- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- Ask members of the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line if they knew who Leon Lett was before they joined the team and you get a mixed reaction.
"A little bit, not a lot," defensive tackle Jarius Wynn said. "As time went I saw the picture on the wall and I heard about the Thanksgiving thing. He's a real good person. As soon as I came in he helped me on what I needed to work on."
"I knew a little, he was a great player, and from a coaching standpoint he brings both sides of the road to the table," said defensive tackle Drake Nevis.
Oh yeah, that Thanksgiving thing is 20 years old this week.
If you don't remember, or didn't see the "Sunday NFL Countdown" story on it, Lett is known for one of the biggest gaffs in league history. On Nov. 25, 1993, the Cowboys were in a Thanksgiving Day game against the Miami Dolphins in cold and icy Texas Stadium.
As the Dolphins were attempting a game-winning field goal, the Cowboys' Jimmie Jones blocked the kick. As the ball rolled toward the end zone, Lett ran down the field and tried to scoop it up, but instead slipped on the icy field and the Dolphins' Jeff Dellenbach recovered at the Cowboys' 1. So instead of a 41-yard field goal that was blocked and would have given the Cowboys a close victory, Pete Stoyanovich nailed a 19-yarder as time expired giving the Dolphins a 16-14 win.
"It’s strange but it doesn’t bother me," Lett said. "The strange thing is that I made over 400 tackles or what have you and I never see any one of those [plays]. And I had some great teammates that made some excellent plays on the football field. I'm talking about just the defensive side of it. You don’t see those guys score the touchdowns or make the big plays. You only see the fiasco with the snow."
When it comes to the Cowboys' players on this team, all they care about is Lett teaching them the game. It's not just with unknown prospects such as Everette Brown and Nevis and Wynn, it could be with veterans DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher.
There are times Lett, nicknamed Big Cat, is instructing the defensive linemen on how to attack the pass-rusher or how to shed a block during a run play. Ware will ask Lett about hand placements and footwork.
"It's good to be around a coach who loves football but who also loves the brotherhood that goes in it," Nevis said. "So he knows what we're going through, the tough days and you got to have fun with it in the right way."
The players know about Lett and his wonderful career where he was a three-time Super Bowl champion, picked up 22.5 sacks, 128 quarterback pressures while making 14 postseason appearances for the Cowboys.
Lett downplays it all saying he played for the fans and his teammates because they showed love for a man who was a seventh-round draft pick out of Emporia State.
"It doesn’t matter to me," Lett said. "Like I said, when I get a chance to introduce myself, I don’t go up and said, ‘I’m Leon Lett, three-time Super Bowl champ.’ I don’t even say I am a coach now. I’m Leon. You can call me Big Cat. Whatever you want to call me. Most of the guys are receptive. All of them are. They all want to work hard and they all want to get better. That’s what we’re doing here, just trying to improve every day."