Don Meredith

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Don Meredith
Meredith with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1960s
No. 17
Personal information
Born:(1938-04-10)April 10, 1938
Mount Vernon, Texas, U.S.
Died:December 5, 2010(2010-12-05) (aged 72)
Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.
Height:6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight:210 lb (95 kg)
Career information
High school:Mount Vernon (Mount Vernon, Texas)
NFL draft:1960 / Round: 3 / Pick: 32
AFL draft:1960 / Round: 1 / Pick: territorial
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Passing yards:17,199
Passer rating:74.8
Player stats at

Joseph Donald Meredith (April 10, 1938 – December 5, 2010), nicknamed "Dandy Don" was an American football player, sports commentator, and actor who played quarterback for nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for the SMU Mustangs, and was selected by the Cowboys 32nd overall in the 1960 NFL Draft. He was the second starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, following Eddie LeBaron,[1] and is the first major franchise quarterback in Cowboys history. Under the mentorship of head coach Tom Landry, Meredith led the Cowboys to three-straight postseason appearances from the 1966 to 1968 seasons, including back-to-back NFL Championship Game appearances in the 1966 and 1967 seasons. He was selected a second-team All-Pro in 1966 and made three-straight Pro Bowls from 1966 to 1968.

Meredith was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his last three years as a player. He subsequently became a color analyst for NFL telecasts from 1970 to 1984. As an original member of the Monday Night Football broadcast team, alongside Howard Cosell. Meredith was also an actor who appeared in a dozen films and seven major television shows, some of which had him as the main starring actor. He is probably familiar to television audiences as Bert Jameson, a recurring role he had in Police Story.

Early life[edit]

Meredith was born on April 10, 1938, in Mount Vernon, Texas, located about 100 miles east of Dallas.[2] He attended Mount Vernon High School in his hometown,[3] where he starred in football and basketball, performed in school plays, and graduated second in his class.[4]

College career[edit]

Although he was heavily recruited by Texas A&M head coach Bear Bryant,[4] Meredith played college football at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. His reasoning, likely intended to be more humorous than real, was due to its being closer to home, and the acronym being easier to spell.[5] He led the Southwest Conference (SWC) in passing completion percentage in each of his three years as the starting quarterback (195759), and was an All-America selection in 1958 and 1959.[6] His fellow students jokingly referred to the school as "Southern Meredith University" due to his popularity on campus.[7] He completed 8 of 20 passes for 156 yards in the College All-Stars' 32–7 loss to the defending NFL champion Baltimore Colts in Chicago on August 12, 1960.[8][9][10]

Meredith was honored twice by SMU in later decades; he was the recipient of the university's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1983, and his jersey number 17 was retired during halftime ceremonies at the SMU–Houston game on October 18, 2008.[6] He was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1982.[11]

Professional career[edit]

The Dallas Cowboys franchise was admitted to the league too late to participate in the 1960 NFL Draft, so on November 28, 1959, two days before the draft, Meredith signed a five-year personal services contract with Tecon Corporation, which like the Cowboys, was owned by Clint Murchison. He was intending to attend law school before the deal. This contract meant he would play for the Cowboys if and when they received an NFL franchise. He was also selected by the Chicago Bears in the third round (32nd overall) of the 1960 NFL Draft, after Bears owner George Halas made the pick to help ensure that the expansion Cowboys got off to a solid start.[12] The league honored the contract, but made the Cowboys compensate the Bears with a third-round pick in the 1962 NFL Draft. He is considered by some to be the original Dallas Cowboy because he had come to the team even before the franchise had adopted a nickname, hired a head coach (Tom Landry) or scout (Gil Brandt), or participated in either the 1960 NFL Expansion Draft or its first NFL Draft in 1961.[13][14] The Texans, their crosstown rivals in the American Football League, also chose him as a "territorial selection" in their 1960 draft, but were too late to sign him.

