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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

    • Drew Pearson: Mr. Clutch
      August 7, 2021 | 6:59 pm

      Drew Pearson

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former NFL wide receiver know as “Mr. Clutch” for his penchant for making big receptions at crucial moments of the game. After waiting for more than 30 years, he is finally earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

      During his decade with the Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson had a habit of making the big catch at the right moment to help the Cowboys time and again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

      The favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Pearson was widely recognized as one of the great receivers of his era. Though at the time of his retirement many expected Pearson to easily breeze into the Hall of Fame, his enshrinement was derailed by changes to the game which artificially inflated receiver stats and made the numbers he produced during a time when wide receivers weren’t catching 100 passes a season seem inferior.

      Read more »

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