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NFL HBCU Alumni Series: Dallas Cowboys

By Steven J. Gaither

Most football fans know that the Dallas Cowboys are one of the NFL’s most storied pro football franchises. What many people don’t know is that the team owes much of its success to finding players from the HBCU ranks. Here is a list of the greatest Dallas Cowboys from historically black colleges.

Honorable Mention:

(Dallas News Photo)



Justin Durant, Hampton:

Durant has only played in fourteen games with the Cowboys, but he’s starting to catch his stride. The former Hampton star and second round pick came up huge in the team’s win against Seattle, recording nine tackles and breaking up one pass.

If he stays healthy, look for him to climb up this list.


Timmy Newsome, Winston-Salem State:

Newsome had the misfortune of playing for Dallas in between dynasties.

(Spokeo.com photo)



Jethro Pugh, Elizabeth City State

Pugh was a two-time All-CIAA defensive end at ECSU, leading Dallas to select him in the 11th round of the 1965 NFL Draft. Though best known for letting Bart Starr get past him in the Ice Bowl, Pugh was a solid defensive end, unofficially credited for 95.5 sacks.

(MSNBC photo)

Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, Langston 

Henderson would definitely rank higher on this list, if drugs hadn’t derailed his career. He managed to get picked in the first round despite coming from a small HBCU in Oklahoma that played in the NAIA, which should tell you something. He helped Dallas to three Super Bowls in five seasons, including a win in Super Bowl XII.

5. Nate Newton, FAMU

After turning down offers from bigger schools, Newton became a force as an offensive tackle in the second half of his college career. Despite going undrafted, he would play 16 seasons of pro football, most memorably with the Cowboys in the 90s.

4. Everson Walls, Grambling

Walls spent much of his early career having to prove he belonged. He started out at Grambling as a walk-on, and eventually to an All-American, picking off 11 passes as a senior. A slow 40 yard dash time kept him from getting drafted.

Like Newsome, he played in between dynasties, so he’s been forgotten by many fans. Despite that, the four-time Pro Bowler left his mark on the NFL, finishing his career with 57 interceptions in a much more conservative passing era.

3. Ed “Too Tall” Jones

Originally a hoops player at Tennessee State, Jones eventually found his calling as a dominant defensive end. The Cowboys picked Jones first overall in 1974, the first time a player from an HBCU had ever been selected as the league’s top overall pick.

Jones would show why he was so highly picked over the next decade and a half in the league. Jones was a three-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection, and helped Dallas win Super Bowl XII. Despite an unnofficial sack total of 106 (the stat wasn’t kept for the first part of Jones’ career), Jones has yet to make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was, however, recognized by the Black College Football Hall of Fame.


2. Bob Hayes, FAMU 

Before Emmitt Smith made the Cowboys no. 22 a staple of 1990s jerseys, another Floridian had already put up big numbers in it. In fact, the case can be made that Smith should have never worn the jersey as it could have easily been retired by the time Smith joined the club in 1990.

Hayes was already world-famous when Dallas drafted him in the seventh round of the 1964 Draft. Hayes set the world record in the 100 yard dash, and then broke it, while he was still enrolled at FAMU.

A running back in Jake Gaither’s offense, Hayes made the transition to NFL receiver with ease, earning Pro Bowl nods in his first three seasons. He would help Dallas win two NFC Championships as well as Super Bowl VI. Hayes would eventually find his way to the Hall of Fame, as he was selected in 2009, nearly seven years after his death.


1. Rayfield Wright, Fort Valley State

One of the most physically gifted athletes of his time, Wright played defensive end, tight end, free safety and even punted during his time at Fort Valley. The Cowboys drafted him in the seventh round and used him on both sides of the ball before making him a tackle full-time. The rest is history as Wright is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

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