When his footballing is finished—his contract expires after the 1970 season, but he may decide to keep going another couple of years—Meredith figures to be a moderately wealthy man, perhaps more than that. With two partners he has bought a 2,300-acre South Texas ranch with a landing strip. He has prospered in the stock market overall, has some oil properties, is involved in several businesses, is about to become a partner in a big Dallas restaurant called Dandy's, has a variety of television offers to select from (he would be an excellent "color man" on pro football telecasts, a field in which talent is sorely needed, but he is not inclined in that direction at the moment) and is hotly pursued by sponsors wanting him to endorse their products. He fancies himself someday as a tycoon, a developer of empires. Some of that may have rubbed off from working for the Murchison brothers and knowing Jim Ling, director of the Cowboys. "I've never played in that ball park, but I know I'd be good at it," Meredith says.
But now he is entering a season for which he has, after his own style, labored mightily. In California in July he turned down several offers for endorsements because they would be distracting. Although bothered by his customary sore arm in training camp, Meredith threw the ball better in the early preseason games than he ever had before in his career. Against the Rams he hit three touchdown passes in the first half, two of them perfectly thrown bombs to Hayes and Rentzel. The coaches, the press and many of the players began to talk about the "new" Meredith. "He has really worked this year," said Bob Lilly, the Cowboys' All-NFL defensive tackle. "He's the team leader, no question about that."
In many ways, though, he's the same old Dandy. Before the opening exhibition game with the Bears, Meredith was sitting in a quarterback meeting with Morton and Rhome while Landry drew diagrams on a board. Meredith was smoking a cigar and also playing with it, twirling it in his fingers like a baton, gesturing grandly with it. taking exaggerated puffs, pretending to be a railroad president or a tin-mine baron from Bolivia. When Landry turned around to ask a question, Meredith stuck the wrong end of the cigar into his mouth. He coughed, sputtered, spat shreds of tobacco over his playbook. Morton and Rhome laughed, but Landry stared down at Meredith with as stony and humorless a face as he could manage, and Landry is quite good at that when he wishes to be. "You do understand what I'm telling you, Don," said Landry. Meredith nodded. The thing is, now he does.