Jerry Jones Enshrinement speech
I hope there's some Cowboy fans here!
I know there's a team, Cowboy team, sitting back there, guys. I love you for being here. Thank you. I always knew you'd be here, for sure.
I'd like to first begin by thanking the City of Canton. I can't do that standing here without saying the name David Baker -- David and the Hall of Fame board. I'm so appreciative, but none more so than getting to be with these guys, my fellow class of '17 and getting to know them well.
But when I think about the price they've paid and the meaning it is to be here with them tonight, it not only elevates me, but it elevates me and inspires me to want to do more.
Canton is the only place on earth that brings together the greatest men who played, coached or contributed to the game. The birthplace of the NFL was right down the street. It was actually in an automobile showroom. They held the first owners meeting there for the NFL.
I remember my first owners meeting well. Frankly, I was overwhelmed. I felt like a freshman walk-on in a roomful of All-Americans. They were all there: Rozelle, Brown, Schramm, Wilson, Hunt, Mara, Rooney, DeBartolo. Innovators, founders and visionaries.
I got into that room real scared. Very scared. As a young man, I made many failures and had had many decisions. Frankly, some of them threatened my family's future, certainly financially. I actually had become afraid of what is known as "business heights." Buying the Dallas Cowboys, frankly, was that kind of risk, even exaggerated, in my mind.
But I knew it was now or never. Football kicked in: Don't run around that block. Be prepared, Jimmy. And if you're afraid, grit your teeth, buckle that chinstrap, just get it a little tighter and don't let anybody know you're scared, and just keep on keepin' on.
As a young man, I chased prosperity. When you strike out more times than you succeed, you soon learn that it's real embarrassing to bust your ass. It really is.
At the University of Arkansas, I got a chance to play for the great Frank Broyles, who at one point had me on the depth chart on the 13th team. That was a powder blue. When you're a red team and you're on the powder blue, you're low down, I'm gonna tell you.
The life lesson that I took from Coach Broyles was that games were won in the fourth quarter. When you're tired. You're not pretty anymore. When it becomes a battle of wills. It's a time that demands that your desire to win must be stronger than a man across from, in front of, you.
By my senior year I got to be a starter on a team that won the National Championship, and that I learned that if you play in a game and play in a game like that, and you're a part of a special team in your life, then the lives of all your teammates, they'll never be the same again. That's what that kind of team will do.
I have lifelong friends that made that team possible. I'm actually going to start with one sitting right there, Jimmy Johnson. He's a big leader for us. Jerry Lamb, Jim Lindsey, All-American Ronnie Caveness, Fred Marshall and All-American Billy Moore helped make that team possible. I think he might have been the best competitor that I ever got a chance to play with or see.
We're all in the fourth quarter now, but we've been coached up real good by Coach Broyles. He was talking a long time ago about how to deal with the fourth quarter, and for that I not only thank him, but it's very simple what he taught: It's called "Keep on Keepin' on."
My experience as a college player made me want to pursue football as a career. I thought about going into coaching, but I soon realized that coaching, wasn't much money in coaching. Had I known what I'm paying them right now, I'd have gone into coaching, I'll tell you that right now.
Football stayed with me. I talked about it all the time. I daydreamed about it. I thought about it every day. I aspired to be in the NFL.
In 1988, I was on a fishing trip with my son in Mexico, and for some reason the next morning I got up, and I was feeling pretty rough. I don't know why. But I was drinking a lot of coffee, and I was reading the paper when I learned that the Dallas Cowboys were for sale.
I found a phone in the lobby, and I got someone on the other end of the connection, and I said, "You don't know me from Adam. My name is Jerry Jones. And if I live to make it back to the United States, I'm gonna buy the Dallas Cowboys. Hangover be damned.
I really know I was intoxicated with the idea of being in the NFL and by all means getting a chance to be with the Dallas Cowboys.
The economy was in shambles. The team was losing, the Dallas Cowboys, $1 million cash a month. I just dodged enough bullets in my time that I'd kind of gotten on solid financial ground, and here it was, the thing I'd dreamed about. All right, big talker: Stop dreaming, start talking. It was time to put up or shut up.
