This past Monday (July 3) would have been the 73rd birthday of legendary Cowboys defensive lineman Jethro Pugh.
Pugh is a name that most Cowboys fans today probably don’t even recognize. The Hall of Fame legacies of players like Randy White, Bob Lilly, and Mel Renfro have been passed on to the new generation of Cowboys fans, but Pugh’s legacy has gotten lost in the shuffle, just as it often had during his playing days. White, Lilly, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, and Harvey Martin received much of the praise during the 60s and 70s, while Pugh was typically grouped with “others” when sports commentators would rattle off all the talent the Cowboys possessed on the defense. Former Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt once remarked to USA Today that Pugh “was a terribly unsung person among that bunch of great players we had.”
While it may be easy to forget the contributions of Pugh, it’s certainly not acceptable. An 11th round selection in 1965 out of Elizabeth City State University, Pugh possessed long limbs and a massive 6’6, 260-pound frame. Brandt told USA Today in the same 2015 interview that teams wouldn’t pass up the chance to snatch Pugh in the first round of the modern NFL Draft.
“He would have been a top 10-type player in the draft today. He was big, long arms, very athletic, very fast. Just a great competitor. Smart. He was well beyond his years.”
Pugh would play all 14 seasons of his NFL career along the Cowboys defensive line. At the time of his retirement, Pugh’s 183 games played were the third-most in franchise history, trailing only Lee Roy Jordan and Bob Lilly. He was a two-time Super Bowl champion with Dallas (VI and XII), and is one of two players (Rayfield Wright) who was on the Cowboys roster during the Ice Bowl and their first five Super Bowl appearances.
Pugh’s lone national recognition came in 1968, when the Associated Press named him a second-team All-Pro. Although sacks weren’t an official stat during his playing days, the Cowboys own in-house tracking credits him with 15.5 sacks during that 1968 season. His career count is unofficially listed at 95.5, placing him fifth in franchise history. Only White, Martin, Jones, and DeMarcus Ware have sacked the quarterback more times for the Dallas Cowboys.
Cowboys Nation lost Pugh on January 7th, 2015, when he died of natural causes at the age of 70.
For more on Pugh, you can check out this video from his 2016 enshrinement into the Black College Football Hall of Fame.