How did Don Perkins die? Ex-Dallas Cowboys running back, 84, was a 'true family man'
Don Perkins was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa, and won eight letters for Waterloo West High School, four each in football and track
Ex-Cowboys legendary running back Don Perkins died on Thursday, June 9, aged 84. The NFL team and the University of New Mexico, where he was a standout player before stepping into his professional career, confirmed his death. Perkins was a six-time Pro Bowl running back with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1960s.
"We were all deeply saddened by the passing of Don Perkins. As one of the first players to sign with the Dallas Cowboys, Don was a man who set the standard for future generations of Cowboys running backs. He laid the foundation for the strong history of the position in Dallas, and it is a true testament to his skill, ability and versatility that he is still the fourth-leading rusher in franchise history to this date. He was a true family man, a pillar of his community, a well-deserved Ring of Honor member and a selfless teammate. Our condolences and deepest sympathy go out to Don’s family, friends and loved ones," Dallas Cowboys reportedly said in a statement. Perkins' cause of death has not been revealed.
Perkins was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa, and won eight letters for Waterloo West High School, four each in football and track (sprinter). He also played basketball. Perkins also played college football at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He played halfback and defensive back as a two-way player and was a three-time All-Skyline selection and the Skyline Sophomore of the Year. He also led the nation in kickoff returns back in 1958 and the next year, he received third-team All-American honors.
Later in his career, Perkins rushed for 6,217 yards in 107 games with the Cowboys from 1961 to 1968. He is the fourth on the team’s career list behind two Pro Football Hall of Famers, NFL career rusher leader Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett, as well as their current running back Ezekiel Elliott. His 42 rushing touchdowns rank fifth in team history.
Perkins was initially drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the ninth round of the 1960 draft. However, by the time, he had already signed a personal service with the expansion Cowboys. He got his rights after sending the Colts a ninth-round draft pick.
Perkins reportedly missed the Cowboys’ inaugural season in 1960 after he broke his foot. He was known for rushing for 815 yards in 1961, and finishing third in the voting for NFL rookie of the year behind Mike Ditka and Fran Tarkenton. In 1962, he had a career-best 945 yards.
Perkins was a football analyst for CBS Sports, ABC Sports, among other TV and radio networks. He was also the director of the Work Incentive Program for the State of New Mexico Department of Human Services from 1972 to 1985. Perkins served on the Executive board of US West and the Board of Trustees for University Hospital from 1990 to 1993. He was also a member of the Northwest Mesa Branch of the NAACP. Perkins and his wife Virginia were divorced. He was a father of four children and a grandfather of eleven.
Tributes poured in on social media soon after the news of his death surfaced. "Rest In Peace one of the greatest Lobos of all time. Number 43 is retired at UNM for RB Don Perkins. Perkins rushed for 2,001 yds in his Lobo career (17th all-time). He has the 2nd longest run in Lobo history (85 yd TD vs Arizona in 1957) & was an All-Pro for the Dallas Cowboys," one user wrote. "This sad. Perk was a delightful gentleman. Always gracious. Big part of teams history," wrote another.
Rest In Peace one of the greatest Lobos of all time. Number 43 is retired at UNM for RB Don Perkins. Perkins rushed for 2,001 yds in his Lobo career (17th all-time). He has the 2nd longest run in Lobo history (85 yd TD vs Arizona in 1957) & was an All-Pro for the Dallas Cowboys. pic.twitter.com/EcI44DTKQE— Lobo Football History (@LoboFBHistory) June 9, 2022
"Don Perkins was one of the best ever. Prayers to the Perkins family," one user wrote, while another said, "Oh this is awful news. He was something God bless." "Don Perkins there as a great man and a great Lobo. Rest In Peace!" one user commented.
Don Perkins was one of the best ever. Prayers to the Perkins family.— Dale Fullerton (@td_fully) June 10, 2022
Oh this is awful news. He was something— Larry (@lh24tx) June 10, 2022
Don Perkins there as a great man and a great Lobo. Rest In Peace!— Matt Olson (@stamford_molson) June 10, 2022
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