Speed, agility, strength, power and elusiveness are all important qualities for any running back who hopes to become a Hall of Famer some day. These characteristics defined the rushing traits exhibited on any given Sunday by former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett, a man who was destined to become one of the NFL’s best backs of all time.
Though he was initially considered small for the position, Dorsett quickly silenced the critics when he became a full-blown star at Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. In both his junior and senior campaigns at Hopewell, he was named an All-State selection and amassed a total of 2,272 rushing yards over the two seasons. He earned a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh and just kept right on breaking through defensive lines in the college ranks.
In fact, just three games into his sophomore year at Pitt, he became the school’s all-time leader in career rushing yards when he surpassed the old record of 1,957 yards set in 1937. Dorsett became the top back in the nation and in his senior season of 1976 led the Panthers to the national title. His stats were undeniable that year (2,150 rushing yards, 23 touchdowns) and he was easily named the winner of the Heisman Trophy. He was the first player in Pitt history to have his jersey number (33) retired and remains the only player in Pitt history to be named All-American four straight years after racking four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
It seemed only fitting, with his star shining so bright, that Dorsett would be selected No. 2 overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1977 NFL Draft. USC star RB Ricky Bell went to the Tampa Bay Bucs at No. 1. In Big D, “TD Tony” served as a one-man wrecking crew. He was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in ’77 and helped the Cowboys win Super Bowl XII a year later. His star continued to burn brightly in Dallas for nine more seasons as he amassed more than 12,000 career rushing yards.
Now let’s take a closer look at Dorsett’s imprint on the game through four key cards found in his 14-card Basic Set checklist.
The 1978 Topps Football set, like most of the company’s football card releases during the 1970’s, holds 528 cards. It is carried mostly by two key rookie cards: Dorsett’s and Pittsburgh Steelers WR John Stallworth. Dorsett’s RC (#315), however, is the set’s true anchor as it leads the way for all other cards issued in ’78. It shows the helmet-less rusher observing game action from the sidelines; doing his due diligence as a consummate student of the game. He’s even sporting the start of a beard, reminiscent of Cowboys current top running back, Ezekiel Elliott.
With its white borders, Dorsett’s rookie is not easy to find in pristine condition and sports a healthy PSA Population of 3,112. Only a dozen submissions have earned top billing as PSA Gem Mint 10, with one selling for as much as $14,005 at auction in Oct. of 2016. A total of 328 more submissions have come close to the grade by receiving PSA Mint 9 status, though the average auction price realized (APR) drops off significantly.
In attempting to put together Dorsett’s 14-card Basic Set checklist on the PSA Set Registry, this is the most heavily weighted card (10.00). This is the one that brings the most trading card value to an auction. Weights are determined by the card’s secondary market value using a scale from 1.00 to 10.00 with 10.00 being the most expensive. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Excellent 5: $20.06
PSA Near Mint 7: $49.47
PSA Mint 9: $522.00
The 1979 Topps Football set consists of 528 cards, each one measuring 2-1/2″ wide by 3-1/2” tall. Each card front features white borders, the featured player’s image shown with his name and team name along the top, while his position appears within a football design placed at the top left corner. A dual-colored pastel banner sits behind the floating football. The set is anchored by Dorsett (#160), O.J. Simpson (#170), Steve Largent (#198), Ozzie Newsmen (#308), James Lofton (#310) and Roger Staubach (#400), and the first and only major issue card of Earl Campbell (#390).
Dorsett’s card, which shows him with towel in hand, taking a break between offensive series, has a PSA Population of 881. Forty-three of the submissions have been graded PSA Gem Mint 10 (APR: $443.00), while 260 more have earned PSA Mint 9 status. This card ranks as his second most heavily weighted one (3.50) Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Excellent 5: $4.25
PSA Near Mint 7: $9.43
PSA Mint 9: $28.03
The 1980 Topps Football set boasts 528 cards, each measuring 2-1/2″ wide by 3-1/2” tall. Every card features a football logo at the bottom in which appears the athlete’s team name and position, accompanied a light-colored, horizontal bar that runs through the middle of the football logo revealing the featured player’s name. Dorsett’s card (#330) shows him helmet-less, taking a well-deserved breather between plays with sweat beads forming across his forehead.
Tony’s third-year Topps card has a PSA Population of 442 of which only 18 have ever been graded PSA Gem Mint 10, one of which sold at auction for $365 in May of 2018. An additional 163 others have been deemed PSA Mint 9, while 146 more submissions have earned PSA Near Mint-Mint 8 ranking. This card ranks third overall (3,00) amongst his most heavily weighted cards. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Near Mint 7: $6.32
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $4.12
PSA Mint 9: $15.82
The 1981 Topps Football set consists of 528 cards, each measuring 2-1/2″ wide by 3-1/2” tall. These uniquely designed pieces feature a pennant-like design at the bottom border carrying the athlete’s name and team name, with his position posted outside the banner. Its white border sometimes makes it tough to find with perfect centering. A set known for boasting Joe Montana’s rookie (#216), it also contains Dorsett’s fourth-year card (#500).
The card has a PSA Population of 426 of which 37 submissions have been graded PSA Gem Mint 10 (APR: $117.65). A total of 153 other submissions have earned PSA Mint 9 status, while 154 more have been labeled PSA Near Mint-Mint 8. This card ranks fourth among Dorsett’s most heavily weighted (2.00) issues. Using three different PSA grades for the card, here are its current industry average auction prices:
PSA Near Mint 7: $7.00
PSA Near Mint-Mint 8: $8.41
PSA Mint 9: $19.14
Tony Dorsett Cards Required to Complete the Set
(with PSA weights included)
- 1978 Topps #315 Tony Dorsett (8.00)
- 1979 Topps #160 Tony Dorsett (3.50)
- 1980 Topps #330 Tony Dorsett (3.00)
- 1981 Topps #500 Tony Dorsett (2.00)
- 1982 Topps #311 Tony Dorsett (2.00)
- 1983 Topps #46 Tony Dorsett (1.00)
- 1984 Topps #238 Tony Dorsett (1.00)
- 1985 Topps #40 Tony Dorsett (1.50)
- 1986 Topps #126 Tony Dorsett (1.00)
- 1987 Topps #263 Tony Dorsett (1.00)
- 1988 Topps #262 Tony Dorsett (1.00)
- 1989 Pro Set #453 Tony Dorsett (1.00)
- 1989 Score #326 Tony Dorsett (1.00)
- 1989 Topps #240 Tony Dorsett (1.00)
Browse through images of the entire set within the image gallery section of the Set Registry.
After 11 seasons in Dallas, in which he racked up 12,036 rushing yards, Dorsett was traded to the Denver Broncos in Sept. 1988. He left Big D as the franchise’s all-time rushing leader and was second in league history in postseason rushing yards (1,383). He played just one season in the Mile High City and retired at the start of the 1989 season after suffering torn left knee ligaments in training camp. Dorsett was elected to both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994 and enshrined in the prestigious Texas Stadium Ring of Honor the same year.
If you are looking for a great football project to tackle during the stay-at-home pandemic, collecting the 14-card Basic Set of legendary ball carrier Tony Dorsett on the PSA Set Registry should be your new pursuit.
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