Continuing our ongoing series, “He Said, She Said”, we moved on to who we thought should be the next man up for the Dallas Cowboys Ring Of Honor. Despite the legacy Darren Woodson created in Dallas, there is a player I feel is more deserving to be enshrined first, regardless of what “He Said”. Harvey Martin was one of the greatest pass rushers of all time. Harvey Martin revolutionized the DE position back in the 70’s and terrorized quarterbacks throughout the league.
The Beginning Of A Legacy.
Harvey Martin was born on November 16, 1950 in Dallas, Texas. When he was 10 years old a new franchise came to town, the Dallas Cowboys. Martin grew up following the Cowboys and was a big fan.
Harvey Martin worked in a department store and never envisioned himself as a football player. He planned on working his way up to a management position at the store. It wasn’t until he overheard his father complaining to his mother that the sons of all of the other fathers at the golf club played football and Harvey was bigger and stronger than any of them. Plagued with guilt, Harvey Martin decided to play football for the first time in his life. He transferred to South Oak Cliff High School (in his junior year, 1967) which was the first integrated high school in Dallas.
The team went 9-1 that year, but no thanks to Harvey Martin who was a backup offensive tackle and only saw the field when the team had a sizable lead. His senior year was when his life was about to change forever. Call it destiny, call it fate, or whatever you want, but during the spring game, Harvey Martin got a chance to fill in on defense and persuaded the coaches to move him to defensive tackle.
By the third game of his senior season, he was a starter and became the best lineman on a 12-1 team that won the Dallas City championship and went on to the State quarterfinals. Despite his success his senior year, he was so thin and so late-blooming, the only college that offered him a scholarship was East Texas State in Commerce (now named Texas A&M UniversityÃ¢â‚¬â€œCommerce).
His first two years playing defensive end in college were uneventful, but he eventually became the best defensive end in school history. In 1972, during his senior year, while playing a major role in leading his team to a national title, he was named to the NAIA All-American, All-Texas, and All-LSC teams.
Harvey Martin is one of the most revered names in the history of Texas A&M-Commerce sports and was inducted in to it’s Hall Of Fame in 1987. In 2008, the college started hosting the Harvey Martin Classic. It’s where the schools football team plays against another team from the Lone Star Conference. In 2007, Harvey Martin was selected for the Lone Star ConferenceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 75th Anniversary football team and was named the LSC defensive player of the decade for the 1970s. In 2010, he was inducted into the Lone Star Conference Hall Of Fame.
Harvey Martin was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the 1973 NFL Draft. During his first years with the team, Tom Landry looked to instill in Martin a sense of nasty, confidence and mental toughness, that didn’t come naturally to him. Martin spent a lot of time in the weight room improving his strength. He improved his technique by going against Rayfield Wright every day in practice. He developed in to such a passionate and nasty player that he was nicknamed, “Too Mean”. By his third year in the NFL (1975), Harvey Martin was promoted from a situational pass rusher, to the full time starter. Thus, the legend began.
The NFL didn’t start counting sacks as an official stat until 1982. Despite popular belief that Michael Strahan holds the all-time single season sack record with 22.5 in a 16 game season, Harvey Martin logged 85 tackles and 23 sacks in a 14 game season in 1977 and was named the defensive player of the year, an All Pro selection and was named the CO MVP of Super Bowl XII because he was a clutch player in the game. Martin not only led the Cowboys in sacks 7 out of 9 seasons, he finished his career with 114 sacks in only 158 games.
As an integral part of the feared Doomsday Defense, “Too Mean” went to the Pro Bowl four times. Former Cowboys GM Tex Schramm said:
“He’ll be remembered as one of the great Cowboys of the golden years … He was a great player, one of the first great pass rushers”
Harvey Martin held the Cowboys Franchise sack record for 30 years until it was broken by DeMarcus Ware in 2013. Despite the fact that Ware beat his sack record with 117 in 152 starts, I still believe that Harvey Martin was the better pass rusher because according to our staff historian, Michael Valentino, Harvey MartinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s repertoire of pass rush moves included a forearm club with his right arm that enabled him to go past the left tackleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s outside shoulder and a quick swim move which allowed him to knife past the tackleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inside shoulder. He and Randy White would often work loops and other line stunts. Martin was one of the most feared pass-rushing ends in the NFL, and although Ed Ã¢â‚¬Å“Too TallÃ¢â‚¬Â Jones was widely considered to be the CowboysÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ better run-defending end, MartinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s run defense skills were still considerable. He was far from a one-trick pony.
Former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Tom Landry once called Harvey Martin the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best pass-rushing defensive end ever. To this day, despite having Willie Townes, George Andre, Ed Jones, Jim Jeffcoat, Tony Tolbert, Charles Haley and Greg Ellis play the same position, Martin remains the greatest pass-rushing end in club history.
Harvey Martin played in an era rich with talent at the defensive end position. MartinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s contemporaries included Jack Youngblood, Lee Roy Selmon, Fred Dean, Dan Hampton, Ed Jones, L.C. Greenwood, Richard Dent, Dwight White, Al Baker, Dexter Manley and Lyle Alzado.
In 2011, Richard Dent was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dent was a linchpin on the great Chicago Bears defenses of the mid-1980s. I am not questioning his worthiness for induction in the Hall of Fame. However, if Dent was voted into the Hall of Fame, why is Harvey Martin being snubbed by the voters?
Both played right defensive end on dominating Super Bowl winning teams. Both were feared pass rushers who more than held their own playing the run. During his two best seasons Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 1984 and 1985 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Richard Dent combined for 34.5 sacks in 32 games (1.08 sacks/game). Harvey MartinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s two best seasons were 1977 and 1978 when he had 39 sacks in 30 games (1.3 sacks/game).
When one considers pass attempts and sacks, over their respective best two-year period, Dent accounted for one sack every 32 quarterback drop-backs, while Martin accounted for one sack every 23 quarterback drop-backs. Over their careers, Dent had 137.5 sacks in 203 games (0.68 sacks/game) while Martin had 114 sacks in 158 games (0.72 sacks/game). Finally, consider that Dent played in the most attacking up field defensive scheme of his era while Martin played in a read-and-react, gap control style of defense that keyed the run first before linemen were allowed to turn up field. When all of this is taken into consideration, I contend that if Richard Dent is a member of the Hall of Fame, so should Harvey Martin be. (Michael Valentino, YDCFF Historian)
I contend that Harvey Martin is the Cowboys best pass rusher of all time rather than Demarcus Ware, because he too, much like Dent, was an every down pass rusher, unlike Martin, who played in a read-and-react, gap control style of defense that keyed the run first before linemen were allowed to turn up field.
All of that being said, despite the impact Darren Woodson made on the Cowboys team of the 90’s, I believe Harvey Martin earned a spot in the Dallas Cowboys Ring Of Honor long before Darren Woodson ever set foot on an NFL field.
Harvey Martin died of pancreatic cancer on December 24, 2001 at the age of 51. As of January 15, 2013, he is the only Super Bowl Most Valuable Player who is deceased. The fact that Woodson was never a Super Bowl MVP, went to less Pro Bowls, isn’t a member of the all decade team and Martin being deceased, is all the more reason “She Said: Harvey Martin Should be the Next Man Up”. It only seems right to preserve his memory among the other Cowboys greats by having his name and number permanently displayed on the upper deck in AT&T stadium. (Career history, stats and accolades courtesy of Michael Valentino, NFL.com and Wikipedia.)