RIP to the late, great Walt Garrison.
Walt Garrison, Dallas Cowboys legend, dies at age 79
Walt Garrison was a throwback fullback who used to ride the rodeo circuit as soon as the Dallas Cowboys season ended. And later in his career, he gained fame as a national spokesman for Skoal.
So call Garrison the ultimate cowboy whether he was in season or not for the Dallas Cowboys or earlier, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, where he was a collegiate star. On Wednesday, he died at the age of 79. Pokes Report, which covers Oklahoma State, confirmed the news of his death. The site said Garrison had been residing in a memory care facilitiy in Weatherford, Texas, about a 30-minute drive from where his Cowboys play each Sunday.
News of Garrison’s death started breaking on social media late Wednesday and early Thursday morning. Tony Casillas, a former Dallas Cowboy turned media host, wrote: “This man was a true gentleman and Cowboy, his storytelling was magnificent!! RIP Walt Garrison.”
I used to come to my feet in excitement every time Garrison got his hands on the football back in the Cowboys’ 1970s heyday; in a time and place where absolutely everybody around me pulled for the hated Washington Redskins (now operating under their new name, the Washington Innocuous Whatevers, No Offense!), I was the most diehard of Cowboys fans. Walt Garrison; Bob Hayes; Bob Lilly; Mel Renfro; Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson”; Lance Rentzel; Herb Adderly; so many great names from those halcyon days of my youth.
For his part, Walt Garrison was not just a pro football Hall of Famer, he was also a real character to boot.
Garrison’s pro football career started before the NFL merger. So both the Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs drafted him in 1966. The Cowboys gave him a convertible and a horse trailer as his signing bonus. Garrison was a kick returner early on, then he moved up the running back depth chart. By 1971, Garrison even led the Super Bowl champions in receiving.
And you couldn’t keep him off the field. He played in the 1970 NFC title game against the 49ers with a cracked collarbone and a sprained ankle. Neither injury prevented him from carrying the ball 17 times for 71 yards.
Sports Illustrated used a photo of him for their 1972 preview cover. During that season, he needed 16 stitches to close the gash on his finger. He’d accidentally cut himself while whittling. Then after the season ended, Garrison played in the Pro Bowl, despite a cut on the face he sustained while steer wrestling days before.
Overall, he played nine seasons with the Cowboys, retiring as the team’s third all-time leading rusher (3,886 yards) and fourth-best receiver (1,794).
Garrison competed for the Oklahoma State rodeo team for a year before his pro football career started. Cowboys coach Tom Landry didn’t want him to compete during the season. But Landry said yes to off-season events.
Eventually, the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame inducted Garrison. Marty Garrison, Walt’s son, told the organization:
“His first love was rodeo, no doubt, ever since he was really young,” Marty said of his dad. “That’s what he would have done had he not played football in college and then got drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. His whole life, his love was rodeo.”
They just aren’t making ‘em like good old No 32 anymore, and that’s a damnable shame. Rest ye well, Walt Garrison. Let the witty words of another Cowboys icon, Dandy Don Meredith, stand as a sort of epitaph:
The Texas quote of the day features the legendary Don Meredith talking about the equally legendary Walt Garrison’s dependablity:
“If it was 3rd down, & you needed 4 yards, Walt would get you 5. If it was 3rd down & 20, by God, Walt would get you 5!”
—— Don Meredith talks… pic.twitter.com/8RXzKJiy2L
— Traces of Texas (@TracesofTexas)
Update! A Dallas fan of my advanced years would be totally remiss not to include another unforgettable image from the Aulden Thymes:
Not a taped-down penis to be found amongst those winsome lasses, which would surely not be the case nowadays.