Lucky for me, one of my last plays with the Cowboys was one for the books. It took place in the Minneapolis Metrodome, my hometown, in full view of my parents, buddies, and neighbors.
I started the second half with the kickoff return team, but our returner fumbled the ball. We recovered on the goal line, the worst possible starting position. As I trotted off the field, the offense came on, showing their disappointment in our execution. Just as I hit the sideline, my line coach, with his bloodshot eyes and wad of gum protruding from his lower lip, barked for me to fill the right guard position. Meanwhile, the regular starter fiddled with his shoe, trying to shove it back on.
It was an out of body experience standing in the huddle with guys like Drew Pearson who five years earlier caught a fifty-yard touchdown pass coined the “Hail Mary” to beat the Minnesota Vikings during the playoffs. I remembered the game like it was yesterday. I was in tenth grade at the time, freezing in the stands, and now we were slapping five in the huddle. I was one lucky guy. And standing across from me was Tony Dorsett who everyone idolized. He was one of the best running backs in the NFL and my fricking teammate.
I took it all in as the youngest one in the huddle. Meanwhile, the veterans stayed loose and chatted like it was just another day at the office. Beyond discussing game tactics, they mentioned how glad they were to play indoors on this January third night in Minneapolis. These Dallas boys were not fans of the cold, and I couldn't blame them. Other teammates pointed to friends and hotties in the stands. I took a moment to scan for my family and friends. I found them, eyes glued to us, and I flashed a thumbs up with my insides screaming, can you believe my luck? It was the greatest body-wide flood of goosebumps that I ever experienced.
Our quarterback, Danny White, got us organized in the back of the end zone and called the play. As I took my position, the pressure mounted to execute my new assignment flawlessly against my all-pro-opponent, Doug Martin. I was in the big time, with my teammates depending on the other four linemen and me to help get us out of this hole. The play was called for Tony Dorsett to run straight up the gut to secure us some breathing room.
At the snap of the ball, I came off the line with so much pent-up energy that I exploded into Doug like a grenade. To my surprise, I managed to wall him off as Tony’s feet flew by me. I clambered to get up, but he was long gone, through the middle and then cutting right up the sideline for ninety-nine and a half yards: the longest run in NFL history.
We all danced in the end zone and trotted off the field after what would be my only offensive play of the game. How lucky was I? Tony’s shoes, the ball, and video coverage went directly into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.