Don Perkins, six-time Pro Bowler and Cowboys Ring of Honor member, dies at 84

A six-time Pro Bowler and Cowboys Ring of Honor member, former running back Don Perkins died at the age of 84, the team announced Thursday.

"We were all deeply saddened by the passing of Don Perkins. As one of the first players to sign with the Dallas Cowboys, Don was a man who set the standard for future generations of Cowboys running backs," the team said in a statement. "He laid the foundation for the strong history of the position in Dallas, and it is a true testament to his skill, ability and versatility that he is still the fourth-leading rusher in franchise history to this date. He was a true family man, a pillar of his community, a well-deserved Ring of Honor member and a selfless teammate. Our condolences and deepest sympathy go out to Don's family, friends and loved ones."

Perkins played eight years for the Cowboys from 1961-68, earning Pro Bowl honors in all but two seasons and receiving an All-Pro nod after a 1962 campaign in which he rushed for 945 yards -- his best as a professional.

The shifty, 5-foot-10 running back first made a name for himself at the University of New Mexico. Perkins was a two-time All-Skyline Conference selection and finished his collegiate career with 3,466 all-purpose yards. He led the nation in kick return average with 34.7 yards per return in 1959.

The Lobos later retired Perkins' No. 43 jersey.

Initially a draftee of the Baltimore Colts in 1960, Perkins instead joined the Cowboys in the franchise's second season of existence and formed Dallas' first truly fearsome QB-RB duo with Don Meredith -- a pairing that preceded the likes of Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith and most recently, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

Perkins became a dynamic playmaker for the Cowboys from the start, placing third in Rookie of the Year voting behind tight end Mike Ditka and quarterback Fran Tarkenton.

He went on to lay the foundation for the dominant Cowboys teams of the late 1960s into the 1970s. In Perkins' final three seasons in Dallas, the team won 31 games and twice fell a win short of a Super Bowl berth.

Perkins finished his career with 1,500 carries for 6,217 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns, and another 1,310 receiving yards and three scores on 146 receptions.

The Cowboys inducted Perkins into their Ring of Honor alongside Meredith in 1976. The stalwarts of the 1960s Dallas offense were the second and third players to receive the honor.

Perkins remains the Cowboys' No. 4 all-time rushing yards leader behind Smith, Dorsett and Elliott, and he ranks fifth in rushing TDs.

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