DUANE THOMAS, LEAD THE 1970 COWBOYS TO THE SUPER BOWL, AND IN 1971 HE LED THE NFL WORLD CHAMPION DALLAS COWBOYS TO VICTORY. DUANE THOMAS WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST RUNNING BACKS IN NFL HISTORY, AND THAT’S A FACT

DUANE THOMAS, LEAD THE 1970 COWBOYS TO THE SUPER BOWL, AND IN 1971 HE LED THE NFL WORLD CHAMPION DALLAS COWBOYS TO VICTORY. DUANE THOMAS WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST RUNNING BACKS IN NFL HISTORY, AND THAT’S A FACT

The Great Duane Thomas, GAINED 95YDS FOR THE 1971 SUPER BOWL WINNING COWBOYS AND LEAD THE TEAM TO VICTORY,  OUT RUSHING THE STAR BACKFIELD OF Larry Csonka AND JIM KIICK BY 15YRDS.

 

Duane Thomas
refer to caption
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Thomas in 1972
No. 33, 47
Position: Fullback
Personal information
Born: June 21, 1947 (age 74)
Dallas, Texas
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 220 lb (100 kg)
Career information
High school: Dallas (TX) Lincoln
College: West Texas State
NFL Draft: 1970 / Round: 1 / Pick: 23
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards: 2,038
Rush attempts: 453
Rushing TDs: 21
Receiving yards: 297
Receptions: 38
Receiving TDs: 3
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

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Duane Julius Thomas (born June 21, 1947) is a former American football running back in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. He played college football at West Texas State University.

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Thomas was an exceptional running back at its Lincoln High School in the mid-1960s. He continued his success at West Texas State University in Canyon, playing fullback alongside Mercury Morris, while running through defenses for Joe Kerbel‘s teams.[1] After a freshman year with just 10 carries for 42 yards, he led the country with 7.2 yards per carry on still-limited duty his sophomore season (83 carries for 596 yards). After 113 carries for 708 yards his junior year, he broke through his senior year with 199 carries for 1,072 yards and 10 touchdowns. He ended his college career with 396 carries for 2,376 yards (then 2nd all-time to Bill Cross, currently 8th).

Thomas was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round (23rd overall) of the 1970 NFL draft. As a rookie, even though he didn’t start until the fifth game of the season, he led the team in rushing, while finishing eighth in the newly merged 26-team league with 803 rushing yards (second in the National Football Conference behind NFL rushing champion Larry Brown of the rival Washington Redskins) on 151 carries (a league-leading 5.3 yards per carry) and 5 touchdowns. At the end of the season, already being compared to Jim Brown, he was named the NFL rookie of the year. In playoff wins over Detroit and San Francisco, Thomas rushed for 135 and 143 yards, becoming the first rookie with two 100-yard rushing playoff games.

In October 1971, Thomas scored the first touchdown in the new Texas Stadium playing against the Patriots. That same season, Thomas led the league in rushing touchdowns (11) and total touchdowns (13). He also was named All-Pro and led the Cowboys with 95 rushing yards and a touchdown in Dallas’ 24–3 win over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI, the franchise’s first. When asked about playing in the “ultimate game” before the contest, he responded, “If it’s the ultimate (game), how come they’re playing it again next year?”[9] In a postgame interview following that Super Bowl, CBS television announcer Tom Brookshier noted Thomas’ speed and asked him, rhetorically, “Are you that fast?” Thomas responded, “Evidently.” According to Hunter S. Thompson, “All he did was take the ball and run every time they called his number—which came to be more and more often, and in the Super Bowl Thomas was the whole show.”

Thomas was reportedly voted as the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player by an overwhelming margin. Thomas, however, had boycotted the media throughout the season as well, and Larry Klein, editor of Sport, which presented the award, didn’t know how Thomas would act at a banquet in New York. With this in mind Klein announced quarterback Roger Staubach as the winner.

With the help of freelance sportswriter Paul Zimmerman in 1989, Thomas wrote Duane Thomas and the Fall of America’s Team, a memoir of Thomas’ time playing for the Dallas Cowboys. A reviewer of the book commented, “The title implies, although the text nowhere suggests, that there is a relation between the fate of running back Thomas and the decline in the fortunes of the Dallas Cowboys. Thomas, when he appeared on the professional football scene in 1970, was acclaimed as an outstanding player but within two years was stigmatized as an “emotionally disturbed misfit,” largely because of his periods of total silence.

Before he was out of football, Thomas got a job at Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation in the Legal Department and decided to go back into football. He was called by the Green Bay Packers and went there to try out, but they used him mainly as a blocking back during that preseason and he did not make the team.

In 2004, he was inducted into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2006, Thomas was one of three Cowboys, along with Bob Lilly and Roger Staubach, interviewed for 1971 Cowboys edition of America’s Game: The Super Bowl Champions, the NFL Network anthology series chronicling each Super Bowl champion.

