(Audio of full Randy White interview at the end of this article. Give it a listen. Good stuff!)
Randy White. For Cowboys fans of a certain age, the very name carries a certain mystique.
He is the Manster— half man, half monster. He is, according to our own list, one of the top five players in the 51-year history of the Dallas Cowboys.
Randy White stands 6’4″. His playing weight was 265 pounds. He was the first Cowboy ever to bench press more than 500 pounds. He was so quick, that he was actually drafted to play linebacker. It was a stroke of Landry genius to move him to defensive tackle, where he forever made his mark on the NFL.
White recorded 111 career sacks.
In his 14 year career, he was named first-team All-Pro seven times and was a nine-time Pro Bowler. He was, of course, named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
I sat down with Randy White at his barbecue place, which is aptly named Randy White’s Hall of Fame Barbecue. The food, like the man, is the real Texas deal. (No, Randy is not a Texas native, but he may as well have fought in the Alamo. He is that much Texan.)
Randy, along with Fox broadcaster and former Chicago Bear Tim Ryan, was doing a promotion for Tide and their patented Acti-Lift technology— a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
I expected a five-minute interview. What I got was to sit down over coffee with one of the heroes from my youth and talk football for 25 minutes. What follows are highlights from that conversation.
SBB: It would be hard to pick two greater nemeses of the Dallas Cowboys to play in this Super Bowl, Wouldn’t it?
RW: Yeah, if you picked two teams that Dallas would not want to have playing in the Super Bowl in the new stadium, it would be the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
SBB: Jerry (Jones) said the other day that he wasn’t mad about the Steelers being here. He said the one time he went up against them in the Super Bowl, his team won. I’m guessing some old Cowboys like you, that’s probably a little different story?
RW: It really doesn’t bother me. I don’t hate the Pittsburgh Steelers in any way, shape or form. I’ve got a lot of respect for them. I had a lot of respect for the teams we played in the ’70s. Obviously, it was disappointing that we lost. You don’t like the team your playing against and there was a big rivalry there, but you have a lot of respect for those teams.
SBB: Those rivalries back then, they were a lot more intense. Whatever team you came into the league with, you were apt to stay with, if you were a quality player. You had time to build up animosity; whereas, now, with free agency, you might be on that team next year.
RW: Exactly. You might be a free agent and be on that team next year. That wasn’t the case back when we played the Steelers. You had the same guys year after year. It was the Pittsburgh Steelers with the blue collar, you know, the Steel Town against the Dallas Cowboys, America’s Team. So yeah, it made for a great rivalry.
SBB: You lost two Super Bowls to them— Super Bowls X and XIII. Was one of those more disappointing than the other?
RW: They were both disappointing, but Super Bowl X, I was a rookie. The thing I remember most about that game and that year, the memories I take with me, is Thomas Henderson was dating one of the Pointer sisters. And we went to Joe Namath’s Bachelor III Club in Miami. So, we got to meet the Pointer sisters and Joe Namath sat right next to me at the bar, and I had a drink with him. I thought that was the biggest thing in the world.
When the game was over and we lost the game, you know, you’re not in a good mood. The buses were all full, so they put my roommate Burton Lawless and me into a police escort car.
So, I walked to the car and I saw this guy with long hair and a beard sitting in the back seat, so I said, “Burt, you get in the back.”
I never turned around. I was mad.
Then the guy taps me on the shoulder and says, “Hey Randy, I’m Willie Nelson. I’m a big fan of yours.”
You know that was a highlight.
I said, “No! I’m a big fan of yours.”
Randy talked about Jimmy Buffett singing and everybody’s spirits were lifted. before the night was done, Randy was on stage, singing with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker and Jimmy Buffett.
I guess it only hurts for a little while.
Super Bowl XIII was a different story. Having been there once and knowing what it was all about, losing that game seemed to cut a little deeper.
RW: Not winning the world championship kind of sunk in on you.
SBB: Let’s talk about Super Bowl XII against the Denver Broncos. You and Harvey Martin were named co-MVPs of the game.
RW: We had a great game. Ed (“Too Tall” Jones) had a great game. Randy Hughes had two interceptions in the first half. We pretty much dominated Denver that day. There could have been a lot of most valuable players in that game.
This was the first time the league named co-MVPs of a Super Bowl. It remains the only time for it to happen to date. Randy and Harvey were also the first defensive linemen to win the award.
SBB: Harvey Martin’s been gone awhile. How special is it to you to share that with a teammate that is no longer with us?
RW: Harvey kind of drifted away awhile, but he got everything back on track and going the right direction. Then, he got sick. Every year, if I wouldn’t see him for a whole year, around Super Bowl time, we always did a promotion together. Every year around the Super Bowl, I think about Harvey and the great times we had together.
That day, when the game was over. Harvey came up—the picture was on the cover of Sports Illustrated— that wasn’t a pose, and he wrapped his arm around me and said, “Hey man, we’re the co-most valuable players of this game.
Harvey Martin, one of the greatest pass-rushing defensive ends in NFL history, died of pancreatic cancer in 2001. He is neither in the Cowboys Ring of Honor nor the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
SBB: The ’70s team went to five Super Bowls in a decade. If not for the Steelers winning all four of theirs, we are easily calling the Cowboys the team of the ’70s.
RW: Easy! If we win one of those two games, we’re the team of the ’70s.
SBB: A number of you guys are in the Hall of Fame…
RW: We got four guys into the Hall of Fame. Pittsburgh has quite a few more in the Hall of Fame. That would be us if we had won one of those two games. It wouldn’t have taken Rayfield Wright all the time it did to get in there.
