Cowboys remember Don Meredith fondly

IRVING, Texas -- One of the first stars of the Dallas Cowboys was remembered by those associated with the team Monday as an outstanding player and a wonderful broadcaster.

Don Meredith, known as Dandy Don, died Sunday. He was 72.

Meredith played for the Cowboys from 1960-1968, earning the starting quarterback job in 1965. After his playing career, Meredith found fame in the Monday Night Football booth alongside Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford.

"This is a guy who was the real face of our organization to start with," former Cowboys executive Gil Brandt said by phone. "He was very responsible for the organization being what it is today because of not only what he brought as a player, but what he brought as a broadcaster.

"Monday Night Football was extremely beneficial to him and pro football because I think Monday Night Football with the three of those people really opened up new avenues to a TV viewer to pro football."

Meredith led the Cowboys to three consecutive division titles and to consecutive NFL championship games in 1966 and 1967. They lost both title games to the Green Bay Packers.

"When it was Dandy Don to Bob Hayes," said former running back Calvin Hill, who works for the team in player development, "it was those two as much as anybody that put the Cowboys on the map just because of the explosiveness of the offense, and now both of them are gone."

Meredith rarely made public appearances after leaving the broadcast booth, retiring in Santa Fe, N.M., yet he was still remembered as either a football player or a broadcaster.

Cowboys interim coach Jason Garrett said his first memory of Meredith was as a broadcaster.

"People have asked me that and my first impression of Don Meredith was as a broadcaster, not as a quarterback," said Garrett, who wore Meredith's No. 17 jersey by coincidence when he was a Cowboys quarterback.

"My dad is a big football guy and he obviously coached for a long time in this league so when you're a kid and you're watching Monday Night Football and you start talking about Don Meredith and Frank Gifford and those guys, he has some real strong recollections and feelings about those guys. So we grew up with Don Meredith stories more than anything else. "

Meredith was great at telling stories on the telecasts, but in his later years as his health deteriorated, it was hard for those who knew him when they couldn't hear his Texas twang.

"It's sad everybody's death sort of diminishes you," Hill said. "It's especially sad now he had been battling I guess with Alzheimer's or dementia, and a guy like that is hard to think of him not being able to use his mind and his wit. He's bantering with somebody right now so, that's good."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag.