Football fans around the country know of Bob Lilly as the anchor of the dreaded “Doomsday Defense” of the Dallas Cowboys, but Lilly’s football career began long before then in the small town of Throckmorton, Texas. Lilly was a dual-sport athlete at Throckmorton High School, achieving all-district honors in both football and basketball by his junior year. After his family moved to Oregon for his senior year, Lilly finally achieved all-state honors in both sports.
Lilly chose to return to Texas to continue playing football at TCU, where he received an athletic scholarship and the nickname “Tiger” from his teammates. In his sophomore season, the Frogs surprised college football by winning the Southwest Conference Championship. Lilly became a starter in the next two seasons and helped the Frogs to a tie for the conference championship title with the University of Texas and University of Arkansas while receiving all-conference honors his junior year. In that year, the Horned Frogs defense allowed only eight points per game.
In his senior year, Lilly was named All-American despite an underwhelming season from the team. His individual performances earned him spots in four different postseason bowl games: the East-West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, the Coaches All-America Game, and the College All-Star Game. His excellent play solidified his position as one of the best defensive players in the country going into the 1961 NFL draft.
Bob Lilly was drafted 13th overall in 1961 with the Cowboy’s first ever draft pick in franchise history. Lilly started his career playing defensive end, but after Dallas head coach Tom Landry changed his position to defensive tackle, his career took off as the centerpiece of the “Doomsday Defense.”
In 1970, the Cowboys finally made the Super Bowl, but lost to the Baltimore Colts 16-13 on a last-minute field goal. In 1971, the Cowboys again made the Super Bowl and stomped the Miami Dolphins 24-3. In that game, Lilly famously sacked quarterback Bob Griese for a 29-yard loss, an NFL record at the time.
Lilly retired in 1974 as a seven-time All-Pro and 11-time Pro Bowler. Lilly was also the image of durability in his time in the NFL, only missing one game in 13 years. In 1975, Lilly was the first ever player inducted into the Cowboys Ring of Honor, and in 1980, he was inducted as a first-ballot player into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After retiring, Lilly operated a beer distribution company until 1982, when he sold the business and took up his lifelong hobby of photography as a profession through a landscape photography business. Lilly’s photographs from his playing career of teammates and stadiums were published in the 1983 book “Bob Lilly Reflections.” Lilly also opened a photo gallery while living in New Mexico. In 1989, Lilly finally settled down in Graham, Texas, where he lives today with his wife, Ann.
The Ideal Frog Poll was designed to decide, once and for all, the greatest TCU Horned Frog football player of all time in the eyes of Horned Frog fans. The candidates include Bob Lilly, Sammy Baugh, Davey O’Brien, and LaDainian Tomlinson. The poll is sponsored by Ideal Partners, a Fort Worth-based company offering HVAC, pest control, security, and fire protection services. Fans can follow this link to cast their vote for the “Ideal Frog.”