It gives me a great deal of enjoyment to write about Walt Garrison….for he was The Cowboy’s Cowboy….as he had basically been a Cowboy all of his life…..having grown up in Denton, Texas…..which was right next to the City of Ft. Worth….known as Cowtown…..meaning there were a lot of cows….and cows of course beget cowboys…..so when he chose to attend Oklahoma State University….it wes natural for Walt….cuz OSU is the home of the Cowboys.
Walter Benton “Walt” Garrison (born July 23, 1944) is a former professional football player and fullback for the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League….who was selected in the fifth round of the 1966 NFL Draft (79th overall) out of Oklahoma State.
Garrison enrolled at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK….beginning his freshman year on defense as a linebacker until Phil Cutchin became OSU head coach in the spring….moving Garrison to running back. He finished his sophomore season only 12 yards behind rushing leader George Thomas Jr….and as a junior in 1964….he led the Big Eight Conference in rushing with 730 yards….and was also named All-Academic Big-8….then Garrison completed his senior season as OSU’s leading rusher with 924 yards….leading the Cowboys’ to their first win over Oklahoma University in 20 years. He was named to the All Big-8 team….while his post-season highlights included appearances in the East–West Shrine Game, the Senior Bowl….where he was voted the Outstanding Back of the North team, the Coaches All-America Game and the College All-Star Game in Chicago in August 1966 against the Green Bay Packers. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma State University Hall of Honor.
Garrison was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round of the 1966 NFL draft….and since he was known for his toughness and blocking….he took over at fullback after the retirement of Don Perkins in 1969…and proceeded to have a career high 818 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns season. His style of play and perceived ability to play hurt brought him recognition in Cowboys lore….which included playing the 1970 NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers with a cracked collarbone and a serious ankle injury.
During Dallas’ championship season of 1971….Walt Garrison showed his pass-catching skills by leading the team in receiving with 40 catches and a 9.9 per catch average. He made the Pro Bowl after the 1972 season when he rushed for 784 yards and 7 touchdowns….in a year that he was a major part of the Cowboys’ three-headed rushing attack that also included Calvin Hill and Duane Thomas. The previous year, the Cowboys had ridden these three running backs all the way to a Super Bowl VI victory. Garrison was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in September 1972 for its pro football preview issue….with a photo that was from Super Bowl VI in January….so, after the season he was named to the 1973 Pro Bowl.
Long before he was an OSU Cowboy or Dallas Cowboy…..he was a “real” cowboy back in Texas….heck, he even spent time on the professional rodeo circuit during the football off-seasons….for his signing bonus with the Dallas Cowboys in 1966 included a horse trailer. In June 1975, Garrison made an appearance at the College National Rodeo Finals in Bozeman, Montana….cuz it was a knee injury he sustained in an exhibition steer wrestling accident that ended his pro football career. He retired in August 1975 and was replaced in the starting lineup with Robert Newhouse.
Garrison played in the NFL for nine seasons while missing only 7 games….finishing his career with 3,886 yards rushing and 1,794 yards receiving….making Garrison the third leading rusher and fourth leading receiver in team history when he retired. One of the more humorous sports quotes was attributed to Cowboy QB Don Meredith speaking about Garrison’s dependability….“If it was third down, and you needed four yards, if you’d get the ball to Walt Garrison, he’d get ya five. And if it was third down and ya needed twenty yards, if you’d get the ball to Walt Garrison, by God, he’d get you five.” Garrison was named to the Dallas Cowboys’ 25th anniversary team and was also inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
One of my favorite memories about Walt Garrison was his long-time relationship with Skoal smokeless tobacco….where he was one of the original “Skoal Buddies”….plus he is still relevent in an around his hometown of Denton, TX where he is the current television spokesman for Bill Utter Ford. In 1988, he published his biography “Once a Cowboy” with writer John Tullius. The title is a reference to not only his rodeo cowboy career…. but also his career with the Dallas Cowboys’ Cowboy, and his college career with the Oklahoma State Cowboys.