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Memory Lane: Cowboys greats Dorsett, White join Pro Football Hall of Fame

26 years ago, the Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed two Dallas Cowboys legends to Canton, Ohio when Tony Dorsett and Randy White were inducted.
Tony Dorsett, right, hugs former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry after his introduction at the Football Hall of Fame, July 30, 1994, Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

DALLAS — 1994 was a Cowboy year at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

On this date 26 years ago, running back Tony Dorsett and defensive lineman Randy White were inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of a six-man class. If one were to count tight end Jackie Smith, technically, the Dallas Cowboys could claim half of the inductees. All three were teammates on the 1978 squad, which lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII.

Unlike Smith, who was a former St. Louis Cardinal who spent the final year of his career in Dallas, Dorsett played every one of his 12 seasons with the Cowboys except his last, which he finished up with the Denver Broncos playing for former position coach, Dan Reeves.

Dorsett was part of president and general manager Tex Schramm's wheeling and dealing with draft picks that helped the Cowboys acquire top-flight talent in an era where draft picks weren't that valued and scouting was more about eyeballs and intuition, not data sets and analytics, which the Cowboys pioneered. Dallas traded with the Seattle Seahawks in 1977 to take the former Heisman Trophy winner second overall.

The former Pitt Panther was the missing piece for the Cowboys running game, which had been searching for answers since Calvin Hill left in a contract dispute at the end of the 1974 season. Dorsett produced 1,007 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. With quarterback Roger Staubach having a dynamic rookie in the backfield, along with a trio of playmaking wideouts in Drew Pearson, Golden Richards, and Butch Johnson, the Cowboys finished 12-2 and stormed through the NFC playoffs to face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII for the NFL's first Big Game indoors.

Though the Superdome was the site of Dorsett's Sugar Bowl win with Pitt the year prior, it would be White's stage to showcase his "Manster" talents preying on Broncos quarterback Craig Morton. In an interesting twist of fate, the first-round pick the New York Giants traded to the Cowboys for Morton ended up maturing into the second overall pick needed to take White as the first of the "Dirty Dozen" in the 1975 NFL Draft.

Coach Tom Landry initially had White playing middle linebacker in his patented Flex 4-3 defense the first two seasons of his career. In 1977, Landry moved White inside as a down lineman, where he earned Super Bowl MVP honors alongside teammate, defensive end Harvey Martin. It is still the only time in Super Bowl history that there have been co-MVPs.

"For me, I spent two years trying to get that middle linebacker spot down and I never did," White said. "But that was basically because the pass coverage was a little bit different than a conventional 4-3 type of defense. If we played a conventional 4-3, I probably would have been able to play that. But the Flex went against your instincts sometimes, not only in the passing game but in the running game.”

"So, for me, when I moved onto the defensive line, all of the knowledge that I gained from knowing the scheme of the defense really helped me in playing and gave me more freedom in playing at that defensive tackle spot just because I knew when I could get away with certain things and when I couldn't. So, that knowledge I gained gave me a certain confidence."

Dorsett and White were part of an era of Cowboys dominance that is best encapsulated in the 20 consecutive winning seasons from 1966-85. The two were on the back end as the win in Super Bowl XII came early in their careers, but Dallas managed to qualify for the playoffs in seven of the next eight seasons and play in four of the next eight NFC Championship Games.

One of the kinks that had to be worked through early in the Jerry Jones era was the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor. Dorsett and White should have already been inducted, but it took their induction into the Hall of Fame to give Jones the big clue they needed to be enshrined at Texas Stadium. On Oct. 9, 1994, Dorsett and White were inducted into the Ring of Honor amid a 38-3 beat down of the Arizona Cardinals.

Who will be the next Dallas Cowboy to be voted into the Hall of Fame? Share your prediction with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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