December 06, 2010
Don Meredith, the man who was instrumental in the building of two great NFL traditions, died on Sunday at the age of 72.
The former quarterback was the first true star of America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys, and then became a full-fledged national star when he joined a fledgling "Monday Night Football" broadcast in 1970.
Meredith's wife said her husband suffered a brain hemorrhage and slipped into a coma. She and her daughter were at Meredith's side when he died.
Dandy Don, as he was known throughout his two careers, was drafted in the third-round of the 1960 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears, but was traded to the expansion Dallas Cowboys for draft picks. In 1965, he won the team's starting quarterback job and led the team to its first winning season the year after. He was eventually named NFL Player of the Year. In both 1966 and 1967, Meredith and the Cowboys advanced to the NFL Championship Game but would lose to Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers. The latter year was the infamous Ice Bowl game, in which game-time temperatures hit minus-13 degrees. Meredith would say later that he thought the game wasn't a fair representation of football due to the extreme temperatures.
In 1969, Meredith unexpectedly retired at the age of 31. In his final game for the Cowboys, he threw three interceptions in a playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns. His surprising announcement came just as former Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach was finishing his service in the Navy, a fact many believed was no coincidence. Staubach would share duties with Craig Morton the following year before taking over the Cowboys and going on to have a Hall of Fame career.
Meredith (right) would go on to join the "Monday Night Football" booth with Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford. The Texan's folsky manner and playful relationship with the abrasive Cosell would make him a fan favorite. His singing of Willie Nelson's "Turn Out the Lights" whenever a game's result appeared to be decided was his trademark. (Listen here.)
[Related: Sad passing of another baseball legend]
"Don Meredith was a Dallas Cowboys original. His wit, charm and strength of personality were matched only by his wonderful leadership, toughness and athletic skill," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. "His persona defined the Cowboys of the 1960s and set the course for what the franchise became. Throughout 50 years of history, the Cowboys legacy has been built by dynamic and colorful personalities who could also compete at the highest level. No one fit that description better than Don Meredith."
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