Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle Rayfield Wright died Thursday, the Hall of Fame announced. He is 76 years old.
“Over the past few weeks, the love of many Hall of Famers and others in the NFL for Rayfield, his wife Dee and the Wright family has been amplified,” Hall of Fame President Jim Porter said in a statement. “His gentle nature off the court belies his majesty on the court. All fans, especially Cowboys fans, will miss his dominance on the offensive line in the 1970s and how he protected the Dallas quarterback as a own personal mission.
“With the same perseverance we will uphold his legacy in Guangzhou. The Hall of Fame flag will be flown at half-staff next Friday at Rayfield’s service in honor of the many lives he touched.”
Wright, a native of Griffin, Georgia, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2004.
Those accomplishments came after Wright played all 13 NFL seasons in Dallas, totaling 182 games, before retiring in 1980. Wright was named to the NFL’s Team of the Decade in the 1970s.
Wright was the backbone of the Cowboys’ offensive line during the team’s rise to fame in the 1970s under legendary Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry. Wright appeared in five Super Bowls, winning twice (VI, XII) during the team’s decades of excellence, which led to the famous nickname “Team America.”
Nicknamed “Big Cat” for his size and athleticism, Wright was a foreshadowing of right tackle at a time when the position was often paired with the opposing team’s ace rusher. He was the primary protector of Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach’s Hall of Fame career. Wright also anchored a line that produced the first five 1.00-yard rushers in Cowboys history.
After graduating from Ford Valley State University in 1967, Wright was drafted by the Cowboys in the seventh round and later discovered by HOF scout Gil Brandt. Wright, a multi-athlete drafted in college by the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals, was initially used as a tight end before Landry had Wright play for injured right tackle Ralph Neely in the 1969 season. His first start in the right tackle was famous against HOF defensive end Deacon Jones, and Wright played so well that he was the team’s starter the following season.
Leave a Reply