Tony Hutson, a safety for the Cowboys in the late 1990s, died in early February at the age of 49, according to an online obituary.
The cause of death was not given.
“Our 1996 Dallas Cowboys rookies had a special bond,” teammate Randall Godfrey said in a Facebook post. “He made several trips to Valdosta to help me with my annual football camps. I cherished every moment he made me cry after laughing so hard.
Godfrey added: “You caught us off guard with this one. Rest my brother. Left too early.”
He also told the Post: “He loved giving back to the community and taking care of children. He was just a fun person to be around. He made everyone laugh.
Hutson stood out as an offensive tackle at MacArthur High School in Texas and played at Kilgore College before transferring to Northeastern Oklahoma State University.
Hutson was named an NAIA All-American in 1994 and 1995.
He went undrafted in 1996 after the Raiders discovered a benign tumor on his right lung during a physical.
“My first thought was that I would never play football again,” Hutson said in 1996. “But then I thought there was more to life than football. I just wanted to live my life. J I told my mom about it and prayed about it.
Surgery removed the tumor and the Cowboys signed him as a free agent.
“I have good, quick feet. For the technique I don’t have, I try really hard,” Hutson said.
He spent 1996 on the practice squad and missed most of 1997 training camp after undergoing wrist surgery.
But due to injuries on the Cowboys line, he made his debut late in the year and started a game against Washington, a dramatic 17-14 victory.
“I was so emotional,” Hutson said at the time. “I kept thinking, ‘Don’t let anything happen to Troy (Aikman). Don’t do anything wrong. I was nervous at first and made a mistake early on, but after that I went about my business.
“It’s my first start, millions of people are watching, and it’s Team USA. I had to perform well. Words cannot describe what it was like there.
Hutson played with the Cowboys throughout the 1999 season and appeared in three games for Washington in 2000.
Hutson was with the Raiders in 2001, but was released before the regular season after suffering a triceps injury.