Away from football, Owens has expressed his love for basketball, often competing in celebratory games, including being a two-time MVP of the event during the NBA All-Star weekend. Owens even played a little professional basketball, suiting up for a recent stint with the Santa Barbara Breakers of the USBL. In college at Tennessee-Chattanooga, Owens ran track and competed in both football and basketball, playing in the 1995 NCAA Tournament.
5. Ed “Too Tall” Jones
One of the most feared players from the Cowboys “Doomsday Defense,” Jones was a rare breed of player not only for his 15 years of service from 1974-89, but in any era. Not many NFL players stand at 6-9, but Jones often used that to his advantage. His ability to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage helped the league eventually record pass deflections as an official stat. Jones is also well known for his absence in the 1979 season when he retired from the sport to pursuit a professional boxing career. While Jones won all six of his bouts, most of them were against lesser-known competition, with the exception of the future Mexican Heavyweight champion Fernando Montes, whom Jones knocked out in the first round. Jones went back to the Cowboys in 1980 and played the remainder of the decade, providing an intimidating force against opposing offensive tackles and quarterbacks.
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