Despite being drafted by the old Baltimore Bullets of the NBA, Gent chose football over basketball after college. Signed as a free agent by the Dallas Cowboys, he played flanker from 1964 through 1968. At age 27, his NFL career was over. But he wasn't done with football.
In 1973 Gent published his first novel, "North Dallas Forty," which exposed a side of professional football few fans had seen before, as Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" had done for baseball three years earlier. Players experienced excruciating pain that endured long after the game's final whistle; they blew off steam afterward in raucous parties fueled by drugs, alcohol and sex; and management ruthlessly treated athletes as commodities, mere equipment to be used as long as possible and then discarded when they wore out.