Even though Phil Dawson has become the face of the Browns as their longest-tenured player during the expansion era, he will always have a special place in his heart for his first love — the Dallas Cowboys.
Dawson, the Browns’ reliable kicker, grew up a die-hard football fan in Dallas. In the mid-to-late 1980s, Dawson’s father received Cowboys season tickets for a few years in exchange for his services as an accountant. The father-son duo attended virtually every home game when Dawson was in middle school. They were at legendary coach Tom Landry’s final game in 1988 at the old Texas Stadium.
“I can remember taking history books and having to do my homework and claiming I was doing it because I took my book with me,” Dawson said Wednesday after practice. “I have some very good memories. I learned the game of football from my dad and a lot of that was sitting there watching Cowboy games. He taught me a few things and helped me look at things and explain things. Those were some good memories.”
Dawson, 37, is eager for his homecoming Sunday, when the Browns (2-7) visit the Cowboys (4-5). It will be the Browns’ first appearance at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, which opened in 2009, and Dawson hopes the retractable roof is closed so he can play in favorable kicking conditions. Since the Browns’ rebirth in 1999, the only time they have played the Cowboys on the road was in 2004.
“It’s fun to share it with family and friends and go back to my hometown,” said Dawson, whose wife, Shannon; sons, Dru and Beau; and daughter, Sophiann, live in Austin, Texas. “I know they’ll all enjoy it, which makes it special for me. But I’m going down on a work trip. I have plenty of time in the offseason to enjoy friends and family and the environment and the cuisine and the whole deal. But when I get off the airplane, it’s all business, and I’ve got a job to do.”
Dawson’s job this week has included playing the role of a ticket agent. He expects more than 30 friends and relatives to attend the game.
“[The list is] growing each and every day,” he said. “I’m about to close down the ticket office. I can’t afford many more.”
Dawson’s family has strong allegiances to the Cowboys. His son, Dru, is not an exception.
“My son, Dru, has a Cowboys room,” Dawson said. “His bedroom is blue, all the Fathead stuff all over the walls. He’s got the star [logo], the NFL emblem. He’s got the stadium. I don’t know if he has any of the players. He has the mural-type stuff all over the place. And then there’s obviously Browns helmets.”
The setting isn’t unlike that of the bedroom Dawson had as a youngster.
“I had a Doomsday Defense poster on my wall,” Dawson said. “I’m kind of dating myself. Obviously, my high school years were the dynasty with the three Super Bowls. I was pretty spoiled as a football fan.”
Dawson was a huge fan of special-teams standout and safety Bill Bates, who played for the Cowboys from 1983-96.
“I loved Bill Bates,” Dawson said. “I didn’t know I’d wind up being a special-teams guy, but I always kind of pulled for the underdog and he was an undrafted guy that was supposed to be too small and too slow but played forever down there, was just a special-teams ace and even when he got in on defense, he did a tremendous job. I’ve always pulled for guys like that.”
When Dawson was an offensive tackle and kicker for Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, he even tried to adopt the style of his favorite player.
“I can remember playing in high school and everyone wanting to look like Bill Bates — the neck roll and the gloves and the wrist bands and the towel, all that stuff,” Dawson said. “… Football is king down there. Unless you grow up in Houston, the rest of the state is Cowboys, and that’s all you did was follow the Cowboys.”
Dawson, of course, won’t be cheering for the Cowboys this weekend. He has made 23 consecutive field goals dating to last season and hopes to keep the streak alive at the expense of his hometown team.
“We’re off to a good start,” Dawson said of his streak. “I certainly don’t want to diminish that, but there’s still seven games to go. So I could screw this whole thing up pretty quick. I like where I am right now, but I’m only as good as my next kick, and the last thing I want to do is to go home to my hometown and poop the bed, so to speak.”
Photo courtesy: Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Jesse Holley (16) hangs on to the ball … and his position with the ‘boys special teams.
IRVING, Texas — Following Sunday’s victory over the Buffalo Bills, Cowboys wide receiver/special teamer Jesse Holley was asked about his status with the team. For weeks the Cowboys needed to juggle their roster due to injuries and it appeared Holley might get released.
