One week ago I posed the following: As the fourth (and best) jeffpearlman.com book giveaway, I offer this: I have compiled a list of the 10 players I consider to be most vital to the 90s Dallas Cowboysâ€™ vast successes. Post your own list here (in order of importance), and the one that comes closest to matching mine wins a freshly minted copy of â€œBoys Will Be Boys,â€ as well my DVD (which I used for research) of the history of the Cowboysâ€”as well as a used, one-of-a-kind Jeff Pearlman tissue.
So, to kick things off, here’s my list:
1. Michael Irvin, wide receiver: Irvin caused myriad off-the-field problems, but no player was more responsible for the Cowboysâ€™ success. Irvin remains the hardest working player most Cowboys have ever seen. It was contagious.
2. Troy Aikman, quarterback: There was a time, in the early 1990s, when Jimmy Johnson thought Aikman would never develop into a quality NFL starter. Heâ€™s now, of course, in the Hall of Fame.
3. Emmitt Smith, running back: To measure Smithâ€™s value, all one has to do is go back to the start of the 1993 season, when Smith held out and the defending Super Bowl champs went 0-2.
4. Herschel Walker, running back: An excellent player under Tom Landry who Johnson immediately traded to the Vikings for a package of players and picks that wound up resulting in Smith, Clayton Holmes, Darren Woodson and Russell Maryland. A steal, times 1,000.
5. Charles Haley, defensive end: Arrived before the 1992 season and changed everything. A once-ordinary pass rush became dominant, and Haley was the reason. Would probably rank even higher were he not, ahem, insane.
6. Darren Woodson, safety: The NFLâ€™s best safety for a solid five-year span, Woodson was the rare defensive back who could cover like a cornerback and also slam into ball carriers like a linebacker.
7. Jay Novacek, tight end: The most reliable receiver on the team and, maybe, the NFL, Novacek kept defenses honest and made one key catch after another.
8. Mark Stepnoski, center: The glue of the NFLâ€™s best offensive line. Undersized and underrated, Stepnoski was an amazing blocker and an even better leader.
9. Daryl Johnston, fullback: Garnered oodles of attention for leading Emmitt Smithâ€™s way, but equally adept at protecting Aikman on pass plays.
10. Erik Williams, offensive lineman: Before he nearly died in a car accident, the best lineman most had ever seen. Legendaryâ€”but reckless.
After much deliberation, the winner is … David, who probably should be flogged for saying “Charles Woodson” instead of “Darren Woodson,” but otherwise had every name on my list. David, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll hook you up.
Thanks to everyone for participating. Book comes out in 13 days …