| ||IRVING, Texas -- For 11 years, Daryl Johnston was
the kind of guy football fans could relate to: a hard-working,
hard-nosed blocker who did the dirty work that made his teammates -- and his team -- better.
The Dallas Cowboys fullback known as "Moose" was so beloved that even fans in
rival cities such as Washington and Philadelphia screamed his
nickname. He was so appreciated that the NFL changed its rules to
create a spot for him at the Pro Bowl.
But Johnston's style took a heavy toll on his 34-year-old body,
especially his neck. He announced his retirement Wednesday,
fulfilling a promise he made to his doctor following surgery in
"It just didn't seem to have that risk-reward benefit,"
Johnston said. "But you can't be sad, you can't be disappointed,
because this career has exceeded any of the expectations I could've
had growing up in a small town."
Johnston jokingly referred to himself as "a guy that couldn't
even muster 1,000 yards in his career." Maybe not, but he was a
big reason why Emmitt Smith is the No. 3 rusher in NFL history.
"He's meant an awful lot to me in my career," Smith said.
"I've been so naturally following behind him for so long that it's
sad that he's not here."
Johnston was among the most respected people in the Cowboys'
locker room. He inspired teammates with his competitiveness and
toughness and he used his popularity in the community to promote
"When you lose guys that contribute like he did and do it in
the manner in which he did it, you never replace those guys because
there's not a lot of them out there," quarterback Troy Aikman
Johnston was Dallas' second pick in the 1989 draft. He played in
149 consecutive games before the first injury, including Super Bowl
victories following the '92, '93 and '95 seasons.
He returned to play every game in 1998, but admits he was a bit
tentative. He thought he was peaking again when he felt a burning
sensation in last season's opener against the Redskins.
Tests showed problems near the vertebra he had surgically
repaired in 1997. Johnston knew then his career was over, but spent
the rest of the season hanging around the team, making for a long,
"He had a full season to wean himself, going on road trips,
sitting in on meetings," said his wife, Diane. "I know it's going
to be difficult this fall, but he's had the best possible
Johnston's next job likely will be in broadcasting. He worked
three NFL Europe games this summer and he's auditioned with CBS and
Still, he can't help but think of opportunities lost.
The Cowboys are returning to the offense in which Johnston had
his greatest success and he'd love to get another chance in it.
Worst of all, he won't be the one breaking open the hole Smith runs
through should he break Walter Payton's career rushing record.
"He won't be on the field to share with me when and if that
special day comes for me, but he will be with me in heart because
he has carried me for such a long time," said Smith, who is 2,764
Johnston said what he'll miss most is receiving respect from
rival coaches, players and fans.
"It was obvious to see why we were known as America's Team when
you can go into RFK and Veterans Stadium and some of the other
hostile areas around the country and still hear the fans give you
the Moose call," he said. "It always brought a smile to my
Fittingly, Johnston threw one last block for his teammates.
By scheduling his farewell news conference for 2 p.m. CT, he forced
coaches to cancel the final practice of a three-day minicamp.
Wed., June 14
Daryl Johnston goes into my Hall of Fame of "factor" backs, running
backs who made an impact on every play. He didn't have to be the best rusher or receiver out of the backfield. He maximized his talent and did what the Cowboys asked him to do without ever complaining.
Moose was a physically dominating blocker, one of the best blocking fullbacks ever. He could take on linebackers and smother them. Linebackers hate fullbacks like Johnston. By the time the fourth quarter came along, they got tired of the Moose's pounding and started jumping around him. That would leave huge holes for Emmitt Smith to run through late in the game.
I don't think the halfback-fullback relationship is discussed enough in football. The communication between Smith and Moose was invaluable. Emmitt will miss Moose; they worked together, and Emmitt believed in him. He knew Moose would eliminate his man every time.
Johnston was never going to receive the same accolades as Smith, Troy Aikman or
Michael Irvin. He wasn't going to be on highlight films or on the cover of the Dallas Morning News
making a big block. But players and coaches more than appreciated his contributions and understood his effect on their Super Bowl teams. They knew Smith wouldn't make a big run or Aikman wouldn't have time to throw without Johnston.
Review: Measuring up Moose's career
Pro Bowl fullback Daryl Johnston retires from the Dallas Cowboys.
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Daryl Johnston couldn't be happier about his career.
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