Tony Hutson, a Cowboys guard in the late 1990s, died in early February at the age of 49, according to an online obituary.
A cause of death was not given.
“Our 1996 Dallas Cowboys rookies had a special bond,” teammate Randall Godfrey said in a Facebook post. “He made several trips to Valdosta to help with my annual football camps. I cherished every moment that he had me crying after laughing so hard.”
Godfrey added, “You caught us off guard with this one. Take your rest my brother. Gone too soon.”
He also told the Post, “He loved giving back to the community and dealing with kids. He was just a fun person to be around. He kept everybody laughing.”
Hutson was a standout as an offensive tackle at MacArthur High School in Texas and played at Kilgore College before transferring to Northeastern Oklahoma State University.
Hutson was named an NAIA All-American in 1994 and 1995.
He went undrafted in 1996 after the Raiders found a benign tumor on his right lung during a physical.
“My first thought was I would never get to play football anymore,” Hutson said in 1996. “But then I thought there’s more to life than football. I just wanted to live my life. I talked to my mom about it and prayed about it.”
Surgery removed the tumor and the Cowboys signed him as a free agent.
“I’ve got good, quick feet. For the technique I don’t have, I give great effort,” Hutson said.
He spent 1996 on the practice squad and missed most of 1997 training camp after having wrist surgery.
But because of injuries to the Cowboys line he made his debut late in the year and started a game against Washington, a dramatic 17-14 win.
“I was so emotional,” Hutson said at the time. “I just kept thinking, ‘Don’t let anything happen to Troy [Aikman]. Don’t do anything wrong.’ I was nervous at first and made a mistake early but after that I just took care of business.”
“It’s my first start, millions of people watching, and it’s America’s Team. I had to perform right. Words can’t describe what it was like out there.”
Hutson played with the Cowboys through the 1999 season and appeared in three games with Washington in 2000.
Hutson was with the Raiders in 2001 but was released before the regular season after struggling with a triceps injury.