- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2008

— On Dec. 9, 1972, the Washington Redskins came to Texas Stadium, the Dallas Cowboys‘ glittering new football palace, for the first time.

On Sunday, the Redskins visited for the last time, barring a playoff matchup in January. Next season the Cowboys will move out of the once state-of-the-art 37-year-old building into their latest Taj Mahal, a billion-dollar, retractable-roof stadium under construction in nearby Arlington.

For Zach Thomas, who grew up in Pampa, Texas, as a Cowboys fan, there is a little extra something about this game and this season.

“You think of all the stars and great players and plays in that stadium,” he said. “I watched them growing up playing in that stadium. So, yeah, it means something.”

It means something for some of the visitors, too. Redskins tackle Jon Jansen, the team’s longest-tenured player, said he has plenty of memories about the old place - some good - such as an improbable 14-13 comeback victory in 2005.

“That would be the one for me,” he said. “I had broken both thumbs the week before, and I had to play with two casts, and to be able to get a win and do it like that, it’s something I’ll never forget for a lot of different reasons. It’s been a landmark in the NFL for a long time, and it’s been fun to have some memorable games there.”

Still, not even all the Cowboys become wistful over their final season in Texas Stadium, even for the final appearance of their old hated rivals.

Veteran linebacker Bradie James acknowledged that Sunday’s game was a big one but not for any historical reasons.

“Every NFC team is our rival, and Washington goes back to the old-school rivalry days,” said James, who has played in 43 games at Texas Stadium in his six seasons with the Cowboys. “But I wouldn’t just put [the emotion] on that. There’s a lot of emotion because it’s our next game.”

But if the significance of the moment is lost on some of the present Cowboys, those of the past embrace it.

“For the guys who played here and won championships here, there has to be some emotion,” said Dan Reeves, who played for the Cowboys when they moved into Texas Stadium midway through the 1971 season and served as an assistant coach from 1972 through 1980, earning two Super Bowl rings.

“When we moved in here, there were kind of mixed emotions because we really loved the Cotton Bowl and we were going to a smaller stadium. But we started winning here, and we began to like it. We had a lot of big games here.”

Former Cowboys scouting director Gil Brandt has an even more personal stake in the old building, having been involved in its design and construction from the ground up.

Then Cowboys owner Clint Murchison gave Brandt the task of making sure Texas Stadium had all the latest innovations, right down to the artificial turf. Brandt surveyed players at UCLA, who had played road games on several surfaces, before deciding on Tartan Turf for the Cowboys’ stadium.

“I walked into Mr. Murchison’s office, and he handed me six legal pads,” Brandt recalled. “He said he wanted me to go to the last six stadiums that had been built and find out all the things that were good and all the things that were not good so we could make sure our stadium was the best.

“So this is really special to me - and sad - because I feel like I had a little hand in making that stadium what it became.”

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