The 300: #29 Tony Dorsett

For our 29th entry in this list we pick a true NFL legend, one of the first stars of the game when it began being televised in the UK.

 

NFL CAREER

Dallas Cowboys (1977-1987)

Denver Broncos (1988)

 

POSITION

Running Back

 

WHY IS HE IMPORTANT?

The simplest way to describe Tony Dorsett is that he was a mould-breaker. Despite a stellar college career, many scouts thought him too small to play in the NFL. Dorsett proved them wrong. Drafted players were supposed to play where they were told. Dorsett proved them wrong. Running backs were supposed to run the plays called for them. Dorsett proved them wrong.

Not that one should characterise him as a rebel, because he wasn’t. He was just a player who knew his own game and knew what he wanted from it. He was one of the first college players to bluntly tell a franchise that he wasn’t going to play for them. As a result, Seattle (for it was they) traded out of second place in the 1997 Draft and allowed Dallas to pick up a player that a lot of other teams were not interested in anyway, on account of his size. Once in Dallas, coach Tom Landry designed plays to open precise gaps for him, but Dorsett disdained them, preferring to pick his own holes – and eventually Landry relented and simply instructed his offensive linemen to block anyone they could and relied upon Dorsett to pick his own running lines.

This, of course, is something that Dorsett was brilliant at. His ability to break tackles and make yards after the tackle was remarkable for a player so (comparatively small). His 99 yard touchdown run against the Vikings in 1983 remains a record for a rushing touchdown. In total he amassed over 12,000 rushing yards during a career in which he played ten seasons in Dallas and one – at the age of 34 – in Denver. He was also one of the biggest stars of the game at the time when it first began being televised regularly in the UK, thus making him a name on both sides of the Atlantic. He retired after suffering a serious knee ligament injury during training camp in 1989 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994.

Richard O’Hagan

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Richard O'Hagan
Writer on such diverse topics as sport, music, theatre, law and politics. Author of 'Eddie the Sheep'. Supporter of underachieving teams, including the Chicago Bears from before that brief, heady, period in the mid-1980s when they were actually any good. All I want for Christmas is a Jim McMahon away shirt.
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    For our 29th entry in this list we pick a true NFL legend, one of the first stars of the game when it began being televised in the UK.   NFL CARE
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