DALLAS – Walt Garrison, who led the Big 8 in rushing as an Oklahoma State Cowboy, won a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys and competed in the NFL offseason as a rodeo cowboy, has died. He is 79 years old.
The NFL team said in a report posted on its website Thursday that Garrison died overnight. It did not give a cause of death.
Garrison, a fifth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State, played nine years in Dallas and retired in 1974 as the third-leading rusher and fourth-leading receiver in franchise history. He still ranks fourth in Dallas history with 4.32 yards per carry and ninth with 3,491 rushing yards.
But it was Garrison’s rodeo career – which he calls his first love – that made him the ultimate cowboy. A rarely used backup during his rookie season, the Cowboys said he would go out after team meetings, compete in local rodeos as a wrestler, then return to the hotel before the 11 p.m. curfew.
“I didn’t start,” Garrison said. “I’m kicking back, kicking, covering kamikazes, that’s all I do. Hell, you could get hurt more on them than you would at a rodeo. I didn’t think too much about it, but the Cowboys did. .”
Dallas head coach Tom Landry quickly banned part-time jobs during the season. But Garrison moved on in the offseason.
“Coach Landry pointed out that there was a clause in my contract that if I got injured in another sport, my contract would be void,” Garrison said. “I said, ‘Okay.’ I don’t think rodeo is that Danger.”
In Super Bowl LIII following the 1970 season, Garrison ran for 65 yards and a touchdown in a 16–13 loss to Johnny Unitas, Earl Morrall and the Baltimore Colts. He ran for 74 yards in the following year’s Super Bowl, when Roger Staubach led Dallas to a 24-3 victory over Miami. In 1972, Garrison ran for 784 yards and seven touchdowns and added 390 yards and three receiving touchdowns to make the Pro Bowl.
The Cowboys said Garrison did tear his knee while doing turn wrestling (also known as “bullfighting”) in 1975, forcing him to retire from the NFL at age 30.
“There are a lot of similarities between rodeo and football,” said Garrison, comparing the three to four seconds it takes to bring a cow to the ground to the typical length of an NFL game. “Bullfighting requires the same energy and concentration as football.”
Garrison came to Oklahoma State as a linebacker but quickly transitioned to running back. He led the Big 8 in rushing in 1964, beating Gale Sayers, and had 924 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games in 1965.
He is a member of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Athletics Hall of Honor. He was also inducted into the Dallas Cowboys 25th Anniversary Team, the Texas Cowboys Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.