Meredith’s wife, Susan, told The AP Monday her husband died in Santa Fe after suffering a brain hemorrhage and lapsing into a coma. She and her daughter were at Meredith’s side when he died. “He was the best there was,” she said, describing him as kind, warm and funny. “We lost a good one.”
He played for the Cowboys from 1960-1968, becoming the starting quarterback in 1965. While he never led the Cowboys to the Super Bowl, Meredith was one of the franchise’s first stars. Over his nine-year career, Meredith threw for 17,199 yards and 111 touchdowns. He retired unexpectedly before the 1969 season.
Just two years after retiring from football, Meredith joined Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell in the broadcast booth as part of the “Monday Night Football” crew. Meredith’s signature call was singing the famous Willie Nelson song “Turn Out the Lights” when it appeared a game’s outcome had been determined.
Meredith left ABC after the 1973 season for a three-year stint at NBC. He returned to the “MNF” crew in 1977 before retiring in 1984, one year after Cosell left the team. He was drafted in the third round by the Chicago Bears in 1960 and was traded to the expansion Cowboys franchise for future draft picks.
Meredith led the Cowboys to three straight division titles and to consecutive NFL Championship games in 1966 and 1967. Dallas lost both games though to eventual Super Bowl winners Green Bay.
In 1966, Meredith guided the Cowboys to their first-ever winning season (10-3-1). He was named NFL Player of the Year after throwing a career-high 24 touchdown passes and 2,805 yards. Meredith was one of nine Dallas players selected to the Pro Bowl that year— the first of his two Pro Bowl years.
“He did it without as much help as some of the other guys had,” said Lee Roy Jordan, a former Cowboys linebacker. “Our offensive line was not very good early on. He got beat up pretty bad—broken noses and collarbones and ribs, everything you can think of, Don had it. But he was one tough individual. He played with many an ailment and injury, and was very, very competitive. He and Bob Hayes really set the standard for the wide-open offense, the motion guys and big plays.”