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Sports Then and Now



Clint Longley: Thanksgiving’s Unlikeliest Hero 6

Posted on November 24, 2010 by Dean Hybl

In his NFL debut, Clint Longley led Dallas to a 24-23 victory over the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day.

Professional football has a long and storied history as part of our American Thanksgiving tradition. Many of the greatest players and best teams in NFL history have made their mark on this holiday and thus created a special place for themselves in the memories of families across the country during this time of fellowship and giving thanks.

You can read about some of those memorable moments and games in a column I first published last year.

While many of the players who have performed well on Thanksgiving Day were familiar faces and established stars of the game, there also have been a number of players whose one shining moment as a professional football player occurred on the big stage of Turkey Day.

One such player was former Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Jason Garrett. Until recently becoming interim head coach of the Cowboys, he was likely best remembered by most football fans for his nearly flawless performance in place of starting quarterback Troy Aikman on Thanksgiving Day in 1994.

In only his second career start, Garrett passed for 311 yards and two touchdowns to help Dallas defeat the Green Bay Packers  42-31.

However, while Garrett’s performance was impressive, it was arguably not the best or most memorable performance by a Dallas backup quarterback on Thanksgiving Day.

That honor would belong to a rookie quarterback from Abilene Christian who two decades before Garrett’s Thanksgiving performance made a lasting impression on the football world with a memorable Thanksgiving Day show of his own.

In the mid-1970s, the rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins was emerging as one of the most interesting in all of professional sports.

Thanks to the contrast between Washington’s spirited head coach George Allen and the stoic leader of the Cowboys Tom Landry, the rivalry had gained steam and by 1974 was among the most anticipated battles on the NFL calendar.

When the two squads squared off on Thanksgiving Day in 1974 it provided a perfect venue for the renewal of this special rivalry. Playing on national television in an era before video games, multiplex theaters and cable television provided people with other entertainment options, the late afternoon battle between the Cowboys and Redskins was truly America’s afternoon dessert following the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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