DALLAS — With the Dallas Cowboys set for a playoff matchup against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday -- and Niners fans talking a big game about showing up in force at AT&T for the matchup -- many fans are reliving classic rivalry moments between the two teams.
One memory in particular includes a hit that rocked the NFL at the time, and continues to do so 22 years later.
It was a hit that made it clear that you shouldn't mess with the Star.
We, of course, are talking about the hit on then-49ers receiver Terrell Owens as he celebrated a touchdown on top of the Cowboys logo at Texas Stadium on Sept. 24, 2000.
It was Owens' second such touchdown celebration atop the logo in the game. After the first time he did it, Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith responded in kind by emphatically placing the football from his own score in the logo.
Then, after Owens scored a second time and began making his way back to the middle of the field once more, Teague... well, as he told WFAA on Friday, he wasn't going to let that happen again.
In a Zoom call with the former Cowboys safety, Teague breaks down what happened during that memorable Cowboys moment, as well as the reaction -- and punishment -- that his effort received.
Matt Howerton: "When you found out the 49ers were going to be playing the Cowboys, what was your reaction? Clearly you’ve been connected to that rivalry because of that one moment in 2000."
George Teague: "I actually got real excited... I immediately went into trash talk mode as soon as I found out. It was kind of exciting for me to see this relive itself again."
Howerton: "It wasn’t a game that people remember, but they remember the moment Terrell [Owens] scored his touchdown and went to the middle of the field, Emmitt [Smith] scores and he puts it down in the middle of the field and the third time around that’s when you came in. What was going on through your mind when you were watching that happen?"
Teague: "The first time I was just kind of shocked that [Owens] went and did it. I thought it was awesome that Emmitt went back out and claimed it. The bad part about the second time was that I was watching him to see what he was going to do as far as his celebration. What was the new antic going to be. When he went back toward the Star, it was baffling again. It was an immediate reaction just to go and make sure this isn’t going to happen again. You hear a little about the banter that we might have had beforehand. Yes, but that didn’t play into what was going on with the Star. The Star means a lot. More than just a logo, just X’s and O’s. There’s a lot that goes into that, for me, that I wanted to protect."
Howerton: "Walk me through the moments before you hit T.O."
Teague: "If there was anyway to measure the heat that was in my helmet at that time from the anger and everything else I had, it would probably be glowing red. As I was chasing, it was with full anger and anticipation of… hey it’s about to go down out here in the middle of the field. That was my full mindset and anticipation that we’re going to have to duke this out – right now. Did I have some anticipation of what the hit was supposed to look like? I was just trying to get there as fast as possible. Wasn’t necessarily aiming, it was just… we’re about to fight."
Howerton: "You haven’t spoken to T.O. since all this happened?"
Teague: "That’s correct. I have tried to speak to him. This was many years ago, prior to him coming to Dallas and definitely when he became a team member. I tried to speak to him personally face-to-face on the sideline at a game, and he wouldn’t do it. We’re 22 years later and we still haven’t had any conversations about anything whatsoever. I don’t anticipate it happening at all now."
Howerton: "What were some of the things your teammates said to you after that moment?"
Teague: "There were a few different scenarios. One was – you’re crazy. It was more shock, ‘I couldn’t believe that you actually went and did that.’ The other side was – thank you for doing that. The funniest part was not really what the players said, it was really what the coaching staff had said when they called me in the next day when I had to report to the meeting. They called me in and ‘Hey George, we really do appreciate what you did.’ And then they hit me with, ‘But, we’re going to have to fine you.’ And I was like, ‘Well, you must have not liked it that much then if you’re going to have to fine me.’
"It’s just different now with the way guys are maybe not necessarily playing for the brand, the logo, the organization. A lot of times, we grew up wanting to play for a team, or we were always taught about loyalty to a team, especially when they give you opportunities like the Jones family did for me. I wish there was more of that now. More people who would not necessarily be selfish about themselves, people moving… transfer portals in college, free agencies, you’re not really tied into things. We need to get back to that."
Howerton: "How much was the fine, if you remember, and all these years later, do you think it was so worth it?"
Teague: "The fine was $24,999... It was worth it. I received all of that back in praise, autograph sessions and other things. If it was something that happened again, I would absolutely do it all over again."
Howerton: "What is your message to Cowboys fans for this Sunday’s game and is [your hit] still a kind of a battle cry still to this day?"
Teague: "We know that the 49ers fans travel well, and we don’t want a whole lot of red there. So, I’ve already been asking on Twitter and every other platform don’t sell your tickets to those people. Stay there, be in the game, be the fans that those players need. It needs to be loud. We need that competitive advantage from the people in the crowd. We don’t need it to be for the 49ers. These games are tough, regardless of how old the rivalry might be. When we get to the playoffs, we need you, the fans, to assist with that."