Ezekiel Elliott didn’t have time to get settled into Valley Ranch. But four players, including Tony Romo and Jason Witten, have spent more than a decade at the team’s practice facility.
Valley Ranch served as a second home to many Cowboys the past 31 years.
Jason Garrett spent hours there in his almost two decades as a player and coach for the Cowboys. He shared the practice fields with Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Charles Haley and Deion Sanders, and he moved into Tom Landry’s old office in 2011 when Jerry Jones named Garrett the full-time head coach.
After so many memories, both good and bad, the Cowboys bid Irving good-bye this week.
“I have such fond memories of being a player on some great teams and seeing some amazing players treating this practice field like it’s a game field,” Garrett said. “The competition they had between each other, the competition between the offense and the defense was just off the charts. It was the highest level.
“I can remember being on this practice field with Michael Irvin, by ourselves on hot July days when no one else was around and he has a weighted vest on. He has a weighted girdle on. He’s got his shoulder pads; he’s got his helmet; he’s got his Walter Payton mouthpiece in; and he’s running route after route after route.”
The Cowboys host a mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday, their last official event at the practice facility. Then, they go on vacation until training camp begins in July.
When they return to Texas in August, the Cowboys will settle into The Star in Frisco.
But the Cowboys leave Valley Ranch with mixed emotions.
“I know I’m going to miss it, I’ll tell you that,” receiver Dez Bryant said. “I’m going to miss it. But I’m also looking forward to seeing that beautiful thing out in Frisco.”
The team’s new $1.5 billion training complex includes a 12,000-seat practice facility.
The Cowboys have not had an indoor practice facility since their practice bubble collapsed in a severe thunderstorm May 2, 2009, during a rookie mini-camp. Twelve people were hospitalized, including scouting assistant Rich Behm, who was paralyzed from the waist down.
With no indoor facility, the Cowboys moved 16 in-season practices to five different indoor facilities the past seven seasons because of weather.
Other memorable events included:
▪ Danny White, Randy White, Tony Dorsett and Ed “Too Tall” Jones crossing the picket line during the 1987 strike as Everson Walls, the team’s union representative, paced the sidewalk outside the entrance.
▪ Jerry Jones conducting a news conference after his purchase of the Cowboys for $140 million in 1989. He declared himself the boss of everything from “socks to jocks,” the first of many unforgettable quotes from the Arkansas billionaire.
▪ Larry Allen bench pressing 700 pounds during the off-season in 2001. Garrett remembers the bar “bending.”
▪ Antonio Bryant, angry at his lack of reps as the No. 3 receiver, tossing his jersey in the face of coach Bill Parcells during off-season workouts in 2004.
The Cowboys won three Super Bowls while training at Valley Ranch.
Two Hall of Fame coaches — Landry and Parcells — and another Hall of Fame coach candidate — Jimmy Johnson — worked at Valley Ranch. Eight current Hall of Famers trained there.
“It’s sad in some ways because you know the history of Valley Ranch,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “You walk in and you see the Super Bowl signs on your left, and you know all the greats worked here, all the Super Bowl champions. It’s a great place. We’ve put a lot of great work in. I’m sure the [new] place will be beautiful, probably a little bit nicer than here, but there’s something about this place that’s special.”
Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean
Dallas Cowboys schedule
Saturday, Aug. 13 at Los Angeles Rams, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Friday, Aug. 19 vs. Miami, 7 p.m., (KTVT/11)
Thursday, Aug. 25 at Seattle, 9 p.m. (KTVT/11)
Thursday, Sept. 1 vs. Houston, 7 p.m. (KTVT/11)
Sunday, Sept. 11 vs. New York Giants, 3:25 p.m. (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Sept. 18 at Washington, Noon, (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Sept. 25 vs. Chicago, 7:30 p.m. (KXAS/5)
Sunday, Oct. 2 at San Francisco, 3:25 p.m. (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Oct. 9 vs. Cincinnati, 3:25 p.m. (KTVT/11)
Sunday, Oct. 16 at Green Bay, 3:25 p.m. (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Oct. 23 Bye
Sunday, Oct. 30 vs. Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m. (KXAS/5)
Sunday, Nov. 6 at Cleveland, Noon, (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Nov. 13 at Pittsburgh, 3:25 p.m. (KDFW/4)
Sunday, Nov. 20 vs. Baltimore, Noon (KTVT/11)
Thursday, Nov. 24 vs. Washington, 3:30 p.m. (KDFW/4)
Thursday, Dec. 1 at Minnesota, 7:25 p.m. (KXAS/5, NFL Network and Twitter)
Sunday, Dec. 11 at New York Giants, 7:30 p.m. (KXAS/5)
Sunday, Dec. 18 vs. Tampa Bay, Noon, (KDFW/4)
Monday, Dec. 26 vs. Detroit, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday, Jan. 1 at Philadelphia, Noon (KDFW/4)