1975 Dallas Cowboys Player Rankings: #32 Benny Barnes
Looking back on what is certainly a proficiently compiled career resume, it’s hard to visualize Benny Barnes ever being on the roster bubble. But that’s the reality that the fourth-year player found himself entering Dallas Cowboys training camp in 1975.
Barnes was coming off surgery following a broken ankle suffered the previous December during the 1974 home finale versus Cleveland. And though he was given the opportunity to win the left starting cornerback job in camp, there was still an uncertainty of whether his performance level – due to his tender ankle – would be high enough to even warrant a roster spot.
Like many of his teammates, Barnes started the summer slowly, struggling in the first two preseason games in Los Angeles and Kansas City. But when the Cowboys finally got back home to Dallas, things began to change.
Beginning with his preseason interception of Fran Tarkenton at Texas Stadium, Barnes closed the six-game exhibition slate on a high note, earning the No. 3 cornerback spot, as well as a starting role as one of the special teams “gunners” across from rookie Rolly Woolsey.
Despite his off-season surgery being termed a success, and despite the fact that he continued to play at a high level as the regular season commenced, the operation was not yet complete. Barnes was set to have surgery after the season to finish cleaning out the ankle.
Barnes played well in relative obscurity, toiling on one of the NFL’s top special teams units, helping the Cowboys stay in the thick of the NFC East race, and even earning a surprise start in Week 8 when Mel Renfro was a late scratch with the flu. It wasn’t until a foot ailment sidelined Renfro in early December that Barnes was thrust into the spotlight.
For a must-win Week 13 showdown with rival Washington, Barnes was inserted into the starting lineup with the task of shadowing a duo of top-notch Redskin scoring threats. Beginning with his 6-catch, 105-yard outburst against Dallas in Week 7, wide receiver Frank Grant had scored seven touchdowns over the past seven games. And sidekick Charley Taylor was only three receptions away from becoming the all-time franchise leader in that category.
But with Barnes’ efforts alongside fellow cornerback Mark Washington, the Cowboys limited Washington’s top two receiving threats to a combined 85 receiving yards, as Dallas pitched a second-half shutout to clinch a playoff berth. In addition to his defensive play that day, Barnes was also recognized for his special teams contributions, being named co-winner of the Headhunter award (the team’s weekly special teams prize) with rookie Randy Hughes.