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“DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES THROUGH THE YEARS WITH THE SAME RESULTS, HIS TEAMMATES, COLLEAGUES, AND PEOPLE FROM AFAR CALLING AND SAYING THAT THEY APOLOGIZED FOR NOT LISTENING AND UNDERSTANDING.”

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Ex-Cowboy Duane Thomas ‘found peace in the game’

Ex-Cowboy RB Duane Thomas has doused the fiery personality, `found peace in the game’Look who’s talking now

Joe Namath needed five words — “We’ll win. I guarantee it” — to become a Super Bowl legend.

One was enough for Duane Thomas.

Thomas’ economy of language was so memorable, in fact, that to some it overshadowed his performance.

Thomas rushed for 95 yards and scored on a three-yard run in the Dallas Cowboys‘ 24-3 victory over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.

After the game, CBS Sports analyst Tom Brookshier said to him, “Duane, you do things with speed, but you never really hurry a lot, like the great Jim Brown. You never hurry into a hole. You take your time, make a spin, yet you still outrun people. Are you that fast? Are you quick, would you say?”

After pausing for a few seconds — an eternity on live TV — Thomas replied: “Evidently.”

It was one of the few moments of levity in Thomas’ brief, troubled career with the Cowboys. He helped Dallas to the Super Bowl in 1970 and 1971 but was traded in 1972 in the midst of a contract dispute.

Along the way, he described Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm as “sick, demented and totally dishonest” — “Well, he got two out of three,” Schramm replied — and coach Tom Landry as “a plastic man.”

Angered by what he thought was an unfair contract, Thomas refused to speak to coaches and the media in 1971. And he remains bitter over elements of his second Super Bowl season.

“When people bring up the game, what they normally say is that I should have been the MVP of the Super Bowl,” Thomas said in a recent telephone interview. “There was a lot of controversy about how the Cowboys manipulated the voting to give the award to Roger Staubach.

“A lot of it had to do with me being a black player. They wanted to be a lily-white America’s Team. That was their image.”

Thomas’ image has been that of the angry young man battling the establishment. But Thomas said he always found peace in the game.

“What the game meant to me at that particular point was setting a goal and accomplishing it,” he said. “The differences you may have had, the controversies, tend to be insignificant.

“I recall those things, but the main thrust of what I remember is the meaning of friendship, the meaning of teamwork and dealing with adversity and accomplishing the goal. That was what it was all about with me. I was at peace with myself, even with everything that was going on.”

Thomas was born in Dallas but lived for several years in Los Angeles before returning to attend high school. He has lived outside Texas since 1979 and has been “sort of distant from football” over the years, he said.

He also had distanced himself from his roots until recently, when he returned to Dallas from his home near San Diego to be inducted in the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame.

“The most interesting thing about that trip was to meet players who had played before and had laid the groundwork,” Thomas said. “It gave me some new horizons going back to the Dallas area in terms of football. It was a groundbreaking visit.”

Quietly, he’s had several such experiences over the years. One of the most gratifying, he said, involved Lee Roy Jordan, who played for Bear Bryant at Alabama and was the Cowboys’ middle linebacker for more than a decade.

“Lee Roy called me a few years after I left the Cowboys and said he wanted to have lunch with me,” Thomas said. “He said, `Duane, you know, when you were on the team, I disagreed with everything you said and did. But things have happened to me in my life, and I have a new perspective now.’ “

“It was a very emotional moment for me. I had always respected Lee Roy as a player, and as a man he solidified everything I felt about him.”

That conversation, Thomas said, summed up everything he thought about the concept of team.

“We all come with idiosyncrasies and dysfunctions and prejudices, but we unite on the basis of what we had in common,” he said. “That commonality was the Dallas Cowboys.

“So what Lee Roy said moved me so. I gained so much respect for him. He had been influenced by the atmosphere in Dallas at the time we played, but because of episodes he had outside of the game, he was able to see me in a clear light. He understood that I was there like he was, to perform and make money.

And Thomas said has been contacted by others who have made amends with their old teammate’s viewpoints.

“Later on, another player approached me and said, `Duane, I had no idea about this or that.’ They thought the way they did at the time because they were tied up with their own issues.”

Thomas has even reconciled with Landry.

“He dealt with things at the time in the best way he could,” Thomas said. “I accepted that so I could move on. There was no need in me staying angry at him.

“I couldn’t have gone to two Super Bowls if it hadn’t been for the personality of Tom Landry. And so this has all been worth it for me in terms of the experience. What you take with you is what you learn from experiences that help you grow mentally, psychologically and spiritually.”

Duane Thomas: His own man

Even as free spirit, Cowboys RB still relishes the concept of team

Duane Thomas always flowed to the beat of a different drummer.Some running backs looked for the hole. To Thomas, the entire field was the hole. To some, running plays were diagrams on paper. To Thomas, they were performance art, to the background of Miles Davis or Herbie Hancock or Grover Washington Jr.

“It was a spiritual rising that I would connect with,” Thomas said. “The guard takes the lead, and I’m playing the melody behind him. I’m accentuating what we are doing, and we are playing a concerto.

