Former Cowboys defensive end Harvey Martin, an essential part of the Doomsday Defense in the 1970's and former Super Bowl MVP, died Monday night after losing a long battle with cancer.
Martin, 51, played 11 seasons with the Cowboys from 1973-83 and earned four Pro Bowl trips. He remains the Cowboys' leader in all-time sacks with 113.
Although the outspoken Martin seemed invincible at times on the field, he couldn't overcome the pancreatic cancer, which took his life at Baylor Medical Center in Grapevine, TX. The funeral service will be held Saturday in Dallas.
"Our hearts and our prayers go out to Harvey, his family and all of those who loved him," Cowboys' owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "He was a warm and kindhearted man, who was also a tremendous contributor to this organization. His ability spoke for itself."
Martin played in three Super Bowls, including the Cowboys' Super Bowl XII win over the Denver Broncos, which he and Randy White were named Co-MVP's. In the game, Martin recorded two sacks and forced a fumble. But he was more than just a big-game player. In the entire 1977 season, Martin set a Cowboys' record with 20 sacks, earning him NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.
"Harvey taught me a lot about the game and how to be a professional," said Cowboys' defensive ends coach Jim Jeffcoat, who played 12 seasons for the Cowboys. Jeffcoat played just one year with Martin before he retired, but said it was long enough to make a lasting impression. "Harvey used to work with me after practice," Jeffcoat said. "He taught me a lot about technique. But he used to tell me that I was next in line. He prepared me to follow him and that eventually this would be mine. I was always appreciative of that."
However, Martin will never be remembered for his sincerity. In fact, the defensive end who played opposite Ed "Too Tall Jones", earned the nickname "Too Mean" for his outlandish and provocative style.
That was never exemplified more than after a Dec. 16, 1979 game against the Redskins, in which Roger Staubach engineered a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback, giving the Cowboys a 35-34 win. Iin the week leading up to the game, Martin received a funeral wreath, allegedly sent by the Redskins. He kept it in his locker all week for motivation and after the win, he raced into Washington's locker room, opened the door and heaved it into the room, breaking up a team prayer.
Former teammate Robert Newhouse, who now works for the Cowboys as the team's Director of Player Assistance and Development, said Martin was one of the first speed rushing ends of his kind.
"He was so big and strong that he could run right past the tackles," said Newhouse, who played from 1972-83. "He had so much speed off that corner. He was strong and fast and you couldn't stop. It didn't matter how many guys you tried to put over there, he would get to the quarterback."
However. Martin's on-field success didn't carry over when he retired in 1984. The defensive end was plagued by financial trouble, drug and alcohol problems and was charged with domestic violence nearly five years ago. Since then, Martin started to turn things around, working with former teammate and Cowboys offensive lineman John Niland, who gave Martin a job at Arrow Magnolia Inc. But not longer after Martin's life was getting put back together did the cancer develop.
Martin's death marks the second major loss for the Cowboys' organization in the last two years. Legendary head coach Tom Landry passed away to leukemia in February 2000.
"Harvey Martin was a fighter and a competitor and he carried that spirit with him all the way to the end," Jones said. "This is a sad day for Dallas Cowboys fans everywhere and we will all miss him."