Spotlight On: Mike Gaechter - Unheralded Hitting Machine
The 1960s Dallas Cowboys had many stars and up-and-coming players that are well known to fans and football lovers. However one player that has escaped attention is Mike Gaechter, who had a solid 9-year career starting in the Cowboys defensive secondary. Only four other Cowboys were fixtures on that defense over that same span: George Andrie, Chuck Howley, Cronell Green, and Bob Lilly. Gaechter (pronounced: `Gek-ter) was a play maker and punishing hitter, who played at a Pro Bowl level, yet never was elected. Eagle star receiver Pete Retzlaff said of him, "If I had him on me every Sunday, I would have gotten out of this business a long while ago."
A former track star at Oregon, the Cowboys signed him as a free agent for his speed. Gaechter was a member University of Oregon’s world record setting team in the 4 x 110 relay, a team that also included future teammate Mel Renfro. Football was his second sport and did not start on the football squad until his senior year, while he was cultivating his track career. He started his Cowboy career as a cornerback but was switched to strong safety in 1963. His interception totals are 21 for 420 yards (a 20 yard per return average) and he was a terror at pressuring place kickers.
His ball hawking skills were evident with his 5 interceptions during his rookie season and on his record setting 101-yard interception return, a team record that stood for 48 years. That return set another record for two 100 yard plays in the same game (the other was a kick-off return by Amos Marsh).
His career took a bad turn when he tore his achilles tendon in the meaningless Playoff Bowl vs. the Rams in January of 1970. He spent the entire 1970 season on injured reserve and was traded in 1971 to the Redskins where he was cut at the end of training camp, ending his career. In his retirement, he sued the Cowboys for medical malpractice for the mishandling of his injury. He passed away in August of 2015 of heart failure after suffering from alzheimer’s disease.
Despite a long career with the Cowboys, Mike Gaechter never had a card. This has been remedied as Gaecther now graces several Cowboys RetroCard team sets along with many other players that were overlooked in the sport card world. Check them out here.