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Dexter Coakley
No. 52     
Linebacker
Personal information
Date of birth: (1972-10-20) October 20, 1972 (age 47)
Place of birth: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Career information
College: Appalachian State
NFL Draft: 1997 / Round: 3 / Pick: 65
Debuted in 1997 for the Dallas Cowboys
Last played in 2006 for the St. Louis Rams
Career history
* Dallas Cowboys (19972004)
Career highlights and awards
* 3× Pro Bowl (1999, 2001, 2003)
Career NFL statistics as of 2006
Tackles     764
Quarterback sacks     9.5
Interceptions     13
Stats at NFL.com
College Football Hall of Fame

William Dexter Coakley (born October 20, 1972) is a former American football linebacker who played ten seasons in the National Football League (NFL). He was a third round draft choice of the Dallas Cowboys in the 1997 NFL Draft, out of Division I-AA school Appalachian State. Coakley was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011 making him Appalachian State's first inductee.[1]

Early yearsEdit

Coakley graduated from Wando High School, where he earned four letters in football. He was the team's Most Valuable Player twice and was twice named all-conference as a safety and was a very productive running back rushing for over 2,000 yards his junior and senior years.[2] He posted 295 tackles in his final two yearsand also lettered in wrestling.

College careerEdit

In order to meet academic requirements for College, Coakley attended Fork Union Military Academy post-graduate program for one year, before accepting a scholarship to Appalachian State University.

While at Appalachian State University he grew bigger and was switched to linebacker, becoming the first two time winner of the Buck Buchanan Awards, given each year to the nation's top Division I-AA defensive player. He was a critical part of the defense on the 1995 Mountaineer team that finished the season unbeaten and untied.[3]

Coakley was named All-American and Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore, junior and senior, becoming the first player ever to accomplish this feat. He was also the Southern Conference's Athlete of the Year as a junior and senior, marking just the seventh time in conference history that one individual had earned that distinction in consecutive years.[4]

His numerous accolades include being second all-time in tackles in Southern Conference history and breaking the all-time solo tackles (616) and sacks records at Appalachian State University, where his jersey number is retired. He earned a degree in communications and advertising.

In 2011 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the Southern Conference Hall of Fame.

Professional careerEdit

Dallas CowboysEdit

Coakley dropped in the 1997 NFL Draft, because he was considered an undersized linebacker from a small college. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round.

Coakley became the Cowboys starter at weakside linebacker as a rookie and never relinquished the position. His speed and athleticism allowed him to become a playmaker in Cowboys defenses that were built around speed and pursuit. At the end of the season he was named to the NFL All-Rookie team.

In 1999, Coakley made 131 tackles and intercepted four passes, becoming the first Cowboys linebacker to go to the Pro Bowl since Ken Norton Jr. in 1993. Coakley also received the NFL's "All Iron MVP" award during the 1999 Thanksgiving Day game.

His string of seven consecutive 100-tackle seasons is a franchise record. In addition, he has reached double figures in tackles 37 times in 95 career regular season games. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 1999, 2001 and 2003.[5]

In the 90's, the Cowboys organization felt they could find linebackers through the draft, without the need of paying a premium and adversely impacting the salary cap, so they allowed talented and productive players like Ken Norton Jr., Darrin Smith, Dixon Edwards, Robert Jones and Randall Godfrey, to leave via free agency, instead of signing them in to long-term contracts. This philosophy ended when the Cowboys re-signed Coakley to a six-year contract extension in 2001.

While Coakley started all 16 games in 2004, he shared significant time with second year linebacker Bradie James, finishing the year with a career-low 91 tackles (60 solo), ending a streak of seven consecutive 100-tackle seasons. He also had 6 quarterback pressures and 5 passes defensed.

At the end of the 2004 season he was released because of salary cap considerations and a switch to a 3–4 defense, which is designed for bigger and taller linebackers.

During his eight seasons with the Cowboys, he was a very durable player starting 127 out of 128 games, his only missed game was midway through the 2001 season because of a sprained knee.

Coakley is tied with Dennis Thurman for the club record for defensive touchdowns with four, coming on fumble (one) and interception (three) returns. He is the fourth leading tackler in franchise history with 1,046.[6]

Saint Louis RamsEdit

Just one day after being released by the Cowboys, he was signed to a five-year contract, by the St. Louis Rams for nearly double the salary he was getting in Dallas, with a signing bonus of 14 million.

Coakley was a starter in 2005, registering 42 tackles, two sacks, and one interception in 12 games for the Rams, before suffering a season-ending fractured fibula and a dislocated ankle.

In 2006, he finished with 37 tackles and two interceptions as a backup, starting five games in place of the injured starter Pisa Tinoisamoa. He was released in 2007.

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

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