|No. 84, 85|
|Born:||October 24, 1962|
Martin, South Dakota
|Height:||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
|Weight:||234 lb (106 kg)|
|High school:||Gothenburg (NE)|
|NFL Draft:||1985 / Round: 6 / Pick: 158|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
Jay McKinley Novacek (born October 24, 1962) is a former American football tight end in the National Football League who played for the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals (1985-1989) and the Dallas Cowboys (1990-1995). Novacek was a five-time Pro Bowler, who was selected to play each year from 1991 through 1995. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
In 1980, he set the state record in the pole vault at 15 ft 1 in (4.60 m) and also won the state titles in that event and hurdles. He was an All-state football and basketball player. His jersey is the only one retired in school history.
Novacek was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
In 1984, Novacek posted 33 receptions for 745 yards, 4 touchdowns and set an NCAA single-season record for average per reception (22.6 yards) by a tight end. He was selected to the honorable-mention All-American football team and to the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) first team. He finished his college career with 83 career receptions for 1,536 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Novacek also competed in track and field for the Cowboys. He won the WAC decathlon championship and placed fourth in the NCAA championships, earning All-American honors in track. He set the school record for decathlon points (7,615) and in the pole vault jump (16 ft 4 in (4.98 m)). He competed in the 1984 Olympic trials as a decathlete.
In 2008, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 1993, he was inducted into the inaugural class of the University of Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2014, he was inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
In 1987, he began the season as the starter at tight end, until suffering a broken elbow against the New York Giants on October 25. After rookie Rob Awalt had a break-out game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Novacek was placed on the injured reserve list on November 2. He finished the season with 20 receptions for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns, producing just 2 receptions in his first two seasons and only 22 after three years.
In 1988, the Cardinals franchise moved to Phoenix and even though Awalt remained the starter at tight end, Novacek still ranked third on the team with 569 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns. The next year with Gary Hogeboom instead of Neil Lomax as the team's starting quarterback, his production fell to 23 receptions for 225 yards and one touchdown.
In 1990, Joe Bugel was hired as the new head coach, who looked for the tight end position to be either a blocker or perform H-back type functions. Novacek was not seen as a good fit for the new system and was left unprotected--eligible to sign with any team under Plan B free agency.
In 1990, the Dallas Cowboys signed Novacek as a Plan B free agent, arguably the best signing in the history of this program. He was named the starter at tight end, even though the Cowboys also acquired Awalt to compete for the position. He would go on to have a break-out season, becoming one of the league's top receiving tight ends, while registering 59 receptions for 657 yards and 4 touchdowns.
He was a key contributor for the offense in the early nineties, especially on third downs where he could find the soft spot in the defense. Beginning in 1991, he played in five straight Pro Bowls, while helping the Cowboys make the playoffs each year and winning the Super Bowl three times in four seasons. Although blocking was not his strength, he did a solid job locking up opponents.
In 1995, he posted his second-highest single-season total for receptions (62) and touchdowns (5), to go along with a career-high in receiving yards (705). He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to repair a partial tear of his medial meniscus before the last game of the season, but still helped beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.
In 1996, although he missed the regular season because of a degenerative disc in his back, the Cowboys decided not to put him on injured reserve, in the hope he could be ready for the playoffs. On January 3, 1997, he was placed on the injured reserve list. On July 15, he officially retired from the NFL after his chronic lower-back problems cut short his career.
In his 11 seasons, Novacek recorded 422 receptions for 4,630 yards (ninth in team history) and 30 touchdowns, with most of his production coming from 1990 to 1995. He also came up big in the post-season, ranking third in franchise playoff history in receptions (62), receiving yards (645) and touchdown receptions (6).
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Novacek served as a spokesperson for the Alltel Wireless "Yards 4 Youth Football" program in West Texas. He was involved for the National Dairy Council's NFL School Program Fuel Up to Play 60 campaign, and the Heritage Land Bank. He appeared as a coach on the Spike TV reality series 4th and Long, in 2009.