1975 Dallas Cowboys Player Rankings: #24 Billy Joe Dupree
Lost amidst a bevy of success stories that defined the Dallas Cowboys’ miraculous 1975 march to the Super Bowl was the season-long struggles that plagued the efforts of Billy Joe Dupree. One of the NFL’s top tight ends over the last half of the 1974 season when he finished just one pass reception short of tying Mike Ditka’s franchise record of catches by a tight end in a single season, Dupree entered training camp with every intention of establishing himself as a certified league star at the position. Instead, he endured the worst season of what turned out to be an 11-year career in Dallas.
While certainly not playing at a poor level, Dupree’s early summer efforts in Thousand Oaks were somewhat below what fans expected from the third-year standout from Michigan State. But despite the fact that he was demoted for one preseason game before eventually reassuming his starter’s status, head coach Tom Landry didn’t seem concerned about Dupree’s sluggish summer.
“Billy Joe is a slow starter and he’ll come along in time to be a lot of help,” assured Landry.
Dupree proved to be as good as Landry’s word, playing well in a season-opening victory over the Rams that witnessed a Billy Joe touchdown catch wiped off the board by a Dallas penalty. One week later, no such luck would undermine his prowess around the goal-line, as Dupree enjoyed a career afternoon at Texas Stadium versus the Cardinals.
In a memorable see-saw battle with a familiar division doe, Dupree was twice knocked from the action. Early on, he had to be helped from the field after he jammed his back. And then with 34 seconds remaining in regulation, he collided head-on with cornerback Roger Wehrli, leaving both players lying prostrate for a few moments on the artificial playing surface. Despite what can only be interpreted as a very literal up-and-down day, Dupree still managed to tally 6 receptions for 100 yards, including the game-winning 3-yard scoring pass from Roger Staubach in overtime to earn the team’s MVP award for that week.
Rather than a precursor of things to come for Dupree, his breakout game against St. Louis came just prior to an unexpected blowout. The bad news began in Week 4, when Dupree emerged from a 13-7 Dallas victory with a broken hand. One week later, Dupree managed to sprain an ankle versus Green Bay in a game that saw him drop an easy sideline pass that would have moved the Cowboys on the edge of scoring range late in the fourth quarter. Instead of a last-second field goal to win, Dallas suffered a 19-17 defeat.
Against Philadelphia the following Sunday, Dupree was allowed to start the game. But when backup Jean Fugett wowed the crowd with a seven-catch performance, an obviously ailing Dupree was moved down the depth chart once again, where he was to serve primarily as a blocker for the remainder of the season.
After tallying just one reception over the final nine regular season games, Dupree did manage to make a minor splash on the playoff stat sheet, his 17-yard catch-and-run aiding the Cowboys’ efforts in their 17-14 comeback victory over Minnesota in the Divisional round.