Dallas Cowboys: Top 10 All-Time Offensive Linemen

Michael PizzutilloCorrespondent IIIOctober 26, 2012

Dallas Cowboys: Top 10 All-Time Offensive Linemen

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    For many years, the Dallas Cowboys were synonymous with dominating offensive lineman.

    These men paved the way for NFC titles and countless Super Bowl rings. They have protected Hall of Fame quarterbacks, created massive holes for legendary running backs and intimidated opposing defenses year after year.

    Lately, the Cowboys have struggled with high-level talent across the line, leading to their decline in playoff wins and appearances.

    We honor the late and great offensive lineman who meant so much to the organization and their fans.

10. Pat Donovan, OT (1975-1983)

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    The Cowboys drafted Pat Donovan in 1975—as a defensive end. He made the switch to offense his rookie season, and two years, later replaced the great Rayfield Wright at right tackle.

    He would later switch to left tackle and leave his mark on the league. He was a part of the famous "Four Irishmen and a Scott" offensive line that dominated the league for years. 

    Donovan aided in Tony Dorsett's brilliant rushing career while having his own incredible career.

    He was elected to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1979-1982 and was a member of the winning team from Super Bowl XII in 1978.

9. Mark Tuinei, OT (1983-1997)

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    Mark Tuinei, known as a "gentle giant", was a fixture on the Dallas Cowboys offensive line for 15 years. 

    The massive defensive lineman from Hawaii also converted to offense in the NFL. All coaches, teammates and fans in Dallas and around the league admired his consistent, hard-nosed play.

    He helped Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith achieve Hall of Fame careers and proved to be a leader on and off the field.

    He earned two consecutive Pro Bowls from 1994-1995, and was a part of three Super Bowl championship teams (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX)

    Tuinei was tragically found dead of a heroin overdose in 1999, but he will always be remembered as one the best to put on a Cowboys uniform.

8. Erik Williams, OT (1991-2000)

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    Erik Williams was perhaps one of the scariest players of his era. His facial expressions matched his style of play—angry. 

    Williams was drafted by the Cowboys in 1991 and instantly became a star. He played with ferocious tenacity while being feared and respected by the opposition.

    A near-fatal car accident in 1994 slowed the star's play, though he continued to dominate the competition.

    Williams earned four Pro Bowl spots and three of them were post-accident. He also was a member of three Dallas Super Bowl teams (XVII, XVIII, XXX).

    If not for his injury, Erik Williams could have been one of the all-time greatest offensive lineman to play in the NFL. Scary.

7. Mark Stepnoski, C (1989-1994/1999-2000)

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    Mark Stepnoski was the ideal center for America's Team. He was an intelligent football player with the looks of a WWE superstar.

    The Cowboys selected him in the third round of 1989’s draft. Many thought he was undersized for the NFL, but the Cowboys saw a special player. 

    Being undersized, Mark played with a chip on his shoulder, much like his teammate Emmitt Smith.

    Troy Aikman trusted Stepnoski with his life, and Mark lived up to all expectations. 

    Stepnoski was honored as a five-time Pro Bowler (three with the Cowboys and two with the Oilers). Although an injury late in the season kept him out of Super Bowl XVIII, he was a key member of two Super Bowl teams (XVII, XVIII).

    He is a member of NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team.

6. Flozell Adams, OT (1998-2009)

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    Flozell Adams, whether you loved him or hated, was a damn good football player.

    Yes, he was penalized for a false start or holding penalty once, twice or thrice a game—sometimes at the most crucial points of games—but he also protected many quarterbacks behind him.

    Coach Bill Parcells believed in his ability when many had written off his career.

    He didn't let his coach down.

    Flozell would earn five Pro Bowl appearances with the Cowboys and was a rock for 12 solid years.

    These days, Cowboys fans would give anything to see Flozell pick up Tony Romo one more time. 

5. Andre Gurode, G/C (2002-2010)

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    Andre Gurode is probably the most underappreciated offensive lineman on the long list of Cowboy greats at the position. He began his career at center and Bill Parcells decided guard would be a better fit—one of Bill's rare mistakes. 

