Dexter Coakley

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Dexter Coakley
No. 52
Personal information
Born: (1972-10-20) October 20, 1972 (age 47)
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Career information
High school:Wando
(Mount Pleasant, South Carolina)
College:Appalachian State
NFL Draft:1997 / Round: 3 / Pick: 65
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Forced fumbles:6
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

William Dexter Coakley (born October 20, 1972) is a former American football linebacker who played ten seasons in the National Football League (NFL). He was a third round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys in the 1997 NFL Draft, out of Division I-AA school Appalachian State. Coakley was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011 making him Appalachian State's first inductee.[1]

Early years[edit]

Coakley graduated from Wando High School, where he earned four letters in football. He was the team's Most Valuable Player twice and was twice named all-conference as a safety, after posting 295 tackles in his final two years.

He was a very productive running back, rushing for over 2,000 yards his junior and senior years.[2] He also lettered in wrestling.

College career[edit]

In order to meet academic requirements for College, Coakley attended Fork Union Military Academy post-graduate program for one year, before accepting a scholarship to Appalachian State University.

While at Appalachian State University he grew bigger and was switched to linebacker, becoming the first two-time winner of the Buck Buchanan Awards, given each year to the nation's top Division I-AA defensive player. He was a critical part of the defense on the 1995 Mountaineer team that finished the season unbeaten and untied.[3]

Coakley was named All-American and Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore, junior and senior, becoming the first player ever to accomplish this feat. He was also the Southern Conference's Athlete of the Year as a junior and senior, marking just the seventh time in conference history that one individual had earned that distinction in consecutive years.[4]

His numerous accolades include being second all-time in tackles in Southern Conference history and breaking the all-time solo tackles (616) and sacks records at Appalachian State University, where his jersey number is retired. He earned a degree in communications and advertising.

In 2011, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the Southern Conference Hall of Fame.

Professional career[edit]

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

Coakley was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round (65th overall) of the 1997 NFL Draft, after dropping because he was considered an undersized linebacker with a small college background.

He became the starter at weakside linebacker as a rookie in preseason, after competing with second-year player Alan Campos and would never relinquish the position, registering 136 tackles, 10 tackles for loss (led the team), one interception and one fumble returned for a touchdown.[5] At the end of the season, he was named to the NFL All-Rookie team. His speed and athleticism allowed him to become a playmaker in Cowboys defenses that were built around speed and pursuit.

In 1999, he made 131 tackles and intercepted four passes, becoming the first Cowboys linebacker to go to the Pro Bowl since Ken Norton Jr. in 1993. Coakley also received the NFL's "All Iron MVP" award during that year's Thanksgiving Day game.

In the 90's, the Cowboys organization felt they could find linebackers through the draft, without the need of paying a premium and adversely impacting the salary cap, so they allowed talented and productive players like Ken Norton Jr., Darrin Smith, Dixon Edwards, Robert Jones and Randall Godfrey, to leave via free agency, instead of signing them into long-term contracts. This philosophy ended when the Cowboys re-signed Coakley to a six-year contract extension in 2001.

In 2002, he led the team with 173 tackles.[6] While Coakley started all 16 games in 2004, he shared significant time with second year linebacker Bradie James, finishing the year with a career-low 91 tackles (60 solo), ending a streak of seven consecutive 100-tackle seasons. He also had 6 quarterback pressures and 5 passes defensed. At the end of the 2004 season he was released because of salary cap considerations and a switch to a 3–4 defense, which is designed for bigger and taller linebackers.

His string of seven consecutive 100-tackle seasons is a franchise record. In addition, he reached double figures in tackles 37 times in 95 career regular season games. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 1999, 2001 and 2003.

During his eight seasons with the Cowboys, he was a very durable player starting 127 out of 128 games, his only missed game was midway through the 2001 season because of a sprained knee. Coakley is tied with Dennis Thurman for the club record for defensive touchdowns with five, coming on fumble (one) and interception (four) returns. He is the fourth leading tackler in franchise history with 1,046.[7]

St. Louis Rams[edit]

One day after being released by the Cowboys, he was signed to a five-year contract, by the St. Louis Rams for nearly double the salary he was getting in Dallas, with a signing bonus of $14 million. Coakley was a starter in 2005, registering 42 tackles, two sacks, and one interception in 12 games for the Rams, before suffering a season-ending fractured fibula and a dislocated ankle.

In 2006, he finished with 37 tackles and two interceptions as a backup, starting five games in place of the injured starter Pisa Tinoisamoa. He was released by the Rams in 2007.

NFL statistics[edit]

Year Team Games Combined Tackles Tackles Assisted Tackles Sacks Forced Fumbles Fumble Recoveries Fumble Return Yards Interceptions Interception Return Yards Yards per Interception Return Longest Interception Return Interceptions Returned for Touchdown Passes Defended
1997 DAL 16 92 69 23 2.5 1 1 0 1 6 6 6 0 3
1998 DAL 16 73 55 18 2.0 0 1 0 1 18 18 18 0 5
1999 DAL 16 77 61 16 1.0 1 0 0 4 119 30 46 1 6
2000 DAL 16 87 75 12 0.0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
2001 DAL 15 96 73 23 0.0 2 1 0 2 39 20 29 2 5
2002 DAL 16 108 84 24 1.0 0 1 0 1 52 52 52 1 8
2003 DAL 16 96 73 23 1.0 1 0 0 1 24 24 24 0 6
2004 DAL 16 71 53 18 0.0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 5
2005 STL 12 38 28 10 2.0 0 0 0 1 16 16 16 0 2
2006 STL 16 29 26 3 0.0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 4
Career 155 767 597 170 9.5 5 6 0 13 274 21 52 4 47


Personal life[edit]

He is now the linebackers coach at The Oakridge School in Arlington, Texas, along with fellow former NFL player Carlos Francis. He is also the Softball coach at Oakridge. His first year coaching the team won the Division II championships in the Southwest Preparatory Conference.


  1. ^ Appalachian Sports Information (June 30, 2011). "Coakley's HOF Enshrinement Set for July 16". GoASU. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  2. ^ Bowman, Tommy (May 24, 2011). "ASU's Coakley named to College Football Hall of Fame". Winston-Salem Journal. Archived from the original on January 26, 2013. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  3. ^ "Southern Conference Hall of Fame Bio". May 10, 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  4. ^ "Dexter Coakley". College Football Hall of Fame. Football Foundation. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  5. ^ "Top 10: From Emmitt to Dak; Ranking Best Rookie Seasons in Cowboys History". Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  6. ^ "Top 10: Nearly 40 Combined Pro Bowl Selections Among Best 3rd-Round Picks". Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  7. ^ Hill, Clarence (April 13, 2012). "Bradie James, once on pace to challenge the tackles record, leaves as 6th all-time leading tackler". Star-Telegram Sports Blogs. Star-Telegram. Archived from the original on September 24, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  8. ^ "Dexter Coakley Stats". ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved June 26, 2014.