TBT: Meet the WWII Veteran Who Was the First Pro Bowl Player in Cowboys History
In 1960 the Dallas Cowboys were a first-year team with a roster made up of a mishmash of players selected from other NFL teams in an Expansion Draft. And while the Cowboys didn’t manage a win in their expansion season (only a tie against the NY Giants), they did boast the very first Pro Bowl player in franchise history: Jim Doran.
Doran is an interesting story because he never played high school football. He was from the small town of Beaver, Iowa. Beaver High School was so small, it didn’t have a football team. So, Doran starred at basketball and baseball. He didn’t play football until he left the Navy following World War II and enrolled at Buena Vista College. He later transferred to Iowa State where he ran track, threw the shot put, and played offensive end on the football team. He set numerous receiving records at Iowa State and was named first team All-American and first team All-Big 7.
Doran was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 5th round of the 1951 NFL Draft. He was a 2-way player during his 9 seasons in Detroit playing defensive end and offensive end. He was named the Lions’ MVP during their 1952 NFL Championship Season.
By the end of the 1959 season, Doran was one of the aging players on the Lions’ roster. The Lions decided to leave him exposed on the expansion list.
Doran, age 33, arrived in Dallas via the Expansion Draft after the Cowboys plucked him away from the Lions. As one of the original Dallas Cowboys, he wore #83 and was converted to tight end where he played for two seasons (1960-61).
During his 1960 Pro Bowl season, Doran – the very first tight end in Cowboys’ history – totaled 33 receptions for 554 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. He also scored the first touchdown in team history: a 75-yard touchdown pass from Eddie LeBaron during a game against the Steelers (Sept 24, 1960).
After two seasons in Dallas, he signed with the AFL’s Denver Broncos but suffered a season-ending back injury during the summer and spent the year on Injured Reserve.
Doran finished his NFL career with 11 seasons, 212 catches for 3,667 receiving yards, and 24 touchdowns and 1 touchdown on a fumble return.
After his one year on Injured Reserve with the Broncos, Doran retired as a player and joined the Steelers coaching staff for two seasons. After coaching the 1964 and 1965 seasons, he retired from the NFL and returned to his home state of Iowa where he was a farmer. He passed away of a heart attack in 1994 at the age of 66.
Doran may not be a household name among Cowboys Nation, but he holds a special spot in franchise history as the first Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl player. He is the first of six tight ends in team history to make the Pro Bowl. The others on the list are Lee Folkins, Billy Joe Dupree, Doug Cosbie, Jay Novacek, and Jason Witten.