    Gurode battled for playing time early and lost focus of the game. He struggled at the new position and was benched for poor play.

    Parcells admitted to his mistake and moved Gurode back to center.

    He thrived.

    After the move, he was one of the most dominating players. He was intelligent, hardworking and dedicated to his craft.

    He built an incredible rapport with Tony Romo and the entire Cowboy organization. 

    Though the Cowboys struggled with playoff appearances and/or wins during his time frame, Gurode remained focused on his task at hand: play hard and play smart.

    The NFL would recognize his achievements, as Gurode was elected to five consecutive Pro Bowls (2006-2010).

    He proved that hard work and perseverance could pay off in the end.

4. Ralph Neely, G/OT (1965-1977)

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    Ralph Neely defined offensive lineman in the '60s and '70s. 

    The AFL and NFL originally drafted him in 1965. After a trade and legal battles, Neely ended up in Dallas.

    Lucky for them.

    Neely was a superstar the moment he stepped onto the field. He was quickly named to the NFL All-Rookie team and continued to dominate his position for 13 seasons.

    He was a quick, versatile player and suited up at many different positions on the line.

    Ralph Neely would earn two trips to the Pro Bowl and was a member of two Super Bowl winning teams (VI, XII).

    Neely was also honored by being added to the NFL's 1960s All-Decade Team. 

3. Nate Newton, G/OT (1986-1998)

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    Although you may not recognize the current Nate Newton, there is no mistaking that he made an enormous impact for the Cowboys during his playing days.

    Nicknamed "The Kitchen" for being wider than William "The Refrigerator" Perry, Newton added mass, size and freakish athletic ability to the already great offensive line.

    Originally signed by the Washington Redskins and later playing for the USFL, Newton would join the Cowboys in 1986. He played numerous positions throughout his career, but with the emergence of head coach Jimmy Johnson, Newton developed into a legend.

    Loved by his teammates, the fans and the media, he would soon become the face of the Cowboys, along with Aikman, Smith and Irvin.

    He was elected to six Pro Bowls and was a part of three Super Bowl-winning teams (XXVII, XXVII, XXX).

2. Rayfield Wright, OT (1967-1980)

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    Rayfield "Big Cat" Wright was the complete package.

    He was originally drafted in 1967 as a tight end out of Fort Valley State College, a position Wright played in the NFL, along with defensive end and offensive line. 

    The man could do it all, but O-line was his bread and butter.

    In 1969, Wright had the opportunity to start on the line and held the position until the end of his career. He was extremely quick and a one-of-a-kind athlete.

    Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett credit much of their success to Wright, as does the Cowboys organization as a whole.

    Wright was honored with six consecutive Pro Bowl appearances (1971-1976) and was a member of two Super Bowl championship teams (VI, XII).

    He is a member of the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, and he is one of two offensive lineman to be enshrined in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.

    In 2006, Wright was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

1. Larry Allen, G (1994-2005)

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    Larry Allen was not only the best offensive lineman in Cowboys history, but in the league's history.

    Drafted in 1994, he quickly made a statement in the league. Known for his raw power—bench pressing 700 lbs. and squatting more than 900 lbs.—he was regarded as one the strongest players in the league.

    Allen was simply a freak of nature.

    He was the anchor for the Cowboys line for 12 solid seasons. Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith attribute much of their success to their offensive line, specifically Larry Allen.

    He was a man among boys. 

    Allen dominated the toughest of competition, keeping his quarterback out of harm's way every game.

    He was elected to an unprecedented 11 Pro Bowls (10 with the Cowboys and one with the Niners).

    He is a Super Bowl Champ (XXX) and among the latest to be named on the Dallas Ring of Honor.

    Allen is an NFL 1990s and 2000s All-Decade Team member and will soon be inducted into Canton, Ohio.

    He is one of the greatest Cowboys ever, and the current team would be lucky to have someone with a fraction of his ability.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Herbert Scott, Tom Rafferty, John Fitzgerald and John Niland