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How an Indian immigrant helped Dallas Cowboys to the top of NFL

Salam Qureishi is an unknown name in the world of sports. But, his contribution to the making of one of the greatest sports team of all time can never be denied.

Salam Qureishi
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Salam Qureishi (Source: The Athletic)

By

Abhijit Nair

Updated: 17 April 2021 2:58 AM GMT

The Dallas Cowboys is one of the most popular sports teams in the world. Valued at $4.1 billion in the year 2019, the Cowboys are the fourth most valuable sports team in the world.

Based out of Dallas in the south central state of Texas, the Dallas Cowboys was formed in the year 1960 by multimillionaire Clint Murchison Jr. The Cowboys were presented with five worst players of the existing NFL teams to build the team for their first NFL appearance.

Nothing quite worked for the Cowboys as they kept losing badly in their first five seasons in the league, including a winless outing in their first ever season. Their first respectful show at the NFL came during the 1965 season where they managed a 7-7 win-loss record.

The next season was where the Dallas Cowboys started scripting a turnaround as they recorded 10-3-1 win-loss-draw ratio to top the Eastern region, before losing out to the Green Bay Packers in their first ever NFL Championship Game.

Managing such a big turnaround in just five years is nothing short of extraordinary. While the Dallas Cowboys did have a brilliant backroom engine consisting of head coach Tom Landry, president and manager Tex Schramm and scout cum vice-president of player personnel Gil Brandt, it was someone else who scripted the turnaround.

Surprisingly the most important role in developing the Dallas Cowboys into a world-beating football team was played by someone who did not even know what American Football was until he was associated with the Cowboys.

Salam Qureishi (Source: AP Photo)

The man in question here is Salam Qureishi – a computer programmer from the state of Uttar Pradesh in India.

The story goes that the General Manager of Dallas Cowboys at that time, Tex Schramm, was fascinated with the use of computers when he was working with the CBS Sports for the telecast of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Intrigued by how the computer could help in evaluating the football players, Schramm reached out to IBM – a well-known technological company, when he joined the Cowboys in 1962.

It was here that Schramm met Salam Qureishi and welcomed him aboard to the Dallas Cowboys backroom engine. Qureishi, at that time, was an American football illiterate and spoke in a very heavy Indian accent.

Despite the vast cultural differences between Qureishi and the Cowboys management, they managed to hit off well and the Indian became an integral part of the Cowboys unit.

Dallas Cowboys

The major thing which Qureishi did at the Cowboys was overhaul the age old scouting system. He introduced a computerised method to scout for players at a time when scouting was a very amateur affair. This was the first time any team in the NFL was using computers to build their team!

The five top variables Qureishi used while scouting were character, quickness-and-body-control, competitiveness, strength-and-explosiveness and mental alertness. Besides, he also developed a questionnaire which was distributed to football coaches all over the country.

At a time from the 1964 to 1970 season when Cowboys were consistently topping their regional group and not winning the NFL Championship, Qureishi through his computer based model brought in players like Mel Renfro, Bobby Hayes, Roger Staubach, Craig Morton, Jethro Pugh, Walt Garrison, Rayfield Wright, Larry Cole, Calvin Hill and Duane Thomas – all of whom would go on to have stellar careers in the league.

Qureishi parted ways with the Cowboys somewhere in 1971-72 following differences with the team owner Murchison.

The Indian though returned to the team in 1986 at a time when the NFL was completely different from what it used to be. All the teams were now taking the help of the computers to take themselves to the next level. The Cowboys were in doldrums failing to pick impact players in drafts year after year. Brandt and Landry were not with the team anymore, while Murchison was nearing his death.

Qureishi's made a brief comeback on insistence of Schramm who was still with the team, but he could not do much as the downslide for Dallas Cowboys continued.

But soon after Qureishi's departure for the second time in 1987, the Dallas Cowboys seemed to be back on track picking up some brilliant players in the drafts of the coming season.

Salam Qureishi is an unknown name in the world of sports. But, his contribution to the making of one of the greatest sports team of all time can never be denied.


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