“It was a production. It was joy to me. Isaac Hayes has a song called ‘Joy’ where he says, ‘Thank you, baby.’ He’s talking about his romantic setup, but the ‘baby’ was the game to me.”

It’s a colorful description very much out of tune with the popular notion of Thomas as a man of few words, as established during a fractious 1971 season that culminated in his 95-yard rushing performance in the Dallas Cowboys’ 24-3 win over Miami in Super Bowl VI.

Granted, Thomas can still cut quickly to the rhetorical chase. When a friend recently told him, “Duane, you’re unusual,” Thomas replied, “We’ve established that.”

But witty brevities aside, Thomas at age 69, living happily in retirement in Sedona, Ariz., is more than happy to discourse at length on any number of topics, including football, Faust, the Temptations, fans, Tom Landry, traditions, Isaac Hayes, writing and rewriting, Pete Rozelle and Tex Schramm, what people expect of him and what he expects of himself.

After all these years, from his youth in Dallas and Los Angeles through college at West Texas State, pro ball in Dallas, San Diego and Washington and life after football, he is “a part of all that I have met.”

Football and its surroundings, including the concept of team, were very much a part of that for Thomas. Along with his 1971 silence, which accompanied a contract dispute with the Cowboys, he probably remains best known today for his comment on the Super Bowl that, “If it’s the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?”

Today, he remains somewhat bemused by his words.

“It’s interesting how words would come out of my mouth to capture the moment that I was in, the state of mind that I was in, and how I was looking at things,” he said.

In the case of his Super Bowl comment, while his listeners were focused on the game ahead, Thomas was already months down the road.

“At that point (before Super Bowl VI), I was just upset that the season was over,” he said. “The Super Bowl wasn’t the ultimate to me. I was just getting started. I was having fun, and I thought management was trying to take the fun out of it.”

Raised in Dallas, Thomas spent several years in Los Angeles when his parents wanted to get him away from what they considered bad influences. He said he thrived in Southern California but returned to Dallas, playing at Lincoln High School and West Texas State before being drafted in the first round, much to his dismay, by the Cowboys.

“Dallas was the last place I wanted to go,” he said. “I didn’t want to be part of the social and political crap in Dallas, so I started crafting my world on the field. My goal was to deliver a great production for the fans. The creativity of each play presented a new opportunity.”

He said he liked and respected Landry but chafed at some of the more regimented aspects of the game, such as having to answer roll call at team meetings.

“They said it was a tradition,” he said. “Well, I didn’t agree to it. Why impose it on me?”

He was a lifelong individualist in an era that valued conformity. Oddly enough, he is now often cited as a precursor of such individuals as Marshawn Lynch, who also gave media representatives the silent treatment in Seattle.

(Thomas in 1973 was accused by some Buffalo fans of being inattentive during the national anthem, but one of his favorite NFL memories, he said, is hearing the Temptations perform the song during a game in Detroit.)

Thomas, however, scoffs at such comparisons.

Diversity, he said, should be celebrated. “I may have been different, but it won the Super Bowl,” he said.

Thomas said he sees the modern NFL as more accommodating to individuals than during his era, and he said he has had conversations with former teammates since his playing days that reflect that more open-minded attitude.

One such conversation, he said in an earlier interview, took place with longtime Cowboys middle linebacker Lee Roy Jordan.

“Lee Roy called me a few years after I left the Cowboys,” Thomas said. “He said, ‘Duane, you know, when you were on the team, I disagreed with everything you said and did. But things have happened to me in my life, and I have a new perspective now.’

“It was a very emotional moment for me. I had always respected Lee Roy as a player. And as a man, he solidified everything I felt about him.”

That conversation, Thomas said, summed up everything he thought about the concept of team.

“We all come with idiosyncrasies and dysfunctions and prejudices, but we unite on the basis of what we had in common,” he said. “That commonality was the Dallas Cowboys.

“So what Lee Roy said moved me so. I gained so much respect for him. He had been influenced by the atmosphere in Dallas at the time we played, but because of episodes he had outside of the game, he was able to see me in a clear light.”

Thomas said he also had good conversations with Landry prior to the coach’s death in 2000, and he speaks highly today of Rozelle, who was commissioner during his NFL playing days, and acknowledges that his old foe Schramm “did a lot for the Cowboys and pro football,” albeit at the expense of some individual players.

Thomas still keeps track of the Cowboys; in fact, he wore a Cowboys jacket when he spoke recently to a high school team in Sedona, where he has lived for several years with his wife, Dr. Tapzyana Thomas, a lymphologist.

Years after he collaborated in the late 1970s with sportswriter Paul Zimmerman on a book titled “Duane Thomas and the American Dream,” he said he spends much of his time these days working on what he describes as a new book incorporating his current thoughts and observations.

Even as he approaches his 70s, Thomas said,” I’m look forward to new experiences. I try to keep a positive attitude and to find the humor in life so that I can laugh about it and move forward.”

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