SBB: Of the guys you played with who are not in the Ring of Honor and aren’t in the Hall of Fame, who do you think should be there?
RW: Well, let’s talk about guys that are in the Ring of Honor and are not in the Hall of Fame. Let’s talk about Chuck Howley. Who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame more than Chuck Howley? Let’s talk about Lee Roy Jordan. Who was a more dominant linebacker on a dominant defense than Lee Roy Jordan? Lee Roy was a great middle linebacker. As good as there ever was.
My teammates we just talked about. Harvey Martin. Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Ed gets overlooked. He was one of the most dominant players at his position his whole career. His 6’9 frame up there with those big arms batting balls down, people don’t realize how much he intimidated other teams’ offenses. You talk to the guys he played against, and I guarantee you, they will say Ed belongs in the Hall of Fame.
SBB: Well, look at the Steelers. Lynn Swann is in. If Lynn belongs in the Hall of Fame, Drew Pearson does. They’re the same guy.
RW: Exactly. I would never say those Steelers don’t belong. They do. But I think we’ve got guys that belong in there, too.
SBB: I want to get some thoughts on the current Cowboys. What’s your take on Jason Garrett?
RW: I like him. When he came in as an interim coach, I liked the things that he talked about, the things he implemented: the discipline, the accountability, work hard in practice. The little things that, when I played football, that’s what you did.
That’s the way you did things, ever since I played little league football. You get there on time, you work hard in practice.
SBB: That shouldn’t be a novel idea, right?
RW: No. This isn’t reinventing the wheel. This is a foundation that you have to have at any level if you’re going to be successful.
SBB: I don’t want to go back and dig up Wade Phillips, but his was a laissez-fair approach to player management. You know, they’re men and you treat them like men. But doesn’t everything rise and fall on leadership? Doesn’t there have to be someone holding everyone’s feet to the fire?
RW: You just said what the key was. i think Wade is an excellent football coach, but you have to have a mature, veteran football team to operate under that pretext. You have to have good leaders on your football team and guys with a good work ethic. Wade was waiting for these guys to get it and do it on their own and come together. It just never happened.
That’s why I like Jason Garrett. He’s a very intelligent guy. He knows you have to make players work hard. You’ve got to make them accountable. You make them be there on time. Make them wear a coat and tie, like Coach Landry did. Little things like that add up at the end of the day, and it equates to winning on the field.
You don’t tell guys, “You’ve got your job.”
Every year, when I played, your job was open. You had to earn that job again the next year. It didn’t matter what you did last year. You had a great year, OK. Now, you’ve got to start all over and do it again.
Randy White was passionate about this topic.
SBB: Jerry Jones. He is such a lightning rod. You hear people say that he is a great owner but he’s not a good general manager. Is that even possible? Is it possible to be a great owner, name yourself GM, and not excel as a GM and still remain a great owner? Isn’t the first job of a great owner to hire a man that can put the best product on the field?
RW: That’s a tough question. If I was a player today, I would love to play for Jerry. He pays his guys, he takes care of them, he’s loyal to them. That’s a quality I see in him that I really like.
All of which is owner stuff; not general manager stuff.
If there’s something that has hurt the Cowboys over the last ten to twelve years, it has been their draft.
Ah! Now we are talking general manager stuff.
SBB: Which is why I come back to the general manager…
RW: I’m not sure who is advising him, but if I was him, that is what I would be looking at. He doesn’t make every decision. He takes the input from the people he’s got in place. They’re feeding him the information.
SBB: What do you know about Rob Ryan and how do you feel about that hire?
RW: I don’t know much about him, but I know his dad, Buddy Ryan, was a great defensive coach. Then, look at Rex and the job he’s done with the Jets defense. I’m sure Rob shares the same philosophy.
I really do believe he’s going to be a very positive influence on this football team. Not just the knowledge, but the energy he is going to bring here. You have to have that. Coach Landry had Ernie Stautner. Ernie was tough, hard-nosed.
SBB: Tony Romo is the other lightning rod on this team. There is a constant debate over whether he is the man that can take this team back to that championship level.
RW: That is always going to be a question mark until he does it. Look at Aaron Rodgers. he had that monkey on his back and if he goes into this Super Bowl and doesn’t play well, it’s still there.
That’s a tough one. If you’re going to put guys in the category of an Aikman and Roger Staubach and a Joe Montana and a Terry Bradshaw, you have to earn that. You can’t anoint them.
I think, in Tony’s case, people put him in that league before he got there. That puts a lot of pressure on this kid.
Somebody says, “You’re going to be our next Aikman, our next Staubach. You are going to be our savior.” That is a lot of pressure to put on a guy.
SBB: OK, one last question. Super Bowl XLV: Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers— who are you taking?
RW: I’m taking the Steelers.
He was pretty emphatic with that answer.
RW: I think their defense is going to be the difference. I don’t think Green Bay can run the ball on them.
SBB: If Pittsburgh makes you one-dimensional, that is pretty much church, isn’t it?
RW: Aaron Rodgers is going to scramble against those guys and the way Polamalu can hurt you? I don’t think so.
On the other side of the ball, the thing that works in Green Bay’s favor is Pittsburgh’s offensive line. You got that undersized center. They have to give him some help.
The key to Pittsburgh’s success: they have to run the football. If they get Ben Roethlisberger in second and ten, third and ten, now you got that Clay Matthews kid one–on–one against Flozell Adams. Flozell hasn’t been able to block a speed rusher in the last five or six years.
But I think Pittsburgh, at the end of the day, is going to win. Big Ben, he ain’t pretty, but he’s a winner. And he makes plays when the pressure is on.
Go figure. Randy White still believes defense wins championships.