Don Meredith, the first recognizable star of the Dallas Cowboys, and a charismatic announcer on "Monday Night Football," has passed away at the age of 72.
Meredith died in Santa Fe Sunday after suffering a brain hemorrhage and lapsing into a coma. The Mt. Vernon native was an All-American Quarterback at SMU and then joined the expansion Dallas Cowboys in 1960. Meredith shared playing duties with Eddie LeBaron until Tom Landry named him the starter in 1965. Dubbed "Dandy Don," while at SMU, Meredith led the Cowboys to three straight division titles and to consecutive NFL Championship games in 1966 and 1967. Dallas lost both games to eventual Super Bowl winner Green Bay.
Meredith, a free spirit if there ever was one, clashed with Landry time and again, but the two kept a level of respect that allowed them to maintain a good relationship once both had left the game. Fellow players always marveled at the level of pain that Meredith was able to cope with and still play.
"Our offensive line was not very good early on. He got beat up pretty bad — broken noses and collarbones and ribs, everything you can think of, Don had it. But he was one tough individual," said Lee Roy Jordan.
Meredith retired suddenly right before the 1969 season and within two years he was in the broadcast booth with Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell on "Monday Night Football." He turned out to be the perfect foil for the acerbic Cosell, with his folksy delivery and country sayings.
Don Meredith spent two different stints in the Monday Night Football Booth.
Meredith also became a dramatic actor winning acclaim for his work on such shows as "Police Story." When he retired from the booth, Meredith dropped out of public site, spending most of his time at his home in Santa Fe.
Meredith's quick humor and easy going manner belied a strong competitive streak, but he was always able to compartmentalize his on-the-field life. One year, Meredith led Dallas on a furious comeback against the Cleveland Browns on Thanksgiving Day in the Cotton Bowl. But as they were about to complete the comeback, Meredith threw an interception in the Brown's endzone on a first and goal from the one-yard line.
The next day, Gary Cartwright began his game story in the Dallas Morning News with this opening line:
"The Four Horsemen rode again Sunday in the Cotton Bowl. You remember their names: Death, Famine, Pestilence and Meredith."
He then went on to eviscerate Meredith throughout the article.
Dandy Don began his broadcasting career by working for WFAA-TV Channel 8 in Dallas during the off-season. That year he was anchoring a weekend sportscast and reported that Cartwright had received a "Best Game Story" award for his Dallas-Cleveland story. $500 came with the award.
As Meredith finished the story he smiled and said:
"You know, I think Ol' Gary owes me at least half of that award, because if I don't throw that pass, he doesn't write that story."
Don Meredith, one of a kind.