Meredith spent two years as a backup to Eddie LeBaron, eventually splitting time in 1962 before he was given the full-time starting job by head coach Tom Landry in 1963. In 1966, Meredith led the Cowboys to the NFL postseason, something he continued to do until his unexpected retirement before the 1969 season. His two most heartbreaking defeats came in NFL Championship play against the Green Bay Packers, 34–27 in Dallas (1966), during which he was intercepted on a 4th-down passing play, an interception that he later claimed was due to a coaching issue, having incorrect personnel and formation on the field;[5] and the famous "Ice Bowl" game, 21–17 in Green Bay (1967). Already feeling physically and mentally fatigued as a leader, he had his worst playoff outing in 1968 against the Cleveland Browns in the Eastern Conference Championship game, throwing three interceptions before being benched, which led to his retirement in 1969 at age 31. His successor Craig Morton also struggled to win a championship until ultimately Roger Staubach proved to be the missing ingredient needed to finally help the 1971 Cowboys win their first Super Bowl.

Meredith was always exceptionally popular with Cowboys fans, who remember him for his grit and toughness, his outgoing nature, and his leadership during the first winning seasons for the Cowboys. During his career, he had a 50.7% completion rate, throwing for 17,199 yards and 135 touchdowns with a lifetime passer rating of 74.8. He was named the NFL Player of the Year in 1966 and was named to the Pro Bowl three times. According to the NFL, the longest pass with no yards after catch was his 83-yard pass to Bob Hayes. However, the NFL does not keep statistics on the distance of actual passes.

NFL career statistics[edit]

Year Team GP GS Passing Rushing
Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A TD Int Rtg Att Yds Avg TD
1960 DAL 6 1 29 68 42.6 281 4.1 2 5 34.0 3 4 1.3 0
1961 DAL 8 4 94 182 51.6 1,161 6.4 9 11 63.0 22 176 8.0 1
1962 DAL 13 8 105 212 49.5 1,679 7.9 15 8 84.2 21 74 3.5 0
1963 DAL 14 12 167 310 53.9 2,381 7.7 17 18 73.1 41 185 4.5 3
1964 DAL 12 10 158 323 48.9 2,143 6.6 9 16 59.1 32 81 2.5 4
1965 DAL 14 11 141 305 46.2 2,415 7.9 22 13 79.9 35 247 7.1 1
1966 DAL 13 13 177 344 51.5 2,805 8.2 24 12 87.7 38 242 6.4 5
1967 DAL 11 11 128 255 50.2 1,834 7.2 16 16 68.7 28 84 3.0 0
1968 DAL 13 13 171 309 55.3 2,500 8.1 21 12 88.4 22 123 5.6 1
Career[15] 104 83 1,170 2,308 50.7 17,199 7.5 135 111 74.8 242 1,216 5.0 15

Post-football career[edit]

Meredith as Bert Jameson on Police Story, 1976

Following his football career, Meredith helped market Docutel automated teller machines; his brother B. J. was president of the Dallas-area company.[16] Meredith became a color commentator for Monday Night Football beginning in 1970. He left for three seasons (19741976) to work with Curt Gowdy at NFL on NBC, then returned to MNF partners Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell. His approach to color commentary was light-hearted and folksy in contrast to Cosell's scholarly, professorial observations and Gifford's straight-forward, technical play-by-play analyses. He was known for singing "Turn out the lights, the party's over" (a line from a Willie Nelson song "The Party's Over") at garbage time.

Meredith's broadcasting career was also not without a few incidents of minor controversy, including referring to then-President Richard Nixon as "Tricky Dick", announcing that he was "mile-high" before a game in Denver, and turning the name of Cleveland Browns receiver Fair Hooker into a double entendre (saying "Fair Hooker...well, I haven't met one yet!"). He retired from sportscasting after the 1984 season, a year after Cosell's retirement. His final broadcast was Super Bowl XIX with Frank Gifford and Joe Theismann, which was the first Super Bowl broadcast by ABC. He moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lived in seclusion as a painter until his passing.

In 1976, Meredith was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor at Texas Stadium with former running back Don Perkins.

