Eddie LeBaron, the 5-7 QB Lured from His Law Office to Start for the Cowboys, Has Died

Eddie LeBaron's 1953 Bowman Football Card
Eddie LeBaron's 1953 Bowman Football Card

Before Troy Aikman, Danny White, Roger Staubach, Craig Morton or even Don Meredith, there was Eddie LeBaron, the 5-foot-7 gunslinger who started 10 games for the Cowboys in their maiden season, including the first, a September 24, 1960 Saturday night game against the Steelers at the Cotton Bowl.

The Cowboys had lured LeBaron out of retirement with a $20,000 contract and a law partnership in Dallas. He tossed two first-quarter touchdowns to put the 'Boys up 14-0, before the Cowboys coughed the lead and eventually lost 35-28. The team wouldn't win a game in 1960, and would never win more than five during LeBaron's tenure.

The quarterback made his name at the University of Pacific, running a prolific, T-Formation attack. In 1949, his senior year, he helmed an offense that averaged 503 yards a game, scored 575 points in 11 games and broke the NCAA scoring record. Admirers of his play in college gave him a new Studebaker, a $1,000 diamond ring, two suits of clothes, matched luggage, a television set, a 12-gauge shotgun and a year's supply of ammunition, according to a 1950 Time article. He was given a more formal accolade for his collegiate play in 1980, when he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

After being drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1950, LeBaron decided to join the Marine Corps. Serving in the Korean War, he was wounded twice and awarded the Bronze Star for valor. He joined the Redskins in 1952, before ditching the franchise for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in 1954 when the Stampeders hired his college coach, Larry Siemering.

LeBaron returned to the Redskins in '55. By 1959, he'd earned his law degree from George Washington, where he'd gone to class during off-seasons.

LeBaron was born January 7, 1930 in San Raphael, California. He's survived by his wife, Doralee; his sons, Edward III, Richard and William; and five grandchildren.


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