After catching a 77-yard pass in overtime in the Week 3 victory over San Francisco, Holley has disappeared. He has a total of four catches, including a 25-yarder in the first quarter on Sunday, on the season.
Holley doesn’t worry about the lack of offensive snaps. He’s a punt protector and is among the team leaders on special teams.
“It’s part of the game and you just … I don’t control that,” Holley said. “I can control what I can control and I can keep coming out there with my head down working hard every day in practice doing everything I got to do. They keep trying to find a way to cut me and it ain’t happened yet.”
The Cowboys still value Holley in some fashion or he wouldn’t be here. He can’t return kicks yet has improved as a receiver but not enough where the Cowboys use him on a regular basis.
Special teams is where he makes his living. Holley said he’s inspired by Bill Bates, a long-time special teams ace for the Cowboys in the 1980s and ’90s.
“Bill Bates, 15 years, that’s all I got to say about that,” Holley said. “They tried to cut Bill Bates for 10 years, 12 years. What the hell? Bill Bates 15 years. I can play 10.”
Today the Cowboys will induct Larry Allen, Charles Haley and Drew Pearson into the Ring of Honor. It’s the first time the Cowboys have conducted such an event since the Triplets in 2005.
With that we look at ten players who might be next for the Jerry Jones committee of one to consider.
Harvey Martin.No name resonates more with former Cowboys players than this man. He led the Cowboys in sacks seven times, is the unofficial franchise leader with 114 and holds the single-season mark of 23 sacks in the 1977 season. Before there was Charles Haley and DeMarcus Ware, Martin along with Randy White and Bob Lilly set the standard for pass rushers in franchise history.
Bill Bates.A special teams ace and despite making just one Pro Bowl, 1984, he was a beloved figure in Cowboys lore. When you think of outstanding special teams players in Cowboys history, Bates’ name comes up first. Nobody was better on a unit the causal fan knew nothing about.
Darren Woodson. A three-time All Pro, a five-time Pro Bowler won three Super Bowl titles. He was a talented safety who not only covered tight ends but wide receivers. His presence is still felt at Valley Ranch, because the Cowboys have not replaced him and his signature is inside a locker of former safety Roy Williams, that’s now the home of cornerback Terence Newman.
Everson Walls. He led the Cowboys in interceptions five times, is second all-time in franchise history with 44 and still holds the single-season record with 11 picks in 1981. The 11 picks is also the franchise record for a rookie. It would be nice if Walls gets in with Martin, another Dallas native.
Jimmy Johnson. The second coach in Cowboys history rebuilt the franchise and won two Super Bowl titles and the third one, XXX in 1995 was with Barry Switzer, but it was Johnson’s team. The ending was bad, but there’s no denying what Johnson meant to the franchise.
Charlie Waters. A three-time Pro Bowler at strong safety, Waters started 22 of 25 playoff games. He was a fierce hitter who gets lost because we talk so much about Cliff Harris. Waters is considered one of the top safeties in Cowboys history.
Deion Sanders.He made his mark with Atlanta, yet, Sanders was a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All Pro and of course won one title with the Cowboys. Sanders holds the career mark for punt return average at 13.3. He was the first big money free agency signed by the Cowboys and he was a playmaker on defense and special teams.
Daryl Johnston. When Emmitt Smith broke the all-time rushing mark, he hugged this man. Johnston didn’t miss a game from 1992-to-1995. Johnston is one of the best fullbacks in franchise history, and his blocks paved the way for Smith to get a bulk of his yardage.
Danny White. The third-round pick from Arizona State, made only one Pro Bowl, and he had just one losing season in the years he started, 1987 where he compiled a 3-6 mark at age 35. He took the Cowboys to three NFC title games, never advancing to the Super Bowl. White is second in completions in franchise history at 1,761.
Mark Stepnoski.A five-time Pro Bowler who won three titles. But here’s a little known fact: He was named to the second-team of the 1990s All-Decade team. Stepnoski was a solid player during his era, not only with the Cowboys but in the NFL as well.