NFL Peter Gent: Former Cowboys WR Who Exposed Reality of Football Dies at 69

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IOctober 2, 2011

Former Dallas Cowboys receiver and author of the widely acclaimed novel North Dallas Forty Peter Gent died Friday at his home in Bangor, Mich.

Gent, who reportedly died at the age of 69 of a pulmonary ailment, made more of an impact off the football field than on it.

After a four-year career with the Cowboys, Gent wrote North Dallas Forty, a book detailing the widespread use of painkillers in the NFL to keep players on the field. The NFL denounced his novel at the time, but it became widely regarded as one of the best sports books of all-time. It was real, gritty and unflinching.

The book chronicled eight days in the lives of the players and coaches of the North Dallas Blues. It later became apparent that he was really detailing his life as a receiver with character Phil Elliott and former Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith (Seth Maxwell).

Gent also went into depth about the ironic nature of the league, which encouraged players to take painkillers, but denounced the use of marijuana.

Elliott said in the book, via The Washington Post, “I was like leather dried in the sun.”

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Gent, a passionate football player who called his first months out of the NFL a "nightmare," ended up making more of an impact he could have ever imagined as an author.

As hard as the NFL came down on Gent, he never meant to disgrace the league's name. Football was his life and without it he felt lost.

However, without his book, the nation would have never known the true atmosphere of football in the '60s. There's even an argument to be made that he actually helped the NFL in the long run because his book led to changes in the league.

Gent was a football player, but he was more than that. He exposed a truth no one had the bravery to speak out.

In that sense, he should be viewed as a hero in the National Football League.

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