Meredith with the Dallas Cowboys
|Born:||April 10, 1938|
Mount Vernon, Texas
|Died:||December 5, 2010 (aged 72)|
Santa Fe, New Mexico
|High school:||Mount Vernon (TX)|
|NFL Draft:||1960 / Round: 3 / Pick: 32|
|AFL draft:||1960 / Round: 1 / Pick: territorial|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Joseph "Dandy" Don Meredith (April 10, 1938 - December 5, 2010) was an American football quarterback, sports commentator and actor. He spent all nine seasons of his professional playing career (1960-1968) with the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). He 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 1970-1984. As an original member of the Monday Night Football broadcast team on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), he famously played the role of Howard Cosell's comic foil. Meredith was also an actor who appeared in a dozen films and in 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.
Meredith was born on April 10, 1938 in Mount Vernon, Texas, located approximately 100 miles east of Dallas. He attended Mount Vernon High School in his hometown, where he starred in football and basketball, performed in school plays and graduated second in his class.
Even though he was heavily recruited by then-Texas A&M head coach Bear Bryant, Meredith decided to play college football at Southern Methodist University (SMU). 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. He led the Southwest Conference in passing completion percentage in each of his three years as the starting quarterback, and was an All-America selection in 1958 and 1959. His fellow students jokingly referred to the school as "Southern Meredith University" due to his popularity on campus. He completed 8 of 20 passes for 156 yards in the College All-Stars' 32-7 loss to the Baltimore Colts in the Chicago College All-Star Game on August 12, 1960.
He would be honored twice by SMU in later decades. He was the recipient of the university's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1983. His jersey number 17 was retired during halftime ceremonies at the SMU-Houston football game on October 18, 2008. He was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1982.
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 prior to 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. 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), scout (Gil Brandt) or participated in either the 1960 NFL Expansion Draft or its first NFL Draft in 1961. Their crosstown rivals in the American Football League, the Texans, 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 would continue 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), where he was intercepted on a 4th down passing play, but later admitted it was the coaching issue due to having incorrect personnel and formation on the field, 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 Cleveland Browns in the Eastern Conference Championship game, throwing 3 interceptions before being benched, which led to his retirement in 1969, then aged 31. His successor, Roger Staubach took 3 more seasons to help the team win the first championship.
Meredith, while never leading the Cowboys to a Super Bowl, 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 percent 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 3 times. According to the NFL, the longest pass with no yards after catch (YAC) was his 83-yard pass to Bob Hayes. However, the NFL does not keep statistics on the distance of actual passes.
Meredith, along with Harvey Martin, is among the few players to play his high school (Mount Vernon), college (SMU), and pro (Dallas Cowboys) career in and around the Dallas, Texas, area.[importance?]
Following his football career, Meredith became a color commentator for ABC's Monday Night Football beginning in 1970. He left for 3 seasons (1974-1976) to work with Curt Gowdy at 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 observations and Gifford's play-by-play technique. 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.
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."
Meredith also had an acting career, appearing in multiple movies and television shows. From the mid-70s 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, $100,000. He was also part of an ensemble cast in his son Michael Meredith's Three Days of Rain (film) with Blythe Danner, Peter Falk and Jason Patric.
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. One episode, "The Witness", features a picture of Don in his Dallas uniform hanging on a wall in Delaney's bar while Don 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 down Third Avenue in New York City. They married in 1972.
Meredith died on December 5, 2010, at the St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico, after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 72 years old. He is laid to rest in his hometown of Mount Vernon, TX.
|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"||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|
|Terror on the 40th Floor||Kelly Freeman||Jerry Jameson||1974||Made for television|
|Sky Heist||Sergeant Doug Trumbell||Lee H. Katzin||1975||Main role|
Made for television
|Banjo Hackett: Roamin' Free||Banjo Hackett||Andrew V. McLaglen||1976||Main role|
Made for television
|Mayday at 40,000 Feet!||Mike Fuller||Robert Butler||1976||Co-star|
Made for television
|Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid||Clint Allison||Burt Kennedy||1978||Co-star|
Made for television
|The Courage and the Passion||Col. Jim Gardner||John Llewellyn Moxey||1978||Made for television|
|Undercover with the KKK||Gary Thomas Rowe Jr.||Barry Shear||1979||Main role|
Made for television
|The Night the City Screamed||Captain Donald Wiacek||Harry Falk||1980||Made for television|
|Terror Among Us||Sgt. Tom Stockwell||Paul Krasny||1981||Main role|
Made for television
|Police Story: The Freeway Killings||Detective Foley||William A. Graham||1987||Made for television|
|Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone||Clay the Bartender||Paul Landres
|1994||Made for television|
|Three Days of Rain||John Horton||Michael Meredith||2002|