Sunday, January 16, 2011

Texas Tidbits: Two Words: Dandy Don

Jeff and Hazel's Baby Boy
On December 5, 2010, a one-of-a-kind man died in New Mexico. He was one of the most famous and well-liked sports figures in Texas History. He wasn't a bad quarterback either. I wanted to pay tribute to this man as the NFL is in the Stretch Run to the Super Bowl. This man loved the Big Stage and the Super Bowl is the biggest of them all. Sadly, Don Meredith never played in a Super Bowl, and in my opinion, one of the best QB's in NFL history to have missed out on the honor.

Joseph Don Meredith was born April 5, 1938 in Mount Vernon, Texas to Jeff and Hazel Meredith. He often called himself  "Jeff and Hazel's baby boy". Dandy Don was a star quarterback at Mount Vernon High School and was heavily recruited by colleges from all over Texas, including Texas A&M whose coach at the time was the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant. Meredith turned down the Aggies to play college ball at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. At SMU, Dandy Don was a two-time All American, led the Southwest Conference in passing completion percentage for three straight years and his Number 17 jersey was retired in 2008.

After completing his college eligibility, Meredith went on to the NFL and played for the Dallas Cowboys. It was with the Cowboys that Dandy Don became a star. I remember when he and Bullet Bob Hayes were the most-feared pass-catch duo in the National Football League, "The Bomb" being their signature play. I have never been a Cowboys fan, but I have always had great respect for Don Meredith. Here was a guy that even the stoic Tom Landry called Meredith the toughest player he ever coached. Need I remind you that over a 29 year career as Head Coach of the Cowboys, Landry coached players like Randy White, Bob Lilly, Walt Garrison and Harvey Martin? But Dandy Don was the Toughest Cowboy. Meredith was a 3-time Pro Bowler back when it meant something, NFL Player of the Year in 1966 and always had the Cowboys in position to play for the NFL Championship. Dallas never won the title under Meredith because of one small factor - the Green Bay Packers. Those Packers teams are ranked amongst the greatest in the history of the NFL. Nobody was going  beat them at that time, yet  Dandy Don had the Cowboys on the brink of the Championship against the Packers year after year. Meredith quarterbacked the Cowboys in one of the greatest games ever played in the NFL - The 1967 Ice Bowl against Green Bay. that was one helluva football game. Ask any old guy about it, he'll tell you.

Don Meredith retired suddenly from the NFL after the 1968 season a man without a title, but a man with the respect of his coach, teammates, opponents and fans. "Number 17 on your program, but Number 1 in you hearts", as he was prone to say, went on to stardom as the comic foil to Howard Cosell's asshole announcer guy persona on Monday Night Football. When the outcome of the game had been all but determined, Meredith did his best Willie Nelson impression with this little diddy. The Danderoo, as he was called by Cosell, was one of the best sports announcers ever as far as I am concerned. His knowledge of the game, his wit and his comedic timing were second to none. For some eamples hit up this YouTube Page. It's good stuff as only Dandy Don could do it.

I've already made this post way longer than I had intended and I could go on for a while yet, but I think you understand the kind of man and athlete that Joseph Don Meredith was. Rest in Peace, Danderoo. "Turn out the lights, the party's over, they say that all good things must end........"

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