2015 Hall of Fame Inductee
Born in Denton, Texas, Garrison attended nearby Lewisville High School in Lewisville, and graduated in 1962. Garrison enrolled at Oklahoma State University and began his freshman year on defense as a linebacker, until Phil Cutchin became OSU head coach in the spring and moved him to running back.
He finished his sophomore season only 12 yards behind rushing leader George Thomas Jr. As a junior in 1964, he led the Big Eight Conference in rushing with 730 yards and was also named All-Academic Big-8. Garrison completed his senior season as OSU’s leading rusher with 924 yards and led the Cowboys’ to their first win over Oklahoma in 20 years. He was named to the All Big-8 team and his post-season highlights included appearances in the East–West Shrine Game in San Francisco, the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, where he was voted the Outstanding Back of the North team, the Coaches All- America Game in Atlanta and the College All-Star Game in Chicago against the Green Bay Packers. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma State University Hall of Honor.
Garrison was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the fifth round of the 1966 NFL Draft. Known for his toughness and blocking, he took over at fullback after the retirement of Don Perkins in 1969 and had a career high 818 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. His style of play and perceived ability to play hurt brought him recognition in Cowboys lore, which included playing the 1970 NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers with a cracked collarbone and a serious ankle injury.
During Dallas’ championship season of 1971, Garrison showed his pass-catching skills, leading the team in receiving with 40 catches and a 9.9 per catch average. He made the Pro Bowl after the 1972 season when he rushed for 784 yards and 7 touchdowns. That year he was a major part of the Cowboys’ three-headed rushing attack that also included Calvin Hill and Duane Thomas. The previous year, the Cowboys had ridden these three running backs all the way to a Super Bowl VI victory. Garrison was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in September 1972 for its pro football preview issue; the photo was from Super Bowl VI in January. After the season he was named to the 1973 Pro Bowl.
A “real” cowboy, he spent time on the professional rodeo circuit during the football off-seasons. His signing bonus with the Cowboys in 1966 season included a horse trailer. A knee injury he sustained in an exhibition steer wrestling accident at the College National Rodeo Finals in 1974 ended his pro football career. He was replaced in the starting lineup with Robert Newhouse.
Garrison played in the NFL for 9 seasons (missing only 7 games), all of them with the Cowboys. He finished his career with 3,886 yards rushing and 1,794 yards receiving. Garrison retired as the third leading rusher and fourth leading receiver in team history.
One of the more humorous sports quotes was attributed to Cowboy quarterback Don Meredith speaking about Garrison’s dependability, “If it was third down, and you needed four yards, if you’d get the ball to Walt Garrison, he’d get ya five. And if it was third down and ya needed twenty yards, if you’d get the ball to Walt Garrison, by God, he’d get you five.”
Garrison was named to the Dallas Cowboys 25th anniversary team and was also inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
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