So, I bought the Dallas Cowboys, strapped on, really, that fear of failure. For someone like me, a fear of business heights at that time, because I'd busted a few times, it was like stringing a tightrope from the Empire State Building to the next tallest building in New York and then starting your ass off on that tightrope with no net down there. You have to make this thing work.
The first order of business was to install the people I wanted to be a part of the Cowboys. It was very difficult. It was very painful. Tom Landry, the iconic coach, the only coach in the 29-year history of the Dallas Cowboys, he was an icon. He was and he still is -- his son is sitting right here -- he is the Dallas Cowboys. And I honor Coach Landry.
I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for Tom Landry, Tex Schramm, and Gil Brandt, who is sitting in the audience. I couldn't have built the Cowboys today if it weren't for what they did, the shoulders I stood on. I'm deeply indebted to those three.
But the changes were really inevitable. There was no real easy way to do it. I wanted someone I knew. I wanted someone I knew well. I wanted someone that could get it done to be our coach. I wanted Jimmy Johnson.
(Cheers and applause.)
I said he'd be worth five first-round draft choices or five Heisman Trophy draft winners. Of course, I sure did get laughed out of town when I said it. It was my first experience as an owner and a general manager in making a difficult and very unpopular decision.
Jimmy, it was a great decision. You were a great teammate. You were a great partner. To the contrary of popular belief, we worked so well together for five years and restored the Cowboys' credibility with our fans. We were back to back, we were driven, we had thick skin, we took all the criticism they could dish out. I thank you.
(Cheers and applause.)
But it didn't start out so well. We had the worst team in the NFL. So we got to pick first in the draft. We were so lucky to be so bad. Lucky because that first choice was a no brainer. It was Troy Aikman.
(Cheers and applause.)
How can you be so fortunate to get someone of Troy's stature, character, with the very first pick in the draft? First time you'd had a shot at it, and there he stood. He had the toughness, he had the integrity, he had the talent to handle the weight of the world. He was a champion and someone I knew that you could build a championship team around.
I'll never forget calling Jimmy. Jimmy had worked him out with our group of staff, and I said, "What do you think?" He said, "Jerry, sit down. I think we got our man."
With all of our excitement and enthusiasm, we went out that first year and just won one football game in 1989. But things soon changed. They changed with really great ability and great passion. Men like Michael Irvin, who had joined the Cowboys a year early, but Jimmy had coached in Miami, a person who has more magnetism, charisma and heart than any player I've ever known. Michael Irvin. (Cheers and applause.) Someone who is fallible, but so am I.
Emmitt Smith. A man who came into the league and created a goal of becoming the NFL's all-time rushing record as a rookie. And a man who went out, and if I've ever seen a man of goals that followed him, was Emmitt Smith, and he won it.
Larry Allen, in my mind the greatest guard ever having played in the NFL. Someone who overcame the odds and made more out of every opportunity than anyone I know.
Michael, Emmitt, you introduced me to Kevin; Larry, you introduced me to Canton. They allowed me to share this stage with them as their presenter for the Hall of Fame. That is an honor as great as the one tonight, and I'm forever grateful. Thank you, guys.
(Cheers and applause.)
I want to mention Herschel Walker. Herschel did not have to accept the trade that sent him to Minnesota for the draft picks that allowed us to really build the Dallas Cowboys. But he did. We worked it out. He later returned to the Cowboys.
But the thing I want to thank him for, and why I'm so indebted to him, is a willingness to help us have the ammo to build a great team. Herschel, I'll always thank you very much.
In 1992, our team was getting good. We played a preseason game in Tokyo. We played the Houston Oilers. And they had Warren Moon, who's sitting on this stage tonight. They were better than us right at that particular time. Warren had them up by 14 points at halftime. And I was over on the sideline, and I looked at this ceremony being prepared. And I saw this huge trophy, a samurai warrior. It was as tall as me. And then I saw a little ole 12-inch geisha doll. And I asked him, I said, "Tell me, what's this going on?" He said, "Well, the winner of this Tokyo Bowl, preseason now, gets this big samurai warrior -- most beautiful trophy I've ever seen. The loser gets that little doll.
