Peter Gent

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Peter Gent
Peter Gent as a high school athlete
Peter Gent as a high school athlete
BornGeorge Davis Peter Gent
(1942-08-23)August 23, 1942
Bangor, Michigan
DiedSeptember 30, 2011(2011-09-30) (aged 69)
Notable worksNorth Dallas Forty

George Davis Peter Gent (August 23, 1942 – September 30, 2011)[1] was a wide receiver in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys. He became a novelist after his retirement,[2] authoring the best-seller North Dallas Forty.[3] He played college basketball at Michigan State University.

Early years[edit]

Gent attended Bangor High School in Michigan, where he was a standout four-sport athlete (football, basketball, baseball and track). In basketball he led the Bangor Vikings team to the 1960 state Class C Championship, while accumulating a 22.6 scoring average.[4] The team was known as the Cardiac Kids for their late-game wins in District, Regional, Quarter-Final and Semi-Final games. The final game against top-ranked Grand Rapids Lee was no exception: it was tied 41–41 after three quarters and Bangor went on to win 57–45. Gent led the team with 21 points, and was named to the All-Tourney Team which was chosen from schools of all sizes throughout the state.[5]

College career[edit]

Gent was a center/forward with the Michigan State University basketball team from 1962 to 1964. He became the first player in school history to lead the basketball team in scoring three consecutive seasons. In his senior year, he averaged 21 points per game. He left school ranked as MSU's second career scorer, with a total of 1,146 points. He averaged 17.4 points per game for his college career, he was third team All-Big Ten in 1963 and second team All-Big Ten in 1964.[6]

In 1964, he was awarded the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor, which is given annually to a male and female athlete at each of the Big Ten institutions, who demonstrates the greatest proficiency in scholarship and athletics.[7] Gent graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in advertising.

Gent was the recipient of the 2005 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Professional football career[edit]

Peter Gent
No. 35
Position:Wide receiver / tight end
Personal information
Born:(1942-08-23)August 23, 1942
Bangor, Michigan
Died:September 30, 2011(2011-09-30) (aged 69)
Bangor, Michigan
Height:6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight:205 lb (93 kg)
Career information
High school:Bangor (MI)
College:Michigan State
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Player stats at · PFR

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

Although Gent never played a down of college football,[8] the Dallas Cowboys were impressed by his athleticism and offered him a tryout. He went to training camp in the summer of 1964, to receive the $500 they were paying to players who attended.

As with Cornell Green whom the team had converted two years earlier, he was first tried at defensive back, but at 6–4 and 210 pounds, he was not agile enough to play in the secondary. The coaches decided that Gent's best chance was at wide receiver, where he wound up making the team and turning down a contract offer from the NBA's Baltimore Bullets, who had selected him in the 14th round of the 1964 NBA draft.[9]

He became a valuable wide receiver by his second year in 1965, while splitting time with Buddy Dial and playing opposite Bob Hayes. He caught 16 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns. In 1966, he had ten starts over Dial, registering 27 receptions (third on the team) for 474 yards (averaging 17.6 yard per catch) and one touchdown.

In 1967, with the arrival of Lance Rentzel and health problems, he was moved to tight end and he played in only seven games (one start).[10] In 1968, he played in 10 games (one start), posting 16 receptions for 194 yards.

Gent's career was marred by injury, as he underwent knee operations and endured constant back problems. He was known for his intelligence, soft hands and size. He caught passes mostly from quarterback Don Meredith, with whom he enjoyed a close friendship off the field.

New York Giants[edit]

On June 13, 1969, he was traded to the New York Giants in exchange for a draft choice (not exercised).[11] He was waived on September 8.[12]

Writing career[edit]

After leaving professional football, Gent wrote several novels dealing with the sport. His first and most famous book, a semi-autobiographical novel entitled North Dallas Forty, was published in 1973. Its main characters, a quarterback and a wide receiver, are widely considered to be based on Don Meredith and Gent, respectively.[13] The novel was one of the first to examine the NFL's hypocrisy regarding drug use.

North Dallas Forty was made into a movie of the same name in 1979 starring Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, G. D. Spradlin, and Dayle Haddon. Gent wrote the screenplay for the film. During the making of the film, he experienced creative difficulties with producer Frank Yablans.[14] After seeing the movie, his old friend and teammate Meredith commented, "If I'd known Gent was as good as he says he was, I would have thrown to him more."[15]

Gent made his home in Texas for many years, where he was friends with many of that state's significant creative minds of the day, including Larry L. King, Billy Lee Brammer, Gary Cartwright, Bud Shrake, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Dan Jenkins. They called themselves the Mad Dogs.

Gent also explored the corruption in modern professional sports in a sequel volume entitled North Dallas After 40,[16] published in 1989, and in two unrelated football novels — Texas Celebrity Turkey Trot (1979) and The Franchise (1983).

Gent also wrote a novel about college basketball entitled The Conquering Heroes (1994). Bill Walton’s cover blurb states that the book is the "North Dallas Forty of college basketball. But it’s much more, it’s about a whole generation of kids who came of age in an America that I grew up in."[17]

Personal life[edit]

Gent had two children, Holly Gent and Carter Davis Gent. He resided in Bangor, Michigan at the time of his death from a pulmonary disease on September 30, 2011,[6] and was working on another novel.[18]


  1. ^ "Peter Gent, football player-turned-author, dies at 69". Washington Post. October 1, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  2. ^ "Peter Gent diesat 69; ex-wide receiver wrote 'North Dallas Forty'". Los Angeles Times. October 2, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  3. ^ "10 Football Books You Must Read". June 7, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  4. ^ Murry R. Nelson American Sports: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas 2013 Page 962 "Gent was born August 23, 1942, in Bangor, Michigan, where he was an outstanding basketball player, leading Bangor High School to a Michigan state championship in 1960. Gent earned a basketball scholarship to Michigan State University,"
  5. ^ Staff (March 30, 2010). "State coaches association announces "Retro" Mr. Basketball winners". The Ann Arbor News. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Goldstein, Richard (October 2, 2011). "Peter Gent, Football Novelist, Dies at 69". New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  7. ^ CBS Interactive Staff (May 14, 2014). "100 Days of the Big Ten Medal of Honor: Day 65". CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  8. ^ Mihoces, Gary (April 20, 2005). "NFL seeks best players on the court or mat". USA Today. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 28, 2013.
  9. ^ Daly, Dan (October 2, 2011). ""North Dallas Forty" and the Baltimore Bullets". Washington Post. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  10. ^ Hand, Jack (August 17, 1967). "Potent Dallas Aims At Packer Rematch". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  11. ^ "Cowboys' Flanker Gent Shipped To New York". Toledo Blade. Associated Press. June 14, 1969. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  12. ^ "Mitchell Quits Redskins; Patterson Appeals Tax Rap". The Michigan Daily. Associated Press. September 9, 1969. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  13. ^ Carter, Bill (December 11, 2010). "APPRAISAL; Meredith Favored His Wits Over His Playbooks". New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  14. ^ Yardley, Jonathan (October 4, 2012). "Finding a Renaissance in the Gritty Red Dust". New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  15. ^ D Magazine (Dallas Magazine), "The 35 Biggest Pop Culture Moments in Modern Dallas History," January, 2010.
  16. ^ Chambers, Marcia (November 19, 1989). "IN SHORT; FOOTBALL". New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  17. ^ Eisenberg, John (April 4, 1994). "Basketball novel fast-paced but not new". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  18. ^ "WWMT-TV obituary (October 1, 2011)". Archived from the original on January 4, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2012.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)