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Former Dallas Cowboys great Don Perkins roots for team over great-nephew and Giants rookie Paul Perkins

Giants rookie running back Paul Perkins talks to

Giants rookie running back Paul Perkins talks to the media during training camp on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016. Credit: Brad Penner

Giants rookie running back Paul Perkins will play his first regular-season NFL game on Sunday. Before that, though, he’ll make sure to look for his name in the Ring of Honor.

Not his name, exactly, but that of his great-uncle Don Perkins, a former running back for the Cowboys who is honored at AT&T Stadium. Perkins was one of the first players signed by the Cowboys when they were awarded a franchise in 1960 and also one of the first to be enshrined by the team when they played at Texas Stadium before moving to Arlington.

“It’s definitely going to be a surreal moment,” Perkins said on Wednesday. “Just going out there for my first NFL game will be a surreal moment by itself and then seeing my uncle’s name up there in the Ring of Honor will take it to new heights.”

It won’t be altogether new for Perkins. He played at AT&T Stadium as a sophomore at UCLA against Texas, so he said he knows where to look to see the name near the top of the building.

Don Perkins had a fabled career with the Cowboys that began with winning Rookie of the Year in 1961. When he retired he was fifth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 6,217 career yards.

“They are big shoes to fill,” Paul Perkins said. “He’s definitely been an influence in our lives, both mine and my brother’s lives, football-wise. I’m sure my dad’s as well.”

Perkins’ father, Paul Sr., had a brief NFL career as a fullback for the Bucs (1990) and Colts (1991). His younger brother Bryce plays at Arizona State.

“It’s one of those things where you say ‘Wow, I really did that?’” Don Perkins, now 78, told Newsday from his home in Albuquerque via phone on Wednesday. “Such is life.”

Paul Perkins said he didn’t have much interaction with his decorated uncle while he was growing up. Don Perkins is his grandfather’s brother, they lived in different states, and there were few chances to get together.

Don Perkins said he is doing well. He doesn’t follow much football, he said, but his kids keep him apprised of the big news in the sport. Occasionally he’ll be asked to make an appearance for the Cowboys or the University of New Mexico where he played in college, and he watches the Super Bowl and some playoff games if he has company at the time. But he was aware of Paul’s upcoming debut and is hoping to watch. Which poses the big question: Who’s he rooting for?

“I hope he’s rooting for the Giants,” Paul Perkins said.

No such luck.

“It won’t change things for me,” Don Perkins said of having kin in the game. “I root for the Cowboys. I happen to have a family member playing so I do have mixed emotions. I want Paul to play well. But I want the Cowboys to win.”


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