Neely, big star for Farmington, Oklahoma, Dallas Cowboys, dies at 78 - Albuquerque Journal

Neely, big star for Farmington, Oklahoma, Dallas Cowboys, dies at 78

Ralph Neely (73) races toward a fumble by Dallas Cowboys teammate Dan Reeves (obscured, in white) during this Nov. 26, 1970 home game against Green Bay. Neely died this week in Dallas after Reeves died in Atlanta on Saturday . (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman)

FARMINGTON – Longtime Dallas Cowboys great and Farmington High School graduate Ralph Neely died this week at the age of 78 in his home near Dallas.

The Cowboys announced Neely’s death on social media on Wednesday evening. His pro football career as an offensive lineman included four Super Bowls and two championships, playing alongside Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach as well as Hall of Fame defensive tackles Bob Lilly and Randy White.

Neely was also named as part of the NFL All-1960s team and is a 2014 inductee into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame.

“A little late,” he said with a smile as he was introduced as a New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame inductee in December 2014, “(but) I’m glad to be here.

“Different honors mean different things. Farmington was a great place to grow up … I’ll always keep a special day like this in my memory.”

Somewhat curiously, considering the length of his Cowboys career, the team’s success and the honors bestowed on him during those 13 years – four times All-Pro – Neely is a member neither of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame nor the Cowboys Ring of Honor.

Born Sept. 12, 1943, in Little Rock, Arkansas, Neely played 13 seasons in the NFL, all with the Cowboys. He started his football career in high school playing for the Scorpions before attending the University of Oklahoma.

Neely made one appearance in the New Mexico state championship football game in 1960. The undefeated Scorpions met the Clovis Wildcats in the AA championship game. Clovis won 20-14.

“I have so many fond memories of him,” said younger brother Richard Neely. “A lot of things you never forget.”

Richard, current president of the American Amateur Baseball Congress in Farmington, recalled growing up and seeing his older sibling play in the NFL.

“Always a tremendous amount of support we had for each other,” Richard recalled. “Going to the games and seeing them as a family were great times.”

In addition to football, Neely played baseball and basketball and was a shot putter on Farmington High’s track and field team. After graduating in 1961, Neely attended the University of Oklahoma and played for coaches Bud Wilkinson and Gomer Jones.

Listed at 6-foot-6 and weighing in at over 245 pounds, Neely was one of the bigger players in college football during that time.

“(Ralph) was the biggest player in the school’s history when he got there in 1961,” Richard said.

Neely received All-Big Eight Conference honors and All-American titles in 1963 and 1964, playing both ways as a dominant performer on defense and an excellent blocker on offense.

In 1965, prior to the merger between the National Football League and American Football League, Neely was drafted by the Houston Oilers of the AFL and by the Baltimore Colts of the NFL.

The Dallas Cowboys later obtained his rights from the Colts.

“(Ralph) knew he didn’t want to play for the Colts,” Richard recalled. “There was a huge settlement between Houston and Dallas and the rest was history.”

Neely was named to the NFL’s all-rookie team in 1965 as an offensive right tackle and went on to have a stellar career. Neely also spent playing time with the Cowboys alongside Dan Reeves, who passed away last week at the age of 77. The two came into the NFL at the same time.

“(Reeves) and my dad were really good friends for years,” Richard said.


Neely was named to the Pro Bowl in 1967 and 1968 and was named to the NFL first-team All-Pro three times from 1967 to 1969. He retired from the Cowboys following their 1977 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII.

Ralph Neely, far right, was part of the 2014 class of inductees to the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame. Others shown, from left, Scott Kine representing his dad Ralph Kiner, Pete Shock, Vincente Arroyo (sitting) andTrent Dimas. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

In 2016, Farmington High School hosted a ceremony honoring Neely’s career and time as a Scorpion. Neely presented the school with a golden football as part of the NFL’s Super Bowl High School Honor Roll, which recognizes high schools that have contributed to Super Bowl history. Neely was inducted into the Farmington High School sports Hall of Fame in 1987.

“That was a very special honor,” Richard said of the ceremony. “He loved it because he was with the football team, talking to the team. He was all about the football team.”

During his long career in the NFL, Neely started in 19 of the 26 playoff games in which he appeared. Neely currently ranks 11th in Cowboys history with 168 games started and was recently voted as the second best former Sooner to don a Cowboys uniform, behind only defensive bask Roy Williams, according to the Cowboys official website.

The family has no memorial services planned for Neely. At his request, his body will be donated to the University of Texas for study on the effects of traumatic brain injuries.

The Journal’s Rick Wright contributed to this report.


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