Tony Tolbert – Mr. Consistency
Jimmy Johnson’s inaugural draft class as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys netted three offensive stalwarts. Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnston, and Mark Stepnoski combined to play in 13 Pro Bowls, and helped the Cowboys become one of the NFL’s top scoring teams, but neither was paired with Andre Rison by team owner Jerry Jones as one of the top two free agents for the 1995 off-season. Tony Tolbert was.
That Jones made such a proclamation before the Deion Sanders Sweepstakes ever got under way is worth noting. But his appreciation for Tolbert’s ability and value was too evident to miss.
The lone defensive standout from that 1989 class, Tolbert came to the Cowboys as a lean, unheralded defensive end out of UTEP. Standing 6-6, and weighing 260 pounds, Tolbert soon became a defensive mainstay on a Cowboys team that could seemingly do no wrong in the 1990’s.
While fellow linemen Charles Haley and Leon Lett garner much of the attention from Dallas’ Super Bowl teams from 1992-95, it was Tolbert who proved to be the steadiest contributor. And though Tolbert tallied 59 sacks over his nine-year career, he wasn’t only a pass-rusher. An equal force against the run, Tolbert led all Cowboy defensive linemen in tackles for seven straight seasons from 1991-97.
His lone career touchdown came on a 54-yard interception return against New Orleans on Monday Night Football during the 1994 season.
Tolbert’s best single-season performance came in 1996 when he battled through a chronic knee condition and posted 12.5 sacks, earning his first and only visit to the Pro Bowl.
His postseason performance during Dallas’ Super Bowl XXX run in 1995 is deserving of mention as well. His pair of back-to-back multi-sack games got the Cowboys past the Eagles and Packers at Texas Stadium. And against the Steelers in Tempe, Az. Tolbert added another quarterback takedown of Neil O’Donnell to his list in Dallas’ 27-17 triumph.
When Tolbert retired after the 1997 season, he ranked ninth on the franchise’s all-time sack leaders list, and eighth on the NFL’s all-time postseason sack leaders list. Nearly twenty years later, he still ranks eleventh and ninth on those respective lists.