Double-digit draftees were good to Cowboys

Posted Thursday, Apr. 03, 2008  comments  Print Reprints
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The Dallas Cowboys had to stay up late to snag their future Capt. Comeback.

They took Roger Staubach in the 10th round of the 1964 NFL Draft.

"We drafted Roger about 4 o'clock in the morning," recalled Gil Brandt, venerable player personal director for 29 seasons. "Back then, the draft went continuously -- all 20 rounds."

There are many draft oddities involving NFL quarterbacks. In '83, Dan Marino was the last of six first-round QBs selected -- after Elway, Blackledge, Kelly, Eason and O'Brien were called. Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick in 2000.

Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr and Staubach went even later than that: Unitas, ninth-round pick in '55 (and cut in his rookie training camp); Starr, 17th round in '56, and Staubach, 10th round in '64.

In these pre-ESPN/Mel Kiper days, the NFL didn't put teams on the clock, either.

"One year [1962], the Steelers took about five hours to find someone to draft that they could sign," Brandt recalled. "They ended up drafting Bob Ferguson -- the big Ohio State fullback -- because they could sign him."

Early NFL drafts with double-digit rounds frequently went into the wee hours of the next day.

"The year we drafted John Niland (1966), we started at 8 a.m. Saturday morning and didn't finish until 4 or 4:30 p.m. Sunday," Brandt said. "I think it was the only Cowboys game that Tex Schramm and I ever missed."

Back then, NFL Drafts were held in-season.

The '66 draft was on Saturday, Nov. 27, 1965. The Cowboys were in Washington that weekend to play (and subsequently lost 34-31 to) the Redskins -- Sunday, Nov. 28.

"We conducted our draft that year from the DuPont Plaza," Brandt recalled. "But it ran so long that Tex and I never got to the game."

In '67, the NFL Draft was "shortened" to 17 rounds. The process was reduced to 12 rounds in '77, eight rounds in '93 and, finally, to seven rounds in '94 -- which it remains today.

Double-digit draft "finds" are a thing of the past now. But the Cowboys managed to get their fair share over the years:

ROGER STAUBACH (10th round in '64)

Double-digit draftee: Staubach became available to Dallas in the 10th round because of his yet-to-come, five-year military commitment. He joined the Cowboys in 1969.

Gil Brandt: "Roger spent R&R in Thousand Oaks. He probably did that for two or three years -- working out with the team. [When Staubach served in Vietnam] I sent him cases of footballs that he could use for practice. Roger was in places like Da Nang ... and I would get a letter from him saying, "A mortar shell hit 25 feet away and destroyed all the footballs. Can you send more?"

NFL No. 1 pick overall: WR Dave Parks (by the 49ers).

Cowboys' No. 1 pick: DB Mel Renfro (second round); Cowboys drafted Texas DT Scott Appleton in the first round but strictly on behalf of the Steelers, as part of the Buddy Dial trade.

JERRY RHOME (13th round in '64)

Double-digit draftee: Rhome transferred from SMU to Tulsa, where he finished as Heisman Trophy runner-up to Notre Dame¡¦s John Huarte. Rhome's ability was never in question. But it was a relatively small football program that his big arm helped turn around. Brandt: "Jerry's dad, Byron, worked for me. He was a football coach at [Dallas] Sunset High School. I'd use high school coaches as film-graders, so I was quite aware of Jerry."

NFL No. 1 pick overall: Parks (49ers).

Cowboys' No. 1 pick: DB Renfro (second round), a 10-time Pro Bowler for Dallas.

JETHRO PUGH (11th round in '65)

Double-digit draftee: Pugh came out of tiny Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University. He quickly made up for his lack of pedigree, leading the Cowboys in sacks five times (1968-72) during a 14-year career ¡X all in Dallas.

Brandt: "Jethro was only 20 years old when we drafted him. And I'll tell you what kind of kid he was. His first contract was for $14,000. He came to us and said, 'I'd like to start a savings account. Do you mind helping me do that?' So, we deferred $1,000 of his own money."

NFL No. 1 pick overall: Auburn RB Tucker Frederickson (Giants).

Cowboys' No. 1 pick: QB Craig Morton (sixth overall), who played 10 Cowboys seasons (1965-74).

LARRY COLE (16th round in '68)

Double-digit draftee: Cole transferred from the Air Force Academy to Hawaii following an academic scandal in Colorado Springs. He ended up being drafted 428th overall! He also played in five Super Bowls.

Brandt: "We followed Larry to Hawaii because he was just too good a player. He ended playing 13 years for us."

