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Benny Jewell Barnes (born March 3, 1951) is a former American football cornerback in the National Football League for eleven seasons, all with the Dallas Cowboys. He played college football at Stanford University in the Pacific-8 Conference.

Benny Barnes
refer to caption
No. 31
Position:Cornerback / Safety
Personal information
Born: (1951-03-03) March 3, 1951 (age 68)
Lufkin, Texas
Height:6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight:190 lb (86 kg)
Career information
High school:John F. Kennedy
(Richmond, California)
Contra Costa (JC)
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:138
Games started:78
Fumble recoveries:10
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

Early yearsEdit

After attending John F. Kennedy High School in Richmond, California, he moved on to Contra Costa College in nearby San Pablo, where he was an all-conference linebacker for the football team and also an all-conference track and field athlete.

In 1970, Barnes transferred across the Bay to Stanford, where he was converted from linebacker to free safety. He was a two-year starter (24 consecutive starts) and a part of the “Thunder Chickens” defense, that was very effective (9 of the 11 starters played professional football).

In 1971, Barnes posted seven interceptions (three against Sonny Sixkiller at the University of Washington)[1][2] and was an honorable-mention (second team) All-Pac-8 selection as a senior.[3][4]

He contributed to teams led by quarterbacks Jim Plunkett and Don Bunce in two of the biggest upset victories ever in the Rose Bowl, in January 1971 and 1972, respectively.

Although he played just two years, Barnes was inducted into the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame and selected to the Stanford's All-Century Team. In 2011, he was inducted into the California Community College Athletic Association Hall of Fame.

Professional careerEdit

Dallas CowboysEdit

In 1972, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys, and made the team based on his excellent special teams play on punt and kickoff coverage.

In 1974, he was named the special teams captain and by the end of the season he was a starter at left cornerback, but fractured his right ankle and foot against the Cleveland Browns, an injury that would affect him the rest of his career (three surgeries). The next year, he was used on passing downs as the fifth or sixth defensive back and started 3 games.

In 1976, he regained the starter position at left cornerback in the fifth game after Mark Washington suffered 2 concussions at the beginning of the season.

Although he didn't have great athletic ability, he compensated with technique, instincts and effort, which made him and underrated part of the team. In 1977, he was the starter for the Super Bowl XII winning team.

His best season came in 1978, although he missed three games with ankle and foot problems, he led the team with 5 interceptions, while still excelling on special teams. In Super Bowl XIII he was involved in one of the most controversial calls in Super Bowl history, when Lynn Swann ran up his back and both fell, resulting in a pass interference that gave the Pittsburgh Steelers the ball deep in Cowboys territory and an eventual crucial touchdown. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, would later concede that it was the official call was wrong.[5]

In 1979, despite a sore right foot that affected him since 1975, he tied for the team lead in interceptions and fumble recoveries (including one returned for a 33-yard touchdown). In the offseason he underwent a joint fusion surgery on his chronically right sore foot.

In 1980, he missed the first five games after having an appendectomy in the morning of the season opener. The Cowboys went 12–4 in the regular season with Barnes (6 games) and Steve Wilson (10 games) sharing the left cornerback position.

The next season, Barnes was moved to strong safety, to improve the depth after the retirement of Charlie Waters and to make room for undrafted free agent Everson Walls. He played as a third-down specialist and had a 72-yard fumble return for a touchdown in October at San Francisco.[6]

Barnes was waived in August 1983 at the end of training camp, and replaced with undrafted free agent Bill Bates.[7]

Oakland Invaders (USFL)Edit

On January 14, 1984, he signed with the Oakland Invaders of the USFL, reuniting with John Ralston, his former head coach at Stanford,[8] but was released before the season started.[9]

Barnes retired after an 11-year NFL career, where he was part of eight NFC Championship Games and three Super Bowls. He is considered to be one of the best special teams players in Dallas Cowboys history.

Personal lifeEdit

Barnes spent some time investing in restaurants and worked at Contra Costa College as equipment manager.[10] He is currently married, with three sons and one daughter.


  1. ^ "Stanford beats UW by 17–6". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. October 10, 1971. p. 1,sports.
  2. ^ "Stanford knocks off Huskies". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire services. October 10, 1971. p. 4B.
  3. ^ "Four Ducks on Pac-8 squad". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). November 28, 1971. p. 1B.
  4. ^ "Bobby Moore again named To All-Pac-8". Santa Cruz Sentinel. November 28, 1971. p. 18.
  5. ^ "Super Bowl Call on Barnes was Wrong, Rozelle Says". Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  6. ^ "Cowboys fogged in in San Francisco". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire services. October 12, 1981. p. 3B.
  7. ^ "Barnes cut by Cowboys". Victoria Advocate. (Texas). Associated Press. August 28, 1983. p. 1B.
  8. ^ "Benny Barnes signs with Oakland Invaders". Times-Daily. (Florence, Alabama). January 15, 1984. p. 2C.
  9. ^ "USFL teams trim rosters; Wranglers sign No.1 choice". Times-News. (Hendersonville, North Carolina). Associated Press. February 21, 1984. p. 13.
  10. ^ "For former football pro, it's all about the students". Retrieved February 19, 2017.

External linksEdit