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Gold Jacket Spotlight: 'Football Guy' Jerry Jones

Gold Jacket Spotlight: 'Football Guy' Jerry Jones

10/03/2021
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When Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, the team’s previous owner had been bleeding $1 million in cash monthly.

And it wasn’t as if the Cowboys were buying victories with all that money, either, totaling only 17 wins over the previous three seasons. The last time Dallas had won a playoff game came in 1982 and the team hadn’t appeared in a Super Bowl since 1978.

None of that deterred Jerry when he picked up a newspaper one morning in 1988 and saw the team was for sale. He vowed at that moment he would become the team’s next owner and would return the luster to “America’s Team.”

Closing price: about $140 million – the first time anyone had paid more than $100 million for a sports franchise.

Today, the Dallas Cowboys sit atop the Forbes list of most valuable franchises in the National Football League – the spot they have occupied for the past 13 years. With a value of $5.5 billion, the Cowboys are the world’s most valuable franchise in any league.

A fair share of success came on the field, too.

The team won three Vince Lombardi Trophies in the early 1990s – Super Bowls XXVII, XXVIII and XXX – with a talent-laden roster Jerry himself helped to evaluate and secure. Winning at least one ring with the Cowboys were Hall of Fame players Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Charles Haley, Deion Sanders and Larry Allen, along with coach Jimmy Johnson.

Jerry, who was enshrined as a contributor with the Class of 2017, is featured this week in the Gold Jacket Spotlight.

“I think people … look at Jerry as a businessman, but I think they forget that he, at his core, is a football guy,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a Cowboys biography of Jerry. “He grew up playing football, and he’s a guy who loves the game and understands the game and understands the role it has in communities.”

In that biography, Irvin said: “Jerry is a great businessman. There’s no doubt. No doubt. But he’s also won Super Bowls. Business doesn’t win Super Bowls. Football wins Super Bowls.”

Jerry’s playing days rival any other NFL owners’ accomplishments. He was an all-conference offensive lineman who co-captained the 1964 Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs went 11-0 and won the national championship with a 10-7 victory over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl.

Shortly before that game, Jerry and his teammates – in Houston for practice to escape the hoopla in Arkansas – toured the just-completed Astrodome. Known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the magnificent structure left a lifelong impression on Jerry and served as an indelible image of what he wanted to bring to Dallas.

That vision took the form of the billion-dollar-plus AT&T Stadium, which opened in 2009 in Arlington, Texas, as has been dubbed “Jerryworld” with its 100,000-plus seats and one of the world’s largest high-definition video screens.

A few years later, Jerry partnered with the City of Frisco and the Frisco Independent School District on another billion-dollar project that became The Star in Frisco. The team’s headquarters anchors the 91-acre mixed-use facility that opened in 2016.

“Is the stadium complicated? Am I complicated?” Jerry asked rhetorically in an interview with the Dallas Morning News. “Is it visible? Am I visible? I'm certainly not a wallflower. I always believe that visibility is a plus, even negative visibility is a plus.

“This stadium is showy. It's flamboyant. It's ballsy. … People say, ‘Jerry, it's gaudy.’ Well, if you take the gaudy out of me, there's not too much left.”

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