Kenny Gant’s hands moved while answering a question, and I was like a moth drawn to a flame.
I was trying not to be rude, but this longtime Dallas Cowboys fan could not stop glancing at his right ring finger. That is where he was donning one of his Super Bowl championship rings.
Emblazoned on the side it said “WORLD CHAMPIONS.”
Yes, anyone who was born after 1996, the Dallas Cowboys have won five of those such rings.
The first one happened in 1971, which was four years before I arrived at Fort Hood Army Hospital. The next one occurred in 1977 as a 2-year-old budding sportswriter proudly donned his Dallas Cowboys pajamas.
Super Bowl ring No. 3 took a while. I was a senior in high school when Dallas made all my dreams come true by defeating Buffalo at the Rose Bowl to win the franchise’s third championship. In the too-good-to-be true category, Dallas followed it up with another Super Bowl title in 1993 during my freshman year of college.
I had to endure San Francisco winning my sophomore year, but thanks to Deion Sanders leaving the 49ers for the Cowboys in the middle of 1995 season, Dallas won it all again my junior year.
That was 22 years ago.
Forget the Super Bowl; at this point, I would take the Cowboys just reaching an NFC title game.
This is why I was transfixed looking at Gant’s 1992 Super Bowl ring.
Gant was one several retired NFL players, who were guests of honor at the 17th annual Veterans Memorial Golf Tournament on Monday at Holly Lake Ranch Golf Club.
Gant played safety for the Cowboys, but most of us remember him as making special teams must-see television. Nicknamed “The Shark,” Gant was the gunner on Dallas’ kickoff team and seemed to make it his personal mission to bring down the kick returner.
So, back to my original question to Gant about what he sees for the 2017 Cowboys as I finally looked up from that Super Bowl ring to hear his answer.
“Consistency is the key. … They lost a lot of defensive components, but in hindsight, they lost the Green Bay game because of the secondary, so I kind of consider it an upgrade,” Gant said. “The offense is going to be fine. Defensively, you have to be a cohesive group.”
Gant played on the Cowboys from 1990 to 1994 before finishing his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and retiring in 1997.
As a Cowboy, Gant played in two Super Bowls and three NFC title games. In comparison, the 2016 Cowboys went 13-3 but did not win a playoff game.
I asked him what it’s going to take for Dallas to once again have a chance to play for that ring on his finger.
“I think these guys are just missing the element of family atmosphere,” Gant said. “All the guys that were on our defense, we hung out; we went to our kids birthday parties and I just don’t see no camaraderie because if you have that off the field, it would automatically transition to on the field.
“But I don’t think these guys hang out together. When we were playing, after practice, we were getting back into another huddle (asking) where we going (to eat). We would go to a place 20 deep.”
Gant was one of three retired Cowboys on hand at the golf tournament. Joining him were former running back Lincoln Coleman and Super Bowl champion tight end Billy Joe DuPree. DuPree led the Cowboys in receiving in that 1977 Super Bowl win discussed earlier. He enjoyed an 11-year career, all with the Cowboys, from 1973 to 1983.
When he was asked what it took for playoff success, DuPree at first did not know how to answer.
“It’s kind of difficult for me to describe because I played 11 years in the league and I played for the right to go to the Super Bowl seven of those 11 years and won three of them,” DuPree said. “They are developing a lot of good talent. If they can keep the guys in place and keep them healthy, they have a good chance.”
The Cowboys defense has been forced to play shorthanded and be patchwork overall because of continual suspensions of starting players.
Since 2015, seven players on the Cowboys defensive front have been suspended for four or more games with linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive end Randy Gregory missing the season. Entering the 2017 season, Gregory has already failed another test and will miss this year as well.
Throw into the mix emerging defensive end David Irving, who is appealing a four-game suspension for 2017 and recently acquired free agent cornerback Nolan Carroll, who was arrested on a DWI charge.
Gant again believes teammates are not holding one another accountable because they are not with one another after games and practices end.
To put it in his words, “They scatter.”
“If they hang out with each other, they will take care of one another,” Gant said. “It becomes individuality; when you do things on your own, there is no one there to pull you back and no one there to say, ‘Man, let me drive.’
“You are left out there on your own. When we did it, we were all together. Guys would have accidents, like when Big E (Erik Williams) had his accident there was 12 of us on the scene. You don’t think about it then, but (now) you realize that is family right there.”
Many pundits are already predicting Dallas to experience a decline in victories, thanks to a much more difficult schedule.
Could this be the year to end the 22-year drought?
Gant ended our interview by saying he’s not sure, but emphasized that the team needs to stick together.
The Cowboys open the regular season Sept. 10 at home against the New York Giants.