I hotfooted it over to Jimmy, and I said, "Jimmy, have you seen what's going on over on the other sideline?" You know, we haven't won crap. I would like to win that trophy.
He said, "Jerry," He said, "Jerry, you know we've had Aikman out since the first eight plays. Really, it's not in our best interest. And, you know, these preseason, this preseason game, we're trying to get ready for something in the season."
Well, of course, Houston won. Bud Adams got that great samurai trophy, and I took home that little geisha doll. It's a long pout when you don't say anything from Tokyo, Japan, to Dallas, Texas.
Oh, I tried as we got over California, but nobody would talk to me after that.
Roll that clock forward about five or six months. We're standing in the Rose Bowl. Paul Tagliabue, the Commissioner of the NFL, hands us the Lombardi Trophy. And when he handed us the trophy, that Jimmy reached over and said, "Jerry, would you rather have that damn Samurai warrior back in Tokyo or have this Lombardi Trophy?"
(Cheer and applause.)
Winning the Super Bowl will always be special. Football changes lives like that. A year later, we did it again. We did it in Atlanta, and certainly a dynasty was born. Prior to 1995, no team had ever won three Super Bowls in a four-year period. That all changed when our team, led by Barry Switzer, pulled it off in Arizona.
The challenge to win that third Super Bowl was made more difficult because free agency had just come to the NFL. After we played in Atlanta and won that game, we lost 10 key players who were starters for the Cowboys. Our depth was diminished. We needed to add firepower if any thought of making run at a Super Bowl.
So, we swung our own stick in free agency. The year before, Deion Sanders had taken us to the house with San Francisco in the Super Bowl. But there Deion Sanders was a free agent. And we got Deion Sanders on the team.
We also drafted and got Larry Allen at that time. Barry Switzer walked into a hornet's nest, and he never flinched. A guy who was my freshman coach in college just became the second coach to ever lead a team to a Super Bowl title and a collegiate national championship, joining Jimmy Johnson in that exclusive club. Barry, great job.
Along our journey, I came to know members of the media who helped our game grow, people such as Peter King, Jarrett Bell, John Clayton, John McClain, Chris Mortensen, Charean Williams.
I also want to make a special mention of Rick "Goose" Gosselin, one of the greatest writers to ever cover the National Football League in any era. I wouldn't be here without him.
One of the persons who has been so special in my life and who loves this game more than anyone I've ever known is John Madden. There's no man I respect more for his love of this sport. His belief in the virtues of what football stands for, no one believes it more than John Madden.
John was enshrined here in the Hall of Fame in 2006. On that day, as he always did, John held his audience in the palm of his hand. He talked about how when they turn out the lights tonight in the Hall, the busts talk to each other. Many of you may remember it.
John, I know you're watching. I love you. Tonight, when they turn out the lights in the Hall, I can't wait to look over and talk to you and tell you how much you mean to me. Thank you, John.
As a young man, I always knew why this game was great and why it had such value, certainly individually, for me. As someone who owned a team, I was always thinking how we could go to the next level. How do we make it better?
We have a leader today in Roger Goodell, who really does live by that standard. We have a group of owners and coaches and players who cherish their opportunity to carry the ball for a while.
In our division, the NFC East, we have John Mara. We have the Tisches. We have people like Dan Snyder, brilliant. We have guys, really, that have a great, great vision for the future of this game.
Oh, we have challenges. We're facing them head on. We're embracing the future. We're not afraid. The game is too great. It will sustain and thrive for generations to come. God willing, I'm going to try to be right in the middle of it all, stirring it up, making sure we stay on top if we can.
