The distance between the limelight and the bag factory looked like a million miles.
Monty Hunter, who started working for $6 an hour at the Great Plains Bag Co. in Dover, Ohio, after graduating from high school there in 1977, was the hero as the Dallas Cowboys' rallied to a 30-17 playoff win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before a sellout crowd at Texas Stadium today.
Dallas will play the Green Bay Packers here Sunday at 4 p.m. in the second round of the Super Bowl tournament.
Hunter is a rookie third-string safety for the Cowboys. After quitting the bag factory, he was a full-tuition student and a walk-on player at Salem College, a 1,000-student school in West Virginia. Dallas drafted Hunter in the fourth round and yesterday the move paid off for both parties.
With 13:30 left to play and Tampa Bay leading 17-16, Tampa Bay quarterback Doug Williams threw a pass to wide receiver Jimmie Giles in the flat. Hunter, who was in the game because the Cowboys needed extra defensive backs on the second-and-22 situation, intercepted and ran 19 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
The interception was Hunter's first in the NFL.
"I think Williams tried to throw over my head," said Hunter, beaming into the camera lights. "When I first caught it, I didn't have my balance. But then I could see the blue of the end zone, and I knew I could get in."
Williams, who had a dismal day throwing for eight completions and three interceptions in 28 attempts, said: "I made the mistake of the game trying to throw into the zone."
Williams began the play at his own 11-yard line because of a double penalty to tackle Charley Hannah. With the ball on Tampa Bay's 29, Williams pitched to running back James Wilder, who ran for an 11-yard gain. The play was called back when Hannah hit linebacker Mike Hegman from behind and was called for an illegal block. Hannah protested too much and the Buccaneers were penalized an additional 15 yards.
"Two bad things were done on that play," said Hannah. "The ref threw a flag when he shouldn't have. And I kicked the flag. And I shouldn't have."
Tampa Bay coaches were incensed by the calls. Assistant Coach Howard Tippett had some heated words as the officials walked up the tunnel after the game.
Dallas, buoyed by Hunter's interception, drove 81 yards to seal the game with another touchdown--a 10-yard pass from Danny White to second-string running back Timmy Newsome with 3:33 left in the game.
It looked more like the Cowboys--who lost the last two games of the regular season, to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings.
"We haven't had this much intensity all year, even counting the Washington game," said Dallas Coach Tom Landry. "There was nothing similar about the way we played this week and past two weeks."
It didn't start out that way.
Both quarterbacks played hurt. Williams pulled his hamstring last week against the Chicago Bears and White jammed his thumb in practice on Thursday. At first, the injuries showed in both men as Williams could not find his receivers and White looked shaky.
After Dallas had gone ahead, 6-0, in the first quarter on Rafael Septien's two 33-yard field goals, the Buccaneers, in the game almost solely because of their opportunistic defense, came up with a big play.
With 9:59 left in the first half, White dropped back to pass. As he lifted his arm to begin his passing motion, the ball slipped from his hand. Linebacker Hugh Green caught the ball in the air and ran 60 yards for the touchdown.
Then Mark Cotney intercepted White, who was looking for Tony Hill deep, and returned the ball 50 yards to the Dallas 27. Bill Capece's 32-yard field goal with 4:14 left in the half widened Tampa Bay's lead to 10-6.
White, who threw a career-high 45 times for 27 completions and 312 yards, rallied himself and the Cowboys to close out the half with a drive that started on the Dallas 25. At the Tampa Bay six, White hit Ron Springs in the flat and Springs went in for the touchdown to give Dallas a 13-10 halftime edge.
After Septien kicked a 19-yard field goal with 8:11 left in the third quarter, Williams directed the Buccaneers' best drive of the day. He threw to wide receiver Gordon Jones, who ran for a 49-yard scoring play to give Tampa Bay a 17-16 edge with 1:16 left in the third quarter. Tampa Bay 0 10 7 0 17 Dallas 6 7 3 14 30
D--FG Septien 33
D--FG Septien 33
TB--Green 60 fumble return (Capece kick)
TB--FG Capece 32
D--Springs 6 pass from White (Septien kick)
D--FG Septien 19
TB--Jones 49 pass from Williams (Capece kick)
D--Hunter 19 interception return (Septien kick)
D--Newsome 10 pass from White (Septien kick)
A--65,042 Bucs Cowboys First downs 8 29 Rushes-yards 21-105 42-179 Passing yards 113 277 Return yards 58 87 Passes 8-28-3 27-45-2 Sacks by-yards 5-35 0-0 Punts-average 6-44 3-41 Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1 Penalties-yards 4-41 6-45 Time of possession 19:47 40:13 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--Tampa Bay: Wilder 14-93, Carver 7-12. Dallas: Dorsett 26-110, Springs 7-24, Donley 1-25, Newhouse 5-15, Pearson 1-4, DuPree 1-1, White 1-0.
PASSING--Tampa Bay: Williams 8-28-3, 113 yards. Dallas: White 27-45-2, 312.
RECEIVING--Tampa Bay: House 4-52, Wilder 2-5, Jones 1-49, Giles 1-7. Dallas: Pearson 7-95, Johnson 4-76, Hill 4-45, Cosbie 3-32, Springs 3-16, Newsome 2-14, Dorsett 2-14, Newhouse 1-11, DuPree 1-9.