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Former Cowboys Running Back Don Perkins Dies at 84

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Don Perkins | Image by NFL

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The Dallas Cowboys announced on June 9 that Ring of Honor member and six-time Pro Bowler Don Perkins has passed away. Perkins was 84. He played seven seasons in the NFL, all with the Cowboys.

Perkins joined the Cowboys in the team’s inaugural season but did not play due to a broken foot. He became one of the league’s most dominant rushers before retiring after the 1968 season.

Perkins still ranks as the fourth-place rusher in 100-yard games with 10 over the course of his career. He is also fourth on the team’s all-time rushing yards list behind Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, and Ezekiel Elliott.

His 42 touchdowns rank fifth all-time behind Smith, Elliott, Dorsett, and Marion Barber III, who also passed away recently.

Perkins was initially drafted by the Baltimore Colts when the Cowboys were unable to join the league in time to be eligible for the 1960 draft.

Perkins had already signed with the Cowboys when he was drafted, but the league allowed the contract to be honored, provided that the Cowboys surrendered a ninth-round draft pick in 1962 as compensation.

Perkins made an immediate impact as a half-back, racking up 815 yards and four touchdowns in his first season.

He became the first Cowboys player to log a 100-yard game that season in a game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Over the course of his Cowboys career, Perkins suited up at half-back, full back, and running back in his final season.

Perkins finished his career with 6,217 rushing yards and 1,310 receiving yards. He added three receiving touchdowns to his totals, with two of those scores coming in 1968.

He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1967, and 1968. He was also selected as an All-Pro player in 1962, 1967, and 1968. Perkins was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1961.

Perkins graduated from the University of New Mexico prior to joining the Dallas Cowboys. His #43 jersey was the first jersey retired by the school, and he remains one of only three Lobos to post a 2,000-yard season.

He was inducted into the UNM Ring of Honor as part of the inaugural class. In addition to setting numerous rushing records, Perkins holds the school record for average kickoff return yards to this day.

He was coached by Hall of Famer Marv Levy, who has stated that Perkins was one of the best athletes he ever coached. Levy mentioned Perkins in his induction speech to the NFL Hall of Fame.

After football, Perkins became an analyst for CBS and ABC and was a sportscaster for local radio and television in his adopted hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

He was active in the area, serving as the director of the Work Incentive Program for the State of New Mexico and a member of the Board of Trustees for University Hospital as well as the NAACP.

Perkins was a father of four and counted 10 grandchildren before he passed away. The family has yet to release a cause of death.

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