Cowboys Give Undrafted Rookie Free Agents the Chance to Shine
While the 9 current members of the 2018 Dallas Cowboys Rookie Draft Class garnered the most headlines during Rookie Camp, don’t overlook the 20 undrafted rookie free agents that also are working hard to “earn the star” and join the Cowboys’ 53-man roster.
The Cowboys have a long, illustrious history in striking gold with undrafted players. You don’t need to be a draft pick to have an impact on the current team. Just ask WR Cole Beasley, S Jeff Heath, RT La’el Collins, or P Chris Jones. They started their Cowboys’ careers as undrafted rookie free agents.
Oh yeah, so did the second most accurate kicker in the history of the NFL: Dan Bailey.
Other recent Cowboys’ stars who made big impacts on the team but were never drafted by Dallas include S Barry Church, LG Ron Leary, and WRs Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton.
The list of undrafted Cowboys’ rookies who’ve gone onto phenomenal success in the NFL is long, and its hard to mention some of the greatest because you’re always at risk of leaving a deserving person off the list. But we’re going to try anyway, and right now we’re only ranking former Cowboys (Dan Bailey will be on this one day, after he hangs up his cleats and retires).
Let’s list them in alphabetical order, the Top Undrafted Rookie Free Agents in Cowboys History:
Tim Sharp via AP
*Bill Bates, Safety: How impactful was Bates during his 15 seasons as a Cowboy? Sure, he won three Super Bowl rings. But did you know that he was so awesome on special teams that the NFL created a full-time spot on the Pro Bowl roster for special-teamers because of him?
*Cornell Green, Defensive Back: He played basketball at Utah State, so football scouts can be forgiven for bypassing him in the 1962 NFL Draft. But the Cowboys did not overlook him. After signing with Dallas as an undrafted rookie free agent, Green played 13 seasons and went to 5 Pro Bowls. He intercepted 34 career passes and was a key member of the first Super Bowl championship team in Cowboys history. Former teammates like Bob Lilly insist that he deserves to be in the team’s Ring of Honor.
*Cliff Harris, Safety: It’s easy to slip through the cracks of the NFL Draft when you play at a tiny school like Ouachita Baptist in Arkansas. Harris signed with Dallas in 1970 and went to 6 Pro Bowls in 10 seasons. He also won two Super Bowl rings. One of the toughest hitters in the league, his nickname is ‘Captain Crash’. He was inducted into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor in 2004.
*Drew Pearson, Wide Receiver: Back in 1973 when there were 17 rounds in the NFL Draft, Pearson sat by his phone and never got a call…until the draft was over and a Cowboys’ scout said that Dallas wanted to sign him. Pearson got a whopping signing bonus of $150. According to Pearson, the scout pulled out a wallet and handed him seven $20 bills and one $10 bill. Pearson, of course, is most famous these days for the “Hail Mary” touchdown and for trolling Eagles fans during the 2017 NFL Draft. But he is also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1970’s, and the most clutch receiver in Cowboys’ history.
*Tony Romo, Quarterback: A total of 32 teams passed on Romo through 7 rounds of the 2003 NFL Draft. The kid from Eastern Illinois ended up signing with Dallas. He took over as the starter from Drew Bledsoe midway through the 2006 season and there was no looking back. He shattered nearly every Cowboys’ passing record.
*Mark Tuinei, Left Tackle: Tuinei is too often overlooked in Cowboys’ history, but the defensive lineman from University of Hawaii who signed with the Cowboys in 1983 became a force at left tackle. He was an anchor of the offensive line that won 3 Super Bowls in the 1990s. Interestingly, he played his first two NFL seasons at defensive tackle. But when injuries hit the offensive line very hard in the 1985 preseason, head coach Tom Landry and his staff moved Tuinei to offense. Ask anyone who ever played alongside Tuinei and they will tell you that he was one of the toughest players in the history of the Cowboys, and definitely one of the more underrated. He finally was invited to his first Pro Bowl in 1994.
David Phillip via AP
*Everson Walls, Cornerback: The kid who grew up a few blocks down the road from the old Cowboys’ practice facility on Forest Lane @ Abrams Road was one of the greatest cornerbacks of his generation. The Dallas native who was an undrafted rookie from Grambling State University in 1981 took the league by storm, leading the NFL with 11 interceptions and going to the Pro Bowl. He would go on to lead the NFL in interceptions in three separate seasons; he also went to 4 Pro Bowls during his 9 seasons in Dallas. He totaled 57 interceptions in his exceptional NFL career that later included stops with the Giants and Browns.