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John Roach, the only person to play football for Highland Park, SMU and the Dallas Cowboys, dies at the age of 87

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Little about John Roach was fleeting.

The former Cowboys quarterback and ex-mayor of University Park maintained friendships that, in several instances, lasted more than 70 years. A monthly poker game that began at SMU with college buddies has largely continued for over 60 years, with betting limits not wavering from nickels, dimes and quarters. He and his wife Patsy, whom he met in college, celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary in December.

Pork ribs were one of his grill specialties. He cooked them slowly, of course.

Like elements of his life, his legacy will endure over time.

Roach peacefully accepted a stage IV cancer diagnosis in January, declined aggressive treatment options at the age of 87, and told loved ones he was ready for heaven. He died on Thursday, three days after moving from his old University Park home to a hospice.

He was just a man of great integrity, said son Doug Roach. He was very humble. He was a great dad to my sister (Kaki) and me.

John Roach went to the NFL as the Chicago Cardinals third-round pick in 1956. While debuting at the punt, he primarily played quarterback during an eight-year NFL career. He supported Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr from 1961 to 1963 under coach Vince Lombardi and won two league championships there.

In 1964, Roach thought he was done with football.

He is retired. He joined an investment firm. Then Cowboys coach Tom Landry called him together in August after an injury to quarterback Don Meredith. He started four games.

Roach remains the only person to play football for each of the Highland Park High School, SMU, and the Dallas Cowboys. He is the first of three players in Cowboys history to wear No. 12. Punter Ron Widby, who passed away on December 22, wore No. 12 in 1968. Quarterback Roger Staubach arrived a year later and began a Pro Football Hall of Fame career that led to unofficial retirements.

Roach enjoyed hosting friends and relatives at a lakeside family home in East Texas. Its ashes are suitable to be scattered there.

Roach wasn’t one to bother. He asked loved ones not to praise him at a funeral. He often played down his own achievements. He often claimed that he deserved no special credit when approached.

But one certainly suits him.

In 2008, the community track in Germany Park in University Park was named the John Roach Track in recognition of his contributions. Roach, a captain of his preparatory team, was a member of the Board of Directors of University Park from 1984 to 1988 and mayor from 1988 to 1992.

Embraced and enjoyed by community members, this great loop is continuous and sustainable.

Like the life of Roach himself.

Find more Cowboys coverage from The Dallas Morning News here

Find more SMU coverage from The Dallas Morning News here

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