The First Dallas Legend – Bob “Mr. Cowboy” Lilly

The NFL Dallas Cowboys, “America’s Team”, have over a span of more than 30 years, performed at a consistently high level. The team is a fan favorite well beyond the borders of Texas and the United States. Along with their great success on the field, the Dallas Cowboys are just as successful off the field and are considered one of the most valuable sports teams in North America. At the heart of the Cowboys great success is their play on the field, and the individuals who have contributed to that play.


Through its franchise history, the Dallas Cowboys have had a number of all-stars whose skills and achievements have contributed to Dallas Cowboys history. Endless players have donned the single star and blue and white jerseys of the Dallas Cowboys and taken to the field at Texas Stadium. In the process some of them, such as Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and Emmitt Smith have become legends of the game. One of the most successful teams in the history of the National Football League, the Dallas Cowboys hold numerous league records, thanks to these players and countless others over the years. The Cowboys hold the league record for most consecutive winning seasons – 20 in all – from 1966 to 1985, as well as the record for most seasons with at least 10 wins (24). Additionally, they have been Superbowl Champions five times a record they share with the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The list of team records, a part of  Dallas Cowboys history, goes on and on.


A formidable team with an exceptional past, Cowboys football was particularly successful during the 30 year span from 1966 to 1996 during which time the team qualified for the playoffs 24 times, played in 14 NFC Championship games, won 19 division titles, and took to the field for 8 Super Bowls, becoming Super Bowl Champions five times.


One man who contributed greatly to the early years of the team’s success was Bob Lilly, star defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys from 1961 to 1974. Out of Texas Christian University, Lilly was the number one draft pick in 1961 and the first ever draft pick in Cowboys franchise history. A defensive end at the beginning of his career, Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry would move Lilly to defensive tackle midway though his third season. As a tackle, Lilly was first-team All-NFL choice every year from 1964 to 1969, and again in 1971 and 1972. Among Lilly’s greatest assets were his agility, quickness, instincts and resilence. Lilly was All Pro 7 times and played in 11 Pro Bowl games.

During his 14 year career, Lilly missed just one NFL game, the1973 championship game,  due to a leg injury. In addition to being the first ever draft pick of the Cowboys, he was the first player who spent his entire career with the Cowboys to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Known affectionately as “Mr. Cowboy”, Lilly was the first Cowboys ring of honor recepient. He has had the added distinction of returning to Texas Stadium to present each new member in the Ring of Honor.

In 1980, Bob Lilly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and named by Sporting News to be “the greatest defensive tackle in NFL history”. In 1999, Sporting News ranked Bob Lilly number 10 on their list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, making him the highest-ranking defensive lineman and the highest-ranking Dallas Cowboy.

At one point, prior to joining the Cowboys, Lilly  received a gift of a 35 mmm camera and a years supply of film. Lilly took an immediate interest in his gift, one that would grow into a passion. Throughout his NFL career, he would take photographs of the people and places he encountered. Following his retirement Lilly’s photographic interests continued as he turned photography into his new pursuit.

The NFL Dallas Cowboys have been an exceptional team through the years thanks to many outstanding all-stars. Bob Lilly, “Mr. Cowboy” was the first, great Cowboy and the first Cowboy legend to leave his mark on the game, Dallas Cowboys history, and the NFL.

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