Renfro Helped Dallas Turn the Corner

We caught up with former Dallas Cowboys' defensive back, and Hall of Famer Mel Renfro recently to get his thoughts on a variety of subjects. "It was a pivotal time. We drafted guys like Roger Staubach and Bob Hayes. They really began to build a team. In 1965, 1966 and 1967, we started to become a power in the NFL."

Hall of Famer Mel Renfro is a prime example of the Dallas Cowboys' drafting expertise during the franchise's early days.

A two-time All-American running back at the University of Oregon, Renfro was also an NCAA champion in track and a member of the world-record 4-by-100 relay team.

"When I came with the Cowboys in '64, they were an up-and-coming team, said the 1964 second round draft pick," Renfro said. "When I came in, it was time for them to start winning. They were picked to win the Eastern Division that year. We came very close."

"It was a pivotal time. We drafted guys like Roger Staubach and Bob Hayes, as a future. They really began to build a team. In 1965, 1966 and 1967, we started to become a power in the NFL. By the time the 1970's came around, we were becoming Super Bowl winners."

Coach Tom Landry decided to move Renfro, who had been a Pro Bowl selection at safety his first two years, to running back in 1966. Renfro explained the logic behind Landry's thinking.

"The first two years as a defensive back, returning interceptions, kickoffs and punts, I gained more yards than our offensive backs did. Coach Landry decided to switch me over to offense."

The move didn't work out as well as the Cowboys had hoped.

"Early in the year, I got hurt," said Renfro. "I got hip pointers and broke my foot. Coach Landry figured that it would be better if I went back to defense."

Indeed it was better for the 1981 Cowboys Ring of Honor and 1996 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee to go back to defense.

During his 14-year career with the Cowboys, Renfro was a 10-time Pro Bowler (second in club history behind Bob Lilly's 11) and a four-time All-Pro. Retiring after the 1977 season, Renfro played on two Super Bowl champions (VI and XII). His 52 interceptions, 26.4 kickoff return average and 626 interception return yards are still club records.

The versatile Renfro spent the first six seasons of his career at free safety before switching to cornerback for the final eight seasons. He also remembers the Cowboys being labeled as, "Not being able to win the big one."

"In 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969, we lost playoff games that we were expected to win. Green Bay beat us twice and Cleveland beat us twice. They started to write, "The Cowboys can't win the big one."

"In 1970, we got over the hump. We beat Detroit and San Francisco to get into the Super Bowl V, which we lost. We still didn't win the big one. But, the very next year, Super Bowl VI, we came back to beat Miami to win the world championship. After all those years, we were literally America's Team and became consistent winners."

For a number of years, Renfro was in the restaurant business in the Dallas area.

"A few years back, I decided to get out of the restaurant business and devote myself to helping others. I'm now busy with a couple of my foundations, which are geared toward helping people. Coach Landry always stressed the importance helping others and that's what I aim to do."

For Renfro, who was once described by coach Otto Graham at the College All-Star Game as, "Being able to run backwards faster than most men can run forward," hasn't quit running.

He is just using his versatility in different venues.

Boyd Dowler of the Green Bay Packers grabs a Bart Starr pass against Mel Renfro of the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL championship game on December 31st, 1967. The game would be written down in football history as "The Ice Bowl." (AP)

Mel Renfro, left, poses with his bust and former Cowboy coach Tom Landry after Renfro's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday, July 27, 1996, in Canton, Ohio. (AP)

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