Bob Lilly Biography

Think about all the great players to ever wear the Dallas Cowboys star on their helmets. Of all the great players, who was the very first player ever chosen to play for the team? His name is Bob Lilly, and he was their very first pick in the 1961 NFL Draft, which was also the Cowboys first season in the NFL as an expansion team. He rewarded the Cowboys foresight by being named NFL Rookie of the Year.

Lilly went on to be All-Pro seven times, and was selected to play in 11 Pro Bowl games. He was also drafted in the second round (14th overall) in the 1961 AFL Draft by the Dallas Texans (now Kansas City Chiefs) prior to the merger with the NFL.

Lilly began his career as a defensive end in 1961, but midway though the 1963 season Cowboys coach Tom Landry moved him to defensive tackle. Lilly made the adjustment becoming the cornerstone of the feared Doomsday Defense.

As a tackle, Lilly was a first-team All-NFL choice every year from 1964 through 1969, then again in 1971. The next season, Lilly and the Cowboys finally achieved their long awaited dreams of a championship as they dominated the Miami Dolphins 24-3 to win Super Bowl VI. In the game, Lilly’s sack of Dolphin’s QB Bob Griese for a 29-yard loss was one of the key plays in the game, and is still a Super Bowl record for a tackle for loss.

Lilly was extremely durable during his 14 year career, playing in 196 consecutive regular-season games. The only NFL game he would miss was the 1973 NFC Championship Game in which the Cowboys lost to Minnesota 27-10.

Known as "Mr. Cowboy," his name was the first inscribed in the "Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor" above Texas Stadium. The Cowboys had a Bob Lilly Day on November 23, 1975, to honor him and make Lilly the first inductee into The Ring of Honor. He has attended every induction of each ring of honor inductee since.

Lilly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility, and was the first player who spent his entire career with the Cowboys to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dallas Cowboy star Bob Lilly
Former Dallas Cowboy star Bob Lilly (74) during the farewell at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas.

The Sporting News named him a member of the All-Century NFL Team and "the greatest defensive tackle in NFL history". He is a member of the National Football League 1960s All-Decade Team and National Football League 1970s All-Decade Team and a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team.

In 1999, he was ranked number 10 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, the highest-ranking defensive lineman and the highest-ranking Cowboy.

Lilly was on the 1967 Cowboys team that played for the NFL Championship against the Green Bay Packers in what is known as The Ice Bowl. Lilly and the Doomsday Defense came within 16 seconds of winning the game, as a Bart Starr QB sneak was the difference. The game was so cold, that Lilly to this day still regards it as the coldest he has ever been, and still has trouble from time to time with his lungs.

He is the only Dallas Cowboy to wear number 74, and his number is the only one to be unofficially retired by the team.

Bob Lilly made our NFL All-Time Team. Check out the article to see who else made it.

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