Don Meredith: Tough American footballer who became a much-loved commentator

When he felt a Monday Night Football game was decided, Don Meredith would sing "turn out the lights, the party's over". For Meredith it sometimes seemed the party was never over. He enjoyed two glamorous careers, first as a star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys and then as an announcer-cum-actor, and quit each when he stopped enjoying them.

As a player, Meredith was the model for the Seth Maxwell character played by Mac Davis in North Dallas 40, based on a novel by another ex-Cowboy, Pete Gent. Meredith didn't necessarily like the comparison. Referring to the Gent character played by Nick Nolte he said, "if I'd known he was that good I'd have thrown to Gent more often."

In his second career Meredith was a pioneer. The first prime-time sports programme needed an appeal beyond its football audience, and the byplay between Meredith's good ol' boy act and the verbal pomposity of New Yorker Howard Cosell provided the entertainment while a third announcer played moderator. On their first show Cosell referenced the Cleveland player Fair Hooker. Meredith said dryly, "I haven't met one yet."

Joseph Donald Meredith was born in 1938 in Mount Vernon, Texas. In high school he starred in football, basketball, and the school play, and was second in his class. He attended Southern Methodist University and played in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, where he spent his whole career. Twice All-American, "Dandy Don" was the home-town hero the brand-new Cowboys needed.

The Cowboys coach Tom Landry was conservative, and for three seasons Meredith understudied and then alternated with the 5ft 5in Eddie LeBaron on some awful teams. Taking over as starter in 1963, he endured punishment as the Cowboys improved. By 1966 the Cowboys lost to Green Bay in the NFL championship game. Meredith was voted the league's most valuable player but Landry thought him undisciplined, and Meredith bristled against Landry's perfectionism, saying, "if he were married to Raquel Welch, he'd expect her to cook." Dallas lost to the Packers again in 1967's famous "Ice Bowl", and in 1968 lost a play-off game in Cleveland. Meredith returned with broken ribs, a punctured lung, and pneumonia, only to find himself booed in a local restaurant. He retired before the next season.

Monday Night Football began in 1970. ABC's Roone Arledge recalled the amazing reaction to an interview with a bloodied Meredith after the Ice Bowl game and targeted him. But he left ABC in 1974 when NBC promised to give him acting work and never call him "Dandy Don". He had a recurring role in Police Story as an LA cop partnered with Tony Lo Bianco, and guested on shows like Angie Dickinson's Police Woman and McCloud. He returned to ABC in 1977, continuing with Cosell and Frank Gifford until Cosell retired in 1983. It stopped being fun, and Meredith quit.

He had continued acting, making a number of forgettable TV movies, the best being Undercover With The KKK (1979) in which he played an FBI agent. In retirement he painted, did adverts and occasionally acted. In 1987 he teamed up again with Lo Bianco and Dickinson in the Police Story TV movie.

Joseph Donald Meredith, American footballer and broadcaster: born Mount Vernon, Texas 10 April 1938; married firstly (one daughter), secondly (one daughter, one son), thirdly Susan Dullea; died Santa Fe 5 December 2010.

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

DT Teacher - Textiles

£100 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We urgently require a DT t...

Year 1 Teacher for long term roles starting in September

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Year 6 Teachers needed for long term and day to day roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Year 5 Teachers needed for various roles across Berkshire

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week