To steal a quote: Offensive Linemen are like air conditioners, you don’t know what you got until it stops working. During this time of turmoil with Tyron’s career looking to be over and no set or proven player as our starting LT, I thought it was time for a flashback at this position over the Jones Boys years. All in all, not a bad run, but there have been some struggling years in between as we find the next franchiser at the position, and hopefully we’re not looking at the same here.
All 3 of our franchise QBs in the Jones Years – Aikman, Romo, Prescott – had solid blindside protection most of their careers with a few exception years, and really, all 3 had the best offensive line in the NFL at least once in their career, but only Aikman turned it into Super Bowls.
Starters at LT:
1989-1996 Mark Tuinei (Undrafted) – 2 Pro Bowls. Converted defensive lineman. Considered one of the strongest players on the teams of the 80’s, injuries held him back as starting OT in Landry’s last years but had his first full season with Jimmy/Jerry. Started out rocky along with rest of the First Great Wall of Dallas while Aikman took his beating, but went on to greatness including 2 Pro Bowls and 3 Super Bowls. Nate Newton said he was the meanest player on the team and the one guy he would pick to have his back in a dark alley.
1997 George Hegamin (3rd round) – Drafted same year as Larry Allen and claim to fame was he was the biggest man in the draft at that time. Didn’t work out, signed as one of the all-time free agent flops with the Eagles, played as a Guard on a few other teams after Dallas, but never sealed a full time job.
1998 Larry Allen (2nd round) – With the Cowboys in a situation much like right now, was asked to protect Aikman’s blindside and the “Strongest Man in the NFL” and future Hall of Famer adjusted just fine as he helped Chan Gailey bring some spark back to the dynasty and a 10-6 record.
1999-2009 Flozell Adams (2nd round) – Nicknamed the Hotel because of his size. Started in the NFL just like Tyler as a Guard but moved to the vital LT spot in 1999 and dominated the left side with Larry Allen and had a long 5 Pro Bowl career protecting Aikman to Romo, and everyone in between.
2010-2011 Doug Free (4th round) – Slow start in the NFL but managed to overcome and eventually the starting RT for the 2nd Great Wall of Dallas in the Jones Years as Tyron supplanted him as the dominant LOT the Cowboys needed. Overcame a disappointing mid-career slump to become the leader of the Second Great Wall and a mentor for the All Pro Trifecta of Tyron, Zack, and TFred.
2012-2021 Tyron Smith (1st round) – 9th overall, he was the best college prospect on this list. Started on the right side but quickly proved his dominance and swapped with Doug Free. Some years considered the best OT in football. Helped anchor what I would dub ‘The Second Great Wall of Dallas.’ Led several backs to career years and had 8 Pro Bowls.
2022 Tyler Smith (1st round) – Drafted to be the Tyron replacement but after early rookie camps, the Boys decided to play him at LG and learn the NFL in an easier position for his talented but raw skills. An early major injury to Tyron at the end of the preseason potentially reverses this decision for the Cowboys or they bank it all on one of their unproven young swing tackles, or get lucky with a solid trade or free agent. Probably the least secure year since 1997 and 2010.
Some great videos on OTs in the Jones Years:
George Hegamin interview: Listen to his Larry Allen and Charles Haley stories at the end!
A Football Life: Great Wall of Dallas: Tribute to Mark Tuinei
Former LT Larry Allen and new LT Flozell Adams dominating the left side in the late 90’s
Tyron Smith Highlights