The novel North Dallas Forty, written by former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver and Meredith teammate Peter Gent, is a fictional account of life in the NFL during the 1960s, featuring quarterback Seth Maxwell, a character widely believed to be based on Meredith, and receiver Phil Elliot, believed to be based on Gent. Maxwell and Elliot are characterized as boozing, womanizing, aging stars in the twilight of their careers, held together by pills and alcohol. Of the story, Meredith said, "If I'd known Gent was as good as he says he was, I would have thrown to him more."[17]

Meredith was selected as the 2007 recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award. He received the award at the Enshrinee's Dinner on August 3, 2007.

Acting career[edit]

Meredith also had an acting career, appearing in multiple movies and television shows.[18] From the mid-1970s through the early '80s, he was in a series of commercials for Lipton Tea. He voiced himself in an episode of King of the Hill ("A Beer Can Named Desire"), in which he misses a throw that would have won the main character, Hank Hill, $1,000,000. He was also part of an ensemble cast in his son Michael Meredith's Three Days of Rain with Blythe Danner, Peter Falk, and Jason Patric.

One of his early film roles was as Kelly Freeman in the 1974 film Terror on the 40th Floor, which starred John Forsythe, Joseph Campanella, and Lynn Carlin.[19]

One of his recurring starring roles was as Detective Bert Jameson in Police Story. Tony Lo Bianco also had an ongoing role as Det. Calabrese in the same lot of episodes as Meredith. They also appeared as their characters separately in later episodes.[18][20] One episode, "The Witness", features a picture of Meredith in his Dallas uniform hanging on a wall in Delaney's bar, while Bert interviews witnesses to a robbery below his picture.


Meredith was married three times. His first wife was former SMU cheerleader Lynne Shamburger; they were married from 1959 to 1963 and had one daughter, Mary. From 1965 to 1971, he was married to the former Cheryl King, with whom he had son Michael and daughter Heather. He met his third wife, the former Susan Lessons Dullea (ex-wife of actor Keir Dullea), as they were both walking on Third Avenue in New York City. They married in 1972.


Meredith died on December 5, 2010, at St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 72 years old.[14] He was laid to rest in his hometown of Mount Vernon, Texas.


Television shows
Title Episode Role Director Year Notes #
Police Story "Requiem for an Informer " Officer Bert Jameson Marvin Chomsky 1973 aired October 9, 1973
Police Story "The Hunters" Bert Jameson Richard Benedict 1974 aired February 26, 1974
Police Story "Glamour Boy" Det. Sgt. Bert Jameson Virgil W. Vogel 1974 aired October 29, 1974
Police Story "Explosion" Bert Jameson Alex March 1974 aired December 3, 1974
Police Story "The Witness" Detective Bert Jameson Edward Abroms 1975 aired March 11, 1975
Police Woman "The Loner" 'Turk' Allison John Newland 1975 aired March 14, 1975
McCloud "Showdown at Times Square" Linus Morton Ron Satlof 1975 aired October 19, 1975
Police Story "Face for a Shadow " John Kowalski Alex March 1975 aired November 7, 1975
The Quest "Shanklin" Shanklin Corey Allen 1976 aired October 13, 1976
Police Story "The Jar: Part 1" Sgt. Ed Hagen Michael O'Herlihy 1976 aired December 14, 1976
Police Story "The Jar: Part 2" Ed Hagen Michael O'Herlihy 1976 aired December 21, 1976
Supertrain "Express to Terror" Rick Prince Dan Curtis 1979 aired February 7, 1979
Midnight Caller "Sale Away: Part 2" Foster Castleman Rob Bowman 1990 aired October 26, 1990
Evening Shade "No Pain, No Gain" Billy Clyde Crawford Burt Reynolds 1992 aired May 18, 1992
King of the Hill "A Beer Can Named Desire" Himself Chris Moeller and Chuck Austen 1999 aired November 19, 1999
Title Role Director Year Notes #
Terror on the 40th Floor Kelly Freeman Jerry Jameson 1974 TV movie
Sky Heist Sergeant Doug Trumbell Lee H. Katzin 1975 Main role
TV movie
Banjo Hackett: Roamin’ Free Banjo Hackett Andrew V. McLaglen 1976 Main role
TV movie
Mayday at 40,000 Feet! Mike Fuller Robert Butler 1976 Co-star
TV movie
Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid Clint Allison Burt Kennedy 1978 Co-star
TV movie
The Courage and the Passion Col. Jim Gardner John Llewellyn Moxey 1978 TV movie
Undercover with the KKK Gary Thomas Rowe Jr. Barry Shear 1979 Main role
TV movie
The Night the City Screamed Captain Donald Wiacek Harry Falk 1980 TV movie
Terror Among Us Sgt. Tom Stockwell Paul Krasny 1981 Main role
TV movie
Police Story: The Freeway Killings Detective Foley William A. Graham 1987 TV movie
Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone Clay the Bartender Paul Landres
Frank McDonald
1994 TV movie
Three Days of Rain John Horton Michael Meredith 2002


