The 10 Greatest Running Backs in Dallas Cowboy’s History

The Dallas Cowboys have a long history of great running backs, starting with Don Perkins back in the 1960’s to modern day all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith, there has been no shortage of great runners who have worn the fabled Dallas star. Here then is a list of the top 10 running backs in Dallas Cowboy history.

1. Emmitt Smith (1990-2002):
If passing Walter Payton on the NFL’s all-time list isn’t enough to place Emmitt at the top of the heap, perhaps his three Super Bowl rings, or a mountain of both NFL and team rushing records are. Smith enjoyed a stellar career in Dallas, which saw the former Florida Gator gain over 17,000 yard rushing and score 164 total touchdowns for the team. Need we say more?

2. Tony Dorsett (1977-1987):
Before there was Smith in Dallas, there was a perennial Pro Bowler named Tony Dorsett. This former Heisman Trophy winner out of Pittsburgh came to Dallas as the second overall pick in the 1977 draft. After a rookie season that saw him gain 1,007 yards rushing and run for 12 touchdowns, Dorsett led the Cowboys to the Super Bowl, providing the running punched they had lacked upon their last visit in 1975. Dallas went on to win the Super Bowl, and Dorsett went on to gain over 12,000 yards on the ground for the Cowboys, making the Pro Bowl four times along the way.

3. Don Perkins (1961-1968):
Don Perkins was the first great runner the Cowboys ever had. A six time Pro Bowl player who gained 6,217 yards rushing during his illustrious career with the Cowboys, Perkins ranks 3rd on the team’s all-time rushing list. Having played before the Cowboys first Super Bowl appearance in 1970, Perkins has never received the acclamation he so richly deserves, though the team did enshrine him in the Ring of Honor in 1976.

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4. Herschel Walker (1986-1989, 1966-1997):
His career in Dallas was short, and aside from two magnificent Pro Bowl seasons (1987 and 1988), Walker’s greatest contribution to the team was the result of a trade. Walker’s trade value was so high when he was dealt to Minnesota, that this former USFL record holder netted Dallas enough players (five) and draft picks (six) in return, that the Cowboys were able to build the core of their 1990’s dynasty from it. Some of the top players to come out of the trade included Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland, Kevin Smith and Darren Woodson. No other player in Dallas history has had such an impact on the franchise.

5. Calvin Hill (1969-1974):
A standout out of Yale who’s probably better known now for his famous basketball playing son (Grant Hill), Calvin Hill broken in with a Pro Bowl season in 1969 and went on to play in two Super Bowls for Dallas. Hill finished in the top 10 in rushing from 1972-1974, and was versatile enough to catch passes out of the backfield, along with throwing a few of them for touchdowns himself. Hill was also the first Cowboy runner to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. In his brief six year career in Dallas, Calvin made the Pro Bowl 4 times.

6. Walt Garrison (1966-1974):
A cowboy’s Cowboy, this Oklahoma State running back was also a part of the rodeo circuit during his playing days. Known for his toughness, Garrison played in the 1973 Conference Title with a broken collar bone. Walt finished a nine year career with Dallas by amassing over 5,500 total yards. He also played in two Super Bowls for the Cowboys.

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7. Robert Newhouse (1972-1983):
Robert Newhouse thrived on second effort. This diminutive runner with the 32 inch thighs twisted and spun his way to over 5,000 total yards for the Dallas Cowboys, picking up the nickname, “The Human Bowling Ball” along the way. He went on to play on three Cowboy Super Bowls, winning a ring in 1977.

8. Daryl Johnstone (1988-1999)
Daryl “Moose” Johnstone belongs on this list. Sure he did not get a chance to run with the football all that much during the Emmitt Smith era, but he was part of the reason that the Cowboy’s ground game was so successful during Smith’s tenure. A fullback with great blocking ability, Johnstone was also a fine receiver out of the backfield and ended his career scoring 22 touchdowns for the Cowboys. Though a neck injury late in his career forced him out of football, Johnstone left with three Super Bowl rings and two Pro Bowl appearances.

9. Duane Thomas (1970-71)

Thomas was a brilliant running back in the early 70’s for Dallas. Drafted in the 1st round out of West Texas A&M;, he shared a crowded backfield with Calvin Hill and Walt Garrison. Still Thomas shone for the Cowboys racking up back-to-back seasons of over 750 yards rushing and scoring 11 touchdowns for the team in 1971. In the Super Bowl that year, Thomas led a Cowboy ground game that accounted for over 250 yards rushing, picking up 95 yards himself in the process. Labeled a misfit with an attitude problem, the Cowboys tried to trade him prior to the 1971 season, prompting Duane to go the season without speaking to teammates or coaches. Had he remained content in Dallas, we might be talking about one of the NFL’s all-time greats.

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10. Julius Jones (2004-Present)

A steal in the 2004 draft by Dallas, Jones has been the most exciting back of the post Emmitt Smith era. He had his first 1,000 yard season for the Cowboys in 2006, and is closing in on 3,000 yards rushing after 3 seasons of play. Though plagued with health issues since he came to Dallas, Jones is a legit breakaway threat with 4.4 speed in the 40. After gaining over 100 yards on the ground in the Cowboys 2006 playoff appearance, look for Jones to continue his success for the Cowboys in the coming years.