Meredith died of a massive brain hemorrhage with his wife Susan and daughter Mary at his side, family attorney Lisa Fine Morales said.
Meredith had battled emphysema in recent years and suffered a minor stroke in 2004, The Dallas Morning News reported.
After being named a two-time All-American at SMU, Meredith signed a contract with the Dallas Cowboys in November 1959, two months before the team's official entry into the NFL.
He led the Cowboys to the 1966 and 1967 NFL title games, losing to the Green Bay Packers both years, but abruptly retired from pro football at age 31.
Starting with Monday Night Football in 1970 he quickly became a national celebrity with his on-air homespun quality and his banter with fellow broadcaster Howard Cosell.
Born and raised in Mount Vernon, Texas, the quarterback nicknamed "Dandy Don" had the distinction of playing all of his high school, college and professional football games within 100 miles of Dallas, the Morning News said.
Copyright 2010 United Press International