1975 Dallas Cowboys Player Rankings: #33 Scott Laidlaw
Compliments were dropping like golden rays of sunshine upon the Dallas Cowboys’ 1975 rookie crop, gracing their Thousand Oaks training camp site with a youthful optimism that helped to relieve some of the drudgery commonly associated with two-a-day practices. Distinguished among this scene of adulation were the cries of endorsement encircling the figure of Scott Laidlaw.
Having arrived in camp as an ordinary, baby-faced rookie, Laidlaw had seen his legend blossom into that of a Skoal-chewing, spur-jangling, hard-nosed runner with a decided southern twang. Laidlaw, onlookers wholeheartedly concurred, was the spitting’ image of former Cowboy great running back Walt Garrison.
At 6-feet tall and 206 pounds, Laidlaw’s measurements nearly mirrored those of Garrison. It was said he lined up like Garrison. It was said he ran like him. “He even falls the same way,” said vice president Gil Brandt during training camp. “You put No. 32 on him and nobody would know the difference on the field.”
Unlike Garrison, Laidlaw wore No. 35 for the Cowboys and was busy trying to climb the depth chart at a crowded running back position. Entering training camp, Laidlaw was no higher than fifth on the list of Dallas runners, behind Charles Young, Doug Dennison, Robert Newhouse, and Dennis Booker.
To continue a tradition of Stanford players entering the NFL, Laidlaw proved to be a quick study, displaying a good grasp of the Cowboys’ notoriously complicated offensive system. In college, Laidlaw played in a pass-happy offense that liked to throw the ball 50-plus times per game. Whenever he ran the ball, it was either up the middle or off-tackle. Through the first few weeks of full-contact practices with the Cowboys, Laidlaw tried to familiarize himself with his new duties.
A strong showing early in camp was momentarily swallowed up by a poor preseason showing at the Memorial Coliseum which had Laidlaw worrying that he might be about to hit the exits. Against the Rams in the exhibition opener, Laidlaw missed a blocking assignment, tipped a pass that was intercepted, and once nearly passed the ball away while running in the open field before being tackled from behind.
“The guy should never have gotten me in the open field,” said Laidlaw. “But I’ve never been in the open field before. Now I’m more prepared if it happens again.”
Despite tweaking his knee a few days later, Laidlaw managed to close the preseason out on a high note and make the final roster as the Cowboys’ No. 4 runner and a regular contributor on special teams. In his NFL debut on Sep. 21 versus Los Angeles, Laidlaw received a shovel pass from Roger Staubach and went around left end for a gain of 24 yards, the Cowboys’ longest play of the game. A week later, he caught 4 passes for 30 yards in a 37-31 overtime victory for Dallas.
In Week 4 at the New York Giants, Laidlaw suffered a knee injury on the infield dirt inside Shea Stadium. The cartilage tear in Laidlaw’s knee caused him a moment of severe pain when hit or twisted the wrong way, which required Laidlaw to limp over to the sideline where he would then pop the knee back into place. That injury, combined with the addition of Preston Pearson as an offensive regular, made Laidlaw little more than a special teams contributor over the next month.
Laidlaw did find his way back into the offensive plans for the Cowboys’ Monday Night Football tilt with Kansas City in Week 8, catching a short pass and rumbling 25 yards to the 1-yard line, setting up a Staubach scoring run moments later. But little did the national television audience know that Laidlaw’s return to the lineup would be short-lived. Following the three-point loss to Kansas City, doctors determined that surgery could wait no longer, and Laidlaw was duly shelved for the remainder of the season.