Walt Garrison, a fullback who won a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys, led the Big 8 in rushing for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, and participated in rodeo competitions, passed away on October 11, 2023. He was 79. Garrison passed away overnight, the NFL team reported in a story published on its website on Thursday. The cause of death was not disclosed yet.
The 6-foot, 205-pound Garrison, who was selected in the fifth round of the draft out of Oklahoma State, played for nine seasons with Dallas before retiring in 1974 as the No. 3 rusher and No. 4 receiver in team history. He still ranks ninth with 3,491 rushing yards and fourth with 4.32 yards per carry in Dallas’ lifetime chart.
But Garrison’s rodeo career, which he referred to as his first passion, was what truly made him a cowboy. The catchphrase “Just a pinch between your cheek and gum is all it takes” was a recurring theme of his 1970s television appearances. He was also a longstanding spokesperson for U.S. Tobacco and its smokeless Skoal brand.
The Cowboys said that during his rookie season, he would go out after team meetings and participate in local rodeos as a cow wrestler before returning to the hotel before the curfew of 11 p.m.
Garrison was quoted as adding, “I wasn’t starting. I was returning punts and kicks and covering on the kamikaze squad, that’s all I was doing. And hell, you could get hurt worse on them than you can be rodeoing. I didn’t think much about it, but the Cowboys did.”
Soon after, Dallas head coach Tom Landry forbade working extra hours during the campaign. Garrison, however, kept playing during the offseason.
Garrison said, “Coach Landry pointed out that there was a clause in my contract that if I got hurt doing another sport, that my contract would be null and void. And I said, ‘OK.’ I didn’t think rodeo was that dangerous.”
After the 1970 season, in the fifth Super Bowl, Johnny Unitas, Earl Morrall, and the Baltimore Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16–13, and the following year, Roger Staubach led Dallas to a 24–3 victory over Miami, Garrison rushed for 74 yards in the Super Bowl. Garrison was selected for the Pro Bowl in 1972 after rushing for 784 yards and seven touchdowns and receiving for 390 yards and three additional scores.
At the age of 30, Garrison was forced to leave the NFL after tearing his knee ligament in 1975 while cow wrestling in an exhibition run at the national collegiate rodeo hosted by U.S. Tobacco in Bozeman, Montana.
“There’s a lot of similarities between rodeo and football,” Garrison said, equating the three to four seconds it takes to wrestle a steer to the ground with the average length of an NFL play. And bulldogging requires the same amount of energy and concentration as playing football.
Rest In Peace 🌹🙏🏈
Walter Benton Garrison
(July 23, 1944 – October 10-11 2023)
He was a true representation of a Texas cowboy.
May God comfort his family during this time. pic.twitter.com/TfUyDcVVW4
— AFL Godfather 🏴☠️👓🏈 (@NFLMAVERICK) October 12, 2023
Garrison attended Lewisville High School and played baseball, basketball, and football. He was born in Denton, Texas. He started out as a linebacker at Oklahoma State but quickly switched to running back. Gale Sayers of Kansas was defeated by him to win the Big 8 rushing title in 1964. In 1965, he finished with 924 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games.
He is a member of both the Oklahoma State Athletics Hall of Honor and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, and the Dallas Cowboys 25th anniversary team.
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We gather to honor Walter’s life while both grieving his passing and appreciating the gift of the time we had with him. His enormous influence on our lives is evidenced by the tales, giggles, and memories we still have. We send Walter’s family and friends our sincere condolences in the wake of this loss.
May the Memorial Service offer a place for solace, introspection, and the chance to honor a life well lived. Walter’s legacy will serve as a reminder of the value of cherishing each moment in our own lives. Walter’s memory will continue to live on via the stories and the love we share. You can also join us on our Twitter account for more updates.