“His gentle nature away from the game belied his commanding presence on the field. All fans, especially those of the Cowboys, will fondly remember his dominance on the offensive line in the 1970s and how he took protection Dallas quarterbacks as his personal mission.
“We will guard his legacy in Canton with the same tenacity. The Hall of Fame flag will fly at half mast through Rayfield’s services next Friday in tribute to the many lives he touched.”
A seventh-round pick in the 1967 AFL-NFL Draft at Fort Valley State College, Wright was an offensive tackle who played in 188 games during his 13-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, where he was named to six Pro Consecutive bowls and three first-team All-Pro selections.
After being offered a job by the Cincinnati Royals of the NBA, Wright chose to give up a career in professional basketball and later joined the Cowboys as a tight end.
During the 1969 season, right tackle Ralph Neely suffered an injury, which forced Cowboys Hall of Fame head coach Tom Landry to plug Wright as his replacement. After an outstanding performance, he was named the team’s starter the following season.
Wright was named to the 1970s NFL All-Decade Team after helping the Cowboys win two Super Bowls in five trips under Landry. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016 and is one of two offensive linemen elected to the team’s Ring of Honor, as well as the Hall of Fame.
“Rayfield Wright was the epitome of what it takes to be a Hall of Famer,” Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said in a statement. “His courage, his agility, his passion, his charisma and his love for football, the community and his family always shined.
“The original ‘Big Cat’ helped shape the future of the Dallas Cowboys throughout his illustrious 13-year playing career. Rayfield was a champion on and off the court. He remained an important part of the Cowboy family long after his playing days are over, and he will be deeply missed.Our love and support goes out to his wife, Di, and the entire Wright family.