Don Meredith dies at 72; Dallas Cowboys quarterback joined Monday Night Football team

December 7th, 2010 by Staff

Source: Washington Post — Don Meredith, 72, a Texas-born quarterback who after nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys became the boot-wearing, country-crooning foil to Howard Cosell as a color commentator on the original cast of ABC’s “Monday Night Football,” died Dec. 5 at a hospital in Santa Fe, N.M.

His wife, Susan, said Mr. Meredith died after a brain hemorrhage. In recent years, he was treated for emphysema and had suffered a stroke in 2004.

In more than 170 appearances on ABC’s prime-time Monday evening NFL telecast, Mr. Meredith came to be known as “Dandy Don,” the fun-loving Southwestern bumpkin who baited Cosell, the stiff and abrasive New Yorker.

Mr. Meredith was part of the original three-man Monday Night team from 1970 to 1974. He took a brief hiatus for an attempt at Hollywood stardom but returned to the show in 1977 and retired in 1984, the same year Cosell left.

As a football broadcaster, Mr. Meredith provided keen analysis from the perspective of a retired professional. He was the 1966 NFL Player of the Year, led his team to back-to-back title games and was a two-time Pro Bowler.

But he was best known among viewers for witty one-liners.

Commenting on his demanding former Dallas coach, Tom Landry, Mr. Meredith said: “He’s such a perfectionist that if he were married to Dolly Parton, he’s expect her to cook.”

The pioneering weeknight sports show’s success was attributed widely to cast chemistry.

Cosell brought his journalism background to add credibility to the show’s reporting, while Keith Jackson (and later Jackson’s replacement, Frank Gifford) added insightful play-by-play analysis.

Mr. Meredith added panache and splashed the airwaves with color commentary.

“I’d just wait for Howard to make a mistake,” Mr. Meredith once said of his secret to success. “Didn’t usually take too long.”

Joseph Donald Meredith was born April 10, 1938, in Mount Vernon, Tex., about 100 miles east of Dallas.

His parents roped a tire to the branch of a pecan tree in their back yard for Mr. Meredith to practice throwing footballs through.

Mr. Meredith won accolades at Southern Methodist University for his accuracy and high passing completion average. He also took turns on the punt return team and rotated in for duties as a punter and place kicker.

At SMU, he was a two-time all-American and received a business degree from there in 1960.

To keep the Texas college star in the state, Mr. Meredith was signed to a “personal services” contract on Nov. 28, 1959 – two months before Dallas was awarded an expansion team in the National Football League.

In 1963, Mr. Meredith took over starting duties full time and quickly earned a reputation as a teeth-gritting tough quarterback.

In one season, he endured fractured ribs, a broken nose, a twisted knee and a bout of pneumonia.

The first of his two NFL title games came in 1966 against Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers when Mr. Meredith and the Cowboys were overpowered in a 34-27 loss.

The second title game came a year later against the Packers in what came to be known as the “Ice Bowl.”

The temperature dipped below zero, and Mr. Meredith played dismally in the hostile conditions, completing 10 for 25 passes and throwing for only 59 yards in his team’s 21-17 loss.

He achieved some success, however, against Dallas’ main rival: the Washington Redskins.

During a 1966 game against the Redskins, Mr. Meredith achieved franchise history by completing a 95-yard pass to Bob Hayes for the team’s longest completion. The record still stands.

Mr. Meredith was known as a passer who was not risk averse, and his lifetime statistics reflected it. Although he threw for 17,199 yards and 135 touchdowns in his nine seasons, he also had 111 interceptions.

r. Meredith retired from professional football in 1969 at age 31 when he was at the peak of his game. He explained his departure by saying that he no longer felt excitement when he ran onto the field.

He was recruited to join the Monday Night Football crew after ABC Sports president Roone Arledge found Mr. Meredith’s post-game interviews to be particularly candid and funny.

In between his stints at Monday Night Football, Mr. Meredith had a recurring role on NBC’s “Police Story” and had the leading role in the TV movie “Banjo Hacket: Roamin’ Free” (1976), where he played a horse trader in the Wild West.

Mr. Meredith was married multiple times, most recently to Susan Schloss Meredith of Santa Fe. Besides his wife, survivors include a daughter from his first marriage, Mary Meredith of Durango, Colo.; and two children from his second marriage, Michael Meredith of New York and Heather Meredith, who lives near Lexington, Ky.; and a brother.

On Monday Night Football, viewers became well acquainted with Mr. Meredith’s mellow baritone.

On nights when the football game appeared to be decided before time had expired, Mr. Meredith would warble a rendition of Willie Nelsons’s “Party’s Over.”

“Turn out the lights, the party’s over, they say all good things must end. Call it tonight, the party’s over, and tomorrow starts the same old thing again.”

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