Former Dallas Cowboy Niland visits Victoria
Oct. 23, 2012 at 5:23 a.m.
John Niland is amazed at the size of offensive linemen in the NFL.
Niland weighed between 245 and 250 pounds when he was a first-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys out of Iowa in 1966.
"Back then you played at a position you just had to keep moving and offensive guards at that time you really couldn't weigh over 260," Niland said. "Two hundred and fifty five was pretty much maximum if you were going to pull which we did."
Cowboys coach Tom Landry made sure the linemen maintained their weight by fining them $100 per pound per day for every pound over 265.
Niland maintained his weight and went on to become a six-time Pro Bowler for the Cowboys, during a career that lasted 10 seasons.
"When I played, I had a 30-year mortgage and I paid it off an hour and a half ago," Niland joked. "Today the players own the bank."
Niland, 68, currently lives in Dallas and works as the vice president of construction sales for Arrow-Magnolia International, a chemical supply company.
He visited Victoria to watch co-worker David Buenger's grandson, Mason Buenger, play for the Cade Middle School eighth-grade A team on Tuesday night at Memorial Stadium.
Niland posed for pictures and signed autographs during the game and revisited some of the highs and lows of his career with the Cowboys.
"I remember when it was 20-below zero in Green Bay, Wisconsin and we lost," he said of the 1967 NFL Championship Game known as the Ice Bowl where the Packers beat the Cowboys 21-17. "That really made me mad. Then, I remember we went on a couple of years later to win the Super Bowl (VI in 1972 when the Cowboys beat the Miami Dolphins 24-3) and that made me happy."
Niland enjoyed playing for Cowboys coach Tom Landry, who he considered a role model.
"He was the first Christian man who walked the talk and that impressed me," Niland said. "I think that had a big influence on me becoming a Christian later on in my sports career."
Niland shares the concerns of former players with the recent health issues that have surfaced.
"There's so much to be said when we played about the concussion issues," Niland said. "That was basically the game back then. We thought a concussion was like a badge of courage. I hit the guy so hard, I saw stars. The belief now is that is a concussion and no telling what's going to happen in the future."
Niland is a Cowboys season-ticket holder and is still a fan of the game.
His children were girls, but if he had boys, he wouldn't mind if they played football.
"I encourage them if they like the game," he said. "There's so much else you can do today. We've got so much going on with different groups that we have. If a kid enjoys the game, yes, I encourage them to play. Now do they have to play? No, I'd just as soon see them buried in a textbook."