Cowboys Linebacker Dat Nguyen on IR, May Retire

Dat Nguyen, an All-Pro linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys and the first Vietnamese player in NFL history, is out for the rest of the season after an accumulation of injuries. His head coach, Bill Parcells, thinks Nguyen may well retire.

Nguyen’s season is over; Cowboys brace for his retirement (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Undersized at 5-foot-11, [Dat] Nguyen never had the physical attributes to survive in the NFL without working harder than the big guys. But taking so many hits from “the big guys” apparently has caught up with the former Texas A&M star.

On Monday, the Cowboys placed Nguyen on injured reserve, ending his season. And [Cowboys head coach Bill] Parcells said he thinks the 30-year-old Nguyen is going to consider retiring. “I think he’s down the road mentally,” Parcells said.


“He came in my office [Sunday] and he doesn’t feel like he can play up to his standards right now,” Parcells said. “And physically [and mentally], he’s not really to the point where he can go full.”


If Nguyen retires, it will conclude one of the most unique careers in Cowboys and NFL history. Nguyen was the first Vietnamese athlete to play in the NFL. Shortly before he was born in a refugee camp in Arkansas, his family fled the small fishing village of Ben Da, South Vietnam, around the same time as the North Vietnamese Army captured Saigon in April 1975.

Nguyen eventually landed in Rockport but didn’t take up football until the eighth grade. Slocum took a chance on a Class 3A player deemed “too small” by other college teams. In 1995, Nguyen was the Southwest Conference Defensive Newcomer of the Year as a redshirt freshman at A&M.

A third-round pick by the Cowboys in 1999, Nguyen recorded 172 tackles in 2001, the franchise’s third-highest total for a season, and became a team captain in 2004. “He played with a reckless abandon,” Slocum said. “I know when he was at A&M, there would be some concern whether he could play and he’d always say, ‘I’ll be ready.’ He got a lot of mileage out of a body that took a beating.”

Nguyen was a special player and one hopes he can make it back next year.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. scott says:

    As an Eagles fan, it hurts me immensely to say that I agree, I loved watching Nguyen play at A & M and he was a good pro, even though he is a Cowboy.

    I hope he coaches somewhere.

  2. Jim Rhoads (vnjagvet) says:

    What a courageous player. Playing at 110% for ten years (six in the pros) is remarkable. I hope he is able to retire before he incurs permanent damage.