NFL No. 1 pick overall: USC OT Ron Yary (Vikings).

Cowboys' No. 1 pick: WR Dennis Homan (20th overall) briefly found ¡§pro stardom¡¨ with Birmingham of the World Football League ('74-75).

MARK WASHINGTON (13th round in '70)

Double-digit draftee: Washington came out of a storied black college -- Morgan State University. His 100-yard kickoff return as a rookie was a sneak preview. He had 13 INTs in a 10-year career.

Brandt: "Mark Washington was a good athlete. He was a Dick Mansperger guy [Mansperger was hired by the Cowboys as a black-college scout whose early finds included Pugh and Washington.

NFL No. 1 pick overall: Louisiana Tech QB Terry Bradshaw (Steelers).

Cowboys' No. 1 pick: RB Duane Thomas (23rd overall). Landry stepped outside the box to draft this guy, believing that his locker room was strong enough handle the recalcitrant Thomas -- a man of big yards and few words ... except when it came to calling Landry "plastic man."

HERB SCOTT (13th round in '75)

Double-digit draftee: Scott impressed Landry enough to make six-time Pro Bowler John Niland expendable. The latter was traded to Philadelphia for a third-round pick in '77 ¡X which turned out to be WR Tony Hill.

Brandt: "Coach Landry came into my office one day and said, 'I want to trade John Niland.' I laughed and said, 'You're kidding.' Coach Landry said, 'No, this guy Herb Scott is going to be a good player for us.' So, we traded John Niland."

NFL No. 1 pick overall: Cal QB Steve Bartkowski (Falcons).

Cowboys' No. 1 pick: DT Randy White (second overall) and LB Thomas ¡§Hollywood¡¨ Henderson (18th overall), co-first rounders who combined for six Super Bowl appearances.

DENNIS THURMAN (11th round in '78)

Double-digit draftee: Thurman racked up 36 INTs (four returned for TDs) in nine NFL seasons. But on Draft Day in ¡¦78, he was just another undersized player on the board.

Brandt: "Dennis [USC] wasn't real tall or real fast. But I got to know him quite well because was on my Playboy All-America Team two years in a row. I told him, 'We're going to draft you. It may not be until the 10th or 11th round ...but we're going to draft you.' A really high-class individual.

NFL No. 1 pick overall: Texas RB Earl Campbell (Oilers).

Cowboys' No. 1 pick: Larry Bethea (28th overall), a troubled defensive lineman who spent six seasons in Dallas.

CHAD HENNINGS (11th round in '88)

Double-digit draftee: Hennings, like Staubach, was a real-life patriot who faced a lengthy military commitment before he could join the NFL. That finally came in '92 -- the Cowboys' first Super Bowl season in 14 years. The wait was well worth it for Hennings, who ended up with three SB rings.

Brandt: "We gave him something like $25,000 to sign. We thought there was no way this guy would be able to stay in the Air Force at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. He was huge. We never thought he'd fit into the cockpit of an airplane."

NFL No. 1 pick overall: Auburn LB Audray Bruce (Falcons).

Cowboys' No. 1 pick: WR Michael Irvin (11th overall) became Landry's last No. 1 pick ... and the Cowboys' all-time leading receiver before a career-ending Oct. 10, 1999, neck injury.

LARRY BROWN (12th round in '91)

Double-digit draftee: This former Horned Frog joined a loaded draft class that produced Maryland, Harper, Erik Williams and Leon Lett. But only one from the Class of '91 -- CB Larry Brown -- turned out to be a Super Bowl MVP (XXX).

Note: This was the third Jimmy Johnson/Jerry Jones draft. Brandt had been swept out with the rest of the Landry/Schramm regime by then.

NFL No. 1 pick overall: Miami DT Russell Maryland (Cowboys).

Cowboys' No. 1 pick: Maryland (first overall) and WR Alvin Harper (12th overall) combined for five Super Bowl rings. Harper left the team after the '94 season.

Extra points

-- How many service academy winners of the Heisman Trophy have their been? Answer: Five. Army's Doc Blanchard (1945), Army's Glenn Davis (1946), Army's Pete Dawkins (1958), Navy's Joe Bellino (1960) and Staubach (1964).

-- How many service academy winners of the Outland Trophy have there been? Answer: Two. Army's Joe Steffy (1947) and Hennings (1987).

-- Will the NFL ever go back to double-digit draft rounds? Answer: No. Too many teams. The league hasn't had double-digit rounds since '92.

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