American Football Database
Harvey Martin
No. 79     
Defensive end
Personal information
Date of birth: (1950-11-16)November 16, 1950
Place of birth: Dallas, Texas
Date of death: December 24, 2001(2001-12-24) (aged 51)
Career information
College: East Texas State
NFL Draft: 1973 / Round: 3 / Pick: 53
Debuted in 1973 for the Dallas Cowboys
Last played in 1983 for the Dallas Cowboys
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Sacks     114
Games     158
Interceptions     2
Stats at

Harvey Banks Martin (November 16, 1950 – December 24, 2001) was an American football defensive end in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys from 1973 until 1983. He started playing football in high school, only because he overheard his father tell his mother that he was ashamed that his son did not play like his friends' children. He eventually starred at South Oak Cliff High School and East Texas State University before being drafted in the third round of the 1973 NFL Draft.

Early years

In 1967, Martin's junior year in high school, he transferred to South Oak Cliff High School, which had become the first integrated high school in Dallas. That year, Martin suited up for a football team for the first time in his life. The team went 9-1 that year, though Martin was a backup offensive tackle and only played whenever they had a sizable lead. That would change by his senior year, when in the spring game he got a chance to fill in on defense, which eventually convinced the coaches to move him to defensive tackle. By the third game of his senior year he was a starter and by the end of the season he was the best lineman on a 12-1 team that won the Dallas City championship and went on to the state quarterfinals. Still, he was so skinny and so late-blooming that the only college that offered him a scholarship was East Texas State in Commerce (now named Texas A&M University–Commerce).

Outside of Dwight White being his roommate, his first two college seasons playing as a defensive end went undistinguished. But he evolved into the best defensive end in school history. During his senior year in 1972, in route to leading the school to a national title, he was named to the NAIA All-American, All-Texas, and All-Lone Star Conference Teams.

Martin is one of the most recognized names in the history of Texas A&M University–Commerce athletics, who was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1987. Texas A&M University–Commerce in 2008 started hosting the Harvey Martin Classic where the school's football team plays against another team from the Lone Star Conference.

In 2007 he was selected to the Lone Star Conference’s 75th Anniversary football team and was named the LSC defensive player of the decade for the 1970s. In 2010 he was inducted into the Lone Star Conference Hall Of Fame.

Professional career

He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the 1973 NFL Draft. During his first years with the team, the coaching staff looked to instill in Martin a sense of aggressiveness, confidence and mental toughness, that didn't come naturally to him. He eventually improved his physical strength, improved his technique practicing against hall of famer Rayfield Wright and learned to become an emotional player and fierce competitor, so much so, that he was nicknamed "Too Mean". By his third year in 1975, he was a full-time starter.

The NFL didn't start recognizing quarterback sacks as an official stat until 1982; however, the Cowboys have their own records, dating back before the 1982 season. According to the Cowboys' stats, Martin is unofficially credited with a total of 114 sacks,[1] leading the Cowboys in sacks seven times during a nine-year period, with a high total of 23 sacks in 1977.[2] He ranks first on the team's all-time sack leaders list.[3]

In his rookie year he was a pass rushing specialist, playing only on passing downs, but still lead the team in quarterback sacks with 9, tying Willie Townes rookie team record. His 1977 season was one of the greatest ever by an NFL player. In a 14-game season he totaled 85 tackles and a league-leading 23 sacks (more than Michael Strahan's 22.5 record), he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-Pro selection, a key component of the Cowboys winning Super Bowl XII, and a co-MVP of the game with Randy White.[4]

He remained the team sack leader or co-leader every year, but his totals started to dwindled as his personal problems (financial problems and addictions) grew bigger.

As part of the famed Doomsday Defense, "The Beautiful" aka "Too Mean" went to the Pro Bowl four times and was co-Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl XII. He still holds team records for most sacks as a rookie (9 - 1973), in a season (23 - 1977),[5] and career (114).[6][7] Former Cowboys GM Tex Schramm stated "He'll be remembered as one of the great Cowboys of the golden years ... He was a great player, one of the first great pass rushers." Martin followed up his 23-sack 1977 season[8] with a 16-sack performance in 1978, 10 in 1979, 12 in 1980, 10 in 1981, 8 in 1982 and 2 in 1983. To this day he is considered the greatest defensive end in Dallas Cowboys history.

Martin, along with Don Meredith, is among the few players to play his high school (Dallas South Oak Cliff High School), college (East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University–Commerce), and pro (Dallas Cowboys) career in and around the Dallas, Texas, area. He never played a home game, on any level, outside of North Texas.

In 2009, he was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame.

Personal life

Following his retirement in 1984, Martin briefly served as an NFL analyst for NBC, participated in the battle royal at WrestleMania 2 (1986) for World Wrestling Federation, and appeared several times in World Class Championship Wrestling and the Global Wrestling Federation as a ringside commentator.

With football gone, many inner demons came to light, including bankruptcies, domestic violence, and polysubstance abuse. Although coach Tom Landry sent him to rehab in 1983, Martin continued to abuse drugs and alcohol. He hit rock-bottom in 1996, when "Too Mean" was jailed on domestic violence and cocaine charges, where he received probation and spent the next eight months in a court-ordered rehabilitation program.

Afterwards, he was given a job selling chemical products by former teammate and Cowboys offensive lineman John Niland. He was able to turn his life around, staying clean and sober for the final years of his life, giving anti-drug speeches to both schoolchildren and recovering addicts.

Martin died of pancreatic cancer on December 24, 2001 at the age of 51. As of January 15, 2013, he is the only Super Bowl Most Valuable Player who is deceased.


External links

Preceded by
Fred Biletnikoff
NFL Super Bowl MVPs
Super Bowl XII, 1978
(Co-MVP Randy White)
Succeeded by
Terry Bradshaw