Melvin Lacy "Mel" Renfro (born December 30, 1941 in Houston, Texas) is a former American football defensive back in the National Football League who spent his entire fourteen-year career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Renfro was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of the 1964 NFL Draft. Although he had won many accolades as a running back and at the time teams put their best athletes on the offensive side of the ball, Tom Landry looking to build a dominating defense decided to start him at safety. As a rookie he had an impressive season by leading the team with 7 interceptions, the NFL in both punt return and kickoff return yardage and culminated his great campaign with an invitation to the Pro Bowl. In his second year (1965), his 30 yards kick-off return average still remains as a franchise record.
In 1966 coming from an All-Pro season at safety, the Cowboys named him their starting halfback in an effort to improve its offense. He was injured in the opening game against the New York Giants and replaced by Dan Reeves, who was so impressive that Renfro was moved back to defense when he returned to action and would end up being named to the All-Pro team again.
He was switched to cornerback in his fifth season. The speedy Renfro (4.65 40-yd dash) became an exceptional threat to wide receivers, leading the NFL with 10 interceptions in 1969. Renfro was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first ten seasons in the league, including five All-Pro selections in 1964, 1965, 1969, 1971 and 1973. He was named the defensive MVP of the 1971 Pro Bowl.
In his fourteen seasons, Renfro intercepted 52 passes, returning them for 626 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also returned 109 punts for 842 yards and 1 touchdown, 85 kickoffs for 2,246 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with recording 13 fumble recoveries, which he returned for 44 yards. In the 1970 NFC title game, Renfro had a key interception that led to the Cowboys' game-winning touchdown over the San Francisco 49ers that helped them get to Super Bowl V, where they lost to the Baltimore Colts. He would later play in Super Bowls VI, X and XII, retiring after the final one, a Cowboys victory over the Denver Broncos. He remains the Cowboys all-time leader in interception leader with 52 (In 1969 he led the NFL in interceptions with 10) and in career kickoff-return average (26.4 yards). His 14 seasons with the team ties him for second place in franchise history.
Renfro joined the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 1981, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996. During his time with the Cowboys, even though one of his teammates was former Olympic gold medalist Bob Hayes, many experts still considered him the best athlete on the team.
In 1984 he coached the defensive secondary under John Hadl with the Los Angeles Express of the USFL. In 1986 he was part of Gene Stallings Saint Louis Cardinals coaching staff as his defensive backs coach.
Dallas Cowboys (1964-1977)
Career highlights and awards
5× All-Pro selection (1964, 1965, 1969, 1971, 1973)
10× Pro Bowl selection (1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973)
1970 Pro Bowl MVP
Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor *
2x Super Bowl champion (VI, XII)
Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.
Career NFL statistics
INT yards 626