See also[edit]


  1. ^ de la Rosa, Poch (August 23, 2022). "The Life And Career Of Eddie LeBaron (Story)". Retrieved November 24, 2023.
  2. ^ "Meredith Dies at age 72". New York Post. Associated Press. December 6, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  3. ^ Cowlishaw, Tim (December 7, 2010). "Memories of Don Meredith". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Martin, Douglas; Carter, Bill (December 7, 2010). "Don Meredith, Cowboy's Quarterback and Cosell's Foil, Dies at 72". The New York Times. p. A31.
  5. ^ a b Don Meredith: The Original Dallas Cowboy. NFL Films Presents. January 9, 2020. Retrieved April 26, 2022 – via YouTube.
  6. ^ a b "Legendary Mustang Don Meredith Dies" (Press release). SMU Athletics. December 6, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  7. ^ Seal, Brad (December 8, 2010). "Appreciating Dandy Don Meredith". NFL Blog Blitz. Archived from the original on January 14, 2011.
  8. ^ Chamberlain, Charles (August 13, 1960). "Colts give All-Stars lesson in football". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. p. 7.
  9. ^ "Colts swamp All-Stars, 32-7". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). Associated Press. August 13, 1960. p. 12.
  10. ^ "The 1960 College All-Star Game". The Chicago Charities College All-Star Game. August 12, 1960. Archived from the original on March 12, 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
  11. ^ "Don Meredith". National Football Foundation. 1982. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  12. ^ "1960 NFL Draft". Retrieved February 6, 2016.
  13. ^ Brandt, Gil (December 6, 2010). "Meredith was the original face of the Cowboys". NFL. Brandt was the Dallas Cowboys' original vice president of player personnel from 1960 to 1989.
  14. ^ a b Townsend, Brad (December 8, 2010). "Legendary Cowboys, SMU QB Don Meredith dies". The Dallas Morning News.
  15. ^ "Don Meredith". Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  16. ^ Bevis, Spencer (March 6, 2022). "The rise and fall of Docutel, the Dallas-area company that created the first ATMs". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved March 30, 2023.
  17. ^ "The 35 Biggest Pop Culture Moments in Modern Dallas History". D Magazine. December 16, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  18. ^ a b c "Don Meredith". IMDb. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  19. ^ "Terror on the 40th Floor(1974)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved April 26, 2022.
  20. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (September 11, 2015). Emmy Award Winning Nighttime Television Shows, 1948 - 2004. McFarland. p. 278. ISBN 978-1-4766-0874-7.

External links[edit]

Preceded by NFL on NBC lead analyst
Succeeded by
Preceded by Super Bowl television color commentator (AFC package carrier)
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Monday Night Football color commentator
(with Howard Cosell from 19701973, 19771983 and O. J. Simpson in 1984)
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Super Bowl television color commentator
(non-cable prime-time package carrier)

1984 (with Joe Theismann)
Succeeded by