Don Perkins, a star running back during the Dallas Cowboys’ first decade, died Thursday, the NFL team announced. He was 84.
No cause of death was given, USA Today reported.
Perkins was “arguably the first greatest running back” for the franchise, the Cowboys said in a statement.
Born March 4, 1938, in Waterloo, Iowa, Perkins played on three playoff teams and was the fullback in the famed “Ice Bowl” 1967 NFL Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Perkins played for the Cowboys from 1961 to 1968 and was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1961, ESPN reported. He rushed for 6,217 career yards with 42 touchdowns, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. Those numbers place him fourth in franchise history, according to ESPN.
He also made the Pro Bowl six times.
He was inducted into the Cowboys’ ring of honor in 1976, along with quarterback Don Meredith, the Morning News reported.
Perkins played football for the University of New Mexico in the late 1950s, KRQE-TV reported. He was a three-time All-Skyline selection and was an All-America selection in 1959. He led the nation in kickoff returns in 1958 and his No. 43 was retired by the school, according to the television station.
“I am just proud to have known him and him being a great Lobo, it’s really cool that he played and was a great player here, and then got to become a well-known great player in the NFL,” New Mexico football coach Danny Gonzales told KRQE. “I am proud of that and I am constantly reminding our guys of the great ones that have came through here.”
Perkins was a ninth-round pick of Baltimore in 1960 but never played for the Colts, the Morning News reported. Before the NFL draft, Perkins signed a personal-services contract to play for the Cowboys.
The NFL ruled that because the Cowboys were admitted too late as an expansion team to participate in the draft, it would allow Perkins to remain with Dallas. The Colts were compensated with a ninth-round pick, according to the Morning News.
Despite missing the 1960 season with a broken foot, Perkins was named to the Pro Bowl in his first three NFL seasons, scoring 18 touchdowns, according to Pro-Football-Reference. He was named to the All-Pro team in 1962.
Perkins’ death is another blow to the Cowboys, who have lost several former players and coaches. That includes Hall of Fame offensive tackle Rayfield Wright, offensive tackle Ralph Neely, running back Marion Barber III, and former halfback and assistant coach Dan Reeves, who also was a head coach for the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons.
Scouting director Larry Lacewell, running backs coach Gary Brown also died this year, ESPN reported.
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