The Dallas Cowboys are America’s Team and have rostered plenty of big-name players throughout their 60-year history. Here are five you may have forgotten played in the Lone Star State.
5. Ryan Leaf, 2001
In hindsight, it seems unbelievable that there was a legitimate competition between Leaf and Peyton Manning for the title of quarterback one in the 1998 NFL Draft, but there was. Leaf was considered an excellent prospect coming out of Washington State, and the San Diego Chargers were thrilled to take him second overall. To say he flamed out in San Diego would be an understatement. Leaf played in 21 games from 1998-2000, throwing 13 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. His attitude and locker room presence was just as bad as his on-field play, and he was cut in February of 2001.
Leaf was initially claimed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they quickly grew tired of his act, and released him prior to the 2001 campaign. Dallas signed him shortly after, but Leaf failed his physical and was cut two days later. A month after that, Leaf was re-signed due to an injury to starter Quincy Carrier, and played in four games, starting three. He completed 45 of 88 passes for 494 yards, one touchdowns, and three picks. He joined the Seattle Seahawks in 2002, but retired before the season began, leaving his time with the Cowboys as his final NFL action.
4. Pacman Jones, 2008
Jones spent eight years with the Cincinnati Bengals and was a very good player. He was originally drafted sixth overall in 2005 by the Tennessee Titans, but due to off-field issues, he was suspended for the entirety of the 2007 campaign. The Titans were fed up with Jones by this point, and sent him to Dallas in exchange for a fourth-round pick and eventually an additional sixth-rounder.
He lasted nine games with the Cowboys before the team cut him over concerns that he was involved in a shooting outside a club. Jones played the 2009 season in the CFL before returning to the NFL with the Bengals in 2010. Dallas is known for taking character risks, and Jones was one that did not work out.
3. Danny Amendola, 2008
Amendola was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech in 2008, and spent the entire season on the Cowboys’ practice squad. That year the team was featured on HBO”s Hard Knocks, which follows the team’s journey through training camp and the preseason. Amendola was one of Dallas’s final cuts, just missing the 53-man roster. He had a similar experience with the Philadelphia Eagles a year later. but was signed to the St. Louis Rams’ active roster in September of 2009. Since then, he’s also been productive for the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, and currently the Detroit Lions.
2. Eddie George, 2004
A Heisman Trophy winner at Ohio State, George spent eight seasons with the Tennessee Titans, rushing for over 1,000 yards in seven of them, and in the year he didn’t, missed by only 61 yards. He started 128 straight games for the Titans, making four Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. His heavy usage led to injuries that he fought through, but his declining production (although still solid) forced Tennessee to release him following the 2003 campaign to save money.
The Cowboys, having lost Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith a year earlier, pounced on George, signing him to a one-year deal laden with incentives. George backed up rookie Julius Jones, but did start eight games, rushing for 432 yards and four TDs in total. He retired a year later after going unsigned for the 2005 season.
1. Zach Thomas, 2008
A fifth-round pick in 1996, Thomas is one of the most underrated players in NFL history. On the smaller side at 5-foot-11 and 228 pounds, Thomas put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career over 12 years with the Miami Dolphins, making seven Pro Bowls, five All-Pro teams, and accumulating nearly 1,700 tackles. He’s been eligible for the Hall since 2016 but has yet to be voted in. That will likely change at some point.
Following the 2007 campaign, Thomas was released by the Dolphins, as he was 35 years old and Miami wished to rebuild. Dallas signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract, and he had to make the scheme switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4. He finished the season with 94 tackles, and then moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs, but a concussion led to his release, and he didn’t play another down in the league.