“Null and Void”: Forced to End Rodeo Career, NFL Icon Walt Garrison Bids Farewell at 79

Published 10/13/2023, 2:20 PM EDT

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Walt Garrison is a name that echoes surpassing the boundaries of a single sport. The now demised star may have been a constant presence in the NFL world, but Garrison ensured to keep another one of his interests alive for as long as possible. Throughout his career in the NFL as a fullback, Garrison played 119 regular seasons and 13 playoff games over nine seasons; doubtlessly earning a respectable name in the industry.

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Looking in from the outside, Walt had a flawless career walk, playing for the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. However, as he strived to make a place for himself as a rodeo cowboy, the road wasn’t a fair one; involving the rocks and gravel unwanted. Hence, following the demise of the icon, the team’s website revealed the story of Walt as a cowboy off the field; the struggles he carried, and the choices he weighed having a foot each in NFL and rodeo.

The hidden struggles of Walt’s rodeo practice

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The Dallas Cowboys’ website reports that Walt found his interest in the rodeo at a young age. Continuing with the same, Walt ended up as a steer wrestler. The sport involves practices similar to that of football. As a steer wrestler, the sport required Walt to chase a steer on the horse. He was about to dismount the horse further and wrestle the steer down to the ground. It was reported that the star was just as well with his skills in rodeo as he was in the NFL.

But the unfortunate circumstances did not allow Walt to carry on with his passion as smoothly. “I rodeoed in the offseason. I steer wrestled…roped some calves, but mostly steer wrestling,” Garrison once stated according to the Dallas Cowboys website. “And Coach Landry pointed out that there was a clause in my contract that if I got hurt doing another sport, that my contract would be null and void, and I said, ‘OK.’ I didn’t think rodeo was that dangerous.” 

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Following the conversation, Walt withdrew from rodeo participation in 1966 out of obligation, though not entirely. Reportedly, finding little time in between his practices and team meets, Walt would sneak out to go participate in rodeo events. But that act soon came to an end when unknowingly somebody called up his coach saying how nice it was that one of the Cowboys was steer wrestling. He had to stop the practice entirely. But interestingly, when Walt believed that the NFL could injure one more than rodeo could, fate played a little trick.

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Walt Garrison weighs passion and money

In 1975, succumbing to an unlikely event, Walt injured his knee while rodeo-ing. Going by the contract, Walt’s NFL career had to end. While one might expect a fierce reaction, the NFL star reacted quite the opposite. He accepted the facts and went ahead with his further plans. He believed that retiring from an injury kept him from having to hear, ‘Well, you’re too old and you’re too slow.’ 

Though Walt spent his recognizable career as an NFL player and would have retired another year in, he revealed that rodeo was his first love. The only reason that kept him from professionally embracing the latter sport was because of what title money it offered. The Dallas Cowboys’ website mentions that the star would have stuck with rodeo if it had been nationally televised.

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“Yeah, that was my first love. I’d been doing that a lot longer than I’d been playing football. And I still do it. I still ride horses and I still do a little team roping.” Walt stated. Apparently, he got more excited talking about his rodeo peak at Cheyenne Frontier Days than his presence at the Super Bowl. Though the stakes set by each sport pushed him to pursue the NFL over rodeo, Walt made sure he remained a cowboy, no matter the field.

Watch this story: Freshman From Central Arkansas Rides to National Rodeo Victory

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Written by:

Shivatmika Manvi

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Shivatmika Manvi is a US Sports writer at Essentially Sports. Having recently attained her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, Shivatmika aims to tread her way forward into journalism. Further, the writer’s eager enthusiasm toward the world of track and field stems from her family’s loyal viewership of the Olympics, and years later, her passion continues/stands.
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Edited by:

Garima Yadav

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