Dallas Cowboys remember special season

FRISCO -- An assembly of who's who of Dallas-Fort Worth sports royalty gathered at the Westin Stonebriar resort to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Dallas Cowboys' Super Bowl XXVII victory, a triumph that made the franchise king again.

It would be hard to find anyone who would argue the Pro Football Hall of Fame credentials of that Cowboys era's royalty -- quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin.

Likewise, no one would argue with Erik Williams that there is a glaring omission of a unit described by even the neutral observer as great, if not the greatest ... ever.

"Not one of us is in the Hall of Fame," said Williams, a right tackle, of his offensive line teammates Mark Tuinei, Nate Newton, Mark Stepnoski and Kevin Gogan, who helped make Emmitt Smith the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

"We were the best line of the 1990s. Period. One of the best lines in the history of the NFL. Not one is in the Hall of Fame. There is something wrong with that picture."

Many of 1992's teammates were part of a full ballroom for dinner and a 20-year reunion that doubled as a fundraiser for the Pat and Emmitt Smith Charities, which sponsored the event.

Among those also in attendance were former professional athletes near and wide, including fellow Hall of Fame running backs Marcus Allen, Eric Dickerson and Floyd Little. Marshall Faulk and Tim Brown and Cowboys of another golden era, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Preston Pearson and Drew Pearson, were also in attendance.

Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry and former Maverick Michael Finley also dined with the team, as did former baseball stars Vince Coleman and Kenny Lofton.

They were all there to honor the Cowboys' 52-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., the first of three Super Bowl victories in four years. It was the start of a dynasty that some say was the greatest of all time, while others say it fell short of its potential.

"To me what made [the 1992 Cowboys] unique was the camaraderie and chemistry," said Daryl "Moose" Johnston, a fullback on that team. "A lot of people talk about a football team being family, but it's really hard to create in the locker room.

"When we got into tough times, we knew each other so well and had each other's back. And a tremendous amount of respect for each other."

The Cowboys finished 16-3 that season in a league that had two teams in Los Angeles and in which the Houston franchise was still called the Oilers.

The line wasn't the only unit underappreciated.

The defense, which joined the 1984 Bears and the 1991 Eagles as the only teams since 1980 to hold opponents to fewer than 4,000 yards in a 16-game season, finished first in total defense despite not sending one player to the Pro Bowl.

Depth in the defensive front, Chad Hennings said, "allowed us to bring the heat down after down after down."

On offense, it all started with the running game and Emmitt Smith, who behind the play of the line rushed for an NFL-leading 1,713 yards and 18 touchdowns.

"Our offense became more powerful because of the defensive front we were practicing against," Smith said.

"We could go into six-minute offense -- that's run the ball -- knowing the defense was going to be geared for it. But I knew when we were ahead within six minutes, they were going to give me the ball."

Coaches had a reason to be confident the offense could move the ball and churn the clock, Aikman said.

"That's why we were able to finish games," said Aikman, the Super Bowl XXVII MPV who was 22 for 30 passing for 273 yards and four touchdowns, including two to Irvin.

"It was the guys up front."

They were the epitome of the blue-collar work ethic emblematic of the 1992 Cowboys, Hennings said.

That line combined to be selected to 20 Pro Bowls over the course of their careers. Gogan and Stepnoski each eventually left for other teams in free agency.

Tuinei and Newton were selected All-Pro twice each. Williams, who played for the Cowboys from 1991-2000 and 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens, was a three-time All-Pro player.

"It was awesome blocking for Emmitt Smith," said Williams, 43, whose NFL battle scars include hip replacement surgery, which necessitates a cane for the time being. "I just feel so fortunate for God to put me in that position on an offensive line that was that great.

"We had a heckuva offensive line."

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