I spoke of some of our Super Bowl players earlier, but there are others who hold a very special place in my heart, men who really changed my life. I can't name them all, but I would like to recognize just a few, just because I really do love saying their name and remembering what they meant to our team: Charles Haley, Darren Woodson, Deion, Jay Novacek, Eric Williams, Nate Newton, Daryl Johnston and Bill Bates.
Our head coaches. Wade Phillips. Wade, I'm so proud of the work you did to win that Super Bowl, partner. Bill Parcells. Thank you, Bill, for all you gave. I've never enjoyed any more working with someone than you. Dave Campo, Chan Gailey, and then, of course, Jason Garrett.
And then there are the Cowboys of recent years. Tony Romo. (Cheers and applause.) No quarterback in Cowboys history was asked to carry as much of the load for his team as Tony. He beat all the odds and delivered some of the most remarkable plays and unforgettable performances in our team history.
No. 82, Jason Witten. (Cheers and applause.) Jason's right there at the top five of all the men, owners, commissioners, players that I've met in the NFL. Not players, people. He exudes character and class. And, Jason, I've never been prouder. Last year when we opened our training camp, and there you were with all the survivors of those brave policemen that are dead, and there you were with all of them recognizing what they've done for the City of Dallas. Our mayor's here. Thank you, Jason. (Cheers and applause.) Jason will be here. He'll have one of these jackets. I hope he doesn't start his five-year clock running. It takes five years for a player.
DeMarcus Ware. He'll get to Canton before Witten. I'm proud of him for that Super Bowl ring; I just wish it had the Cowboy attached to it.
Away from the field, I've got to mention Marylyn Love. Marylyn has been my assistant for over 40 years. (Cheers and applause.) If the truth be told, she runs the Cowboys. She is the team mom and tells me that every single day.
My parents were exceptional teachers. They were entrepreneur businesspeople. Very meager, but entrepreneurial. My dad could outsell me 10 to 1. But what he did, the inspiration that he did and the vision that he gave me sitting around that breakfast table, is something that gave me an edge in life that I'll always remember. And my mom was right there with him.
I saw them when they beat it out of the ground. They came from large families. They came from sharecroppers. And they beat it out of the ground, and that's the way you do it in America. I'm proud of you. They're smiling and they're proud.
The greatest joy I've ever had in my life has to be the opportunity to work with my sons, Stephen and Jerry, and my daughter, Charlotte. When I was coaching youth football, it was so much fun, and I was a coach. Their experience with them of course grew into something bigger.
You know, I really thought because I was busy and I owed a lot of bills, but I really thought that the time I spent there was going to be for them, I needed to do it, when the one that got the most out of all of it was the daddy.
The opportunity to work on a daily basis with three people who share your name, your genetics and your passion is a blessing. I get credit for their ideas, their hard work. They're my backbone. They're my inspiration.
Stephen has been by my side from Day 1. He's my devil's advocate, my barometer, and sometimes my sparring partner. When we were negotiating Deion's contract, we were in one room and Deion's agent, Eugene Parker, who I love -- God bless you, Eugene; he's in heaven -- he was in the other room. I came back to the room, and I said, "Well, Stephen, it's time to get down to the details. I've just cut the deal." Stephen grabs me and shoves me up against the door and puts that arm in me and said, "You’re really going to do this?" I said, "Well, of course, that's why we're up here all night, isn't it? We are going to do it." Well, Stephen, that was at the time of our salary cap, and of course he was concerned about the structure of it.
We still go back and forth each day, and I can't imagine not having him by my side. He's been with me through the most difficult times and through the best of days. He pours his heart, pours his time. He spends his time for the League and he spends his time related to the daily operation. Stephen, thank you. You're a big part of this award.
(Cheers and applause.)
My daughter, Charlotte, is a leader of women in sports. She's smart. She's beautiful. She has two boys that she's raised to play high school football. She's as much a part of securing the future of our game regarding health and safety perspective as any person in this country. I'm deeply grateful that the NFL gives her the opportunity to be involved at the league level to make a difference.
For some of the mothers that are thinking about signing that permission slip for football, they need to listen to Charlotte and observe what she does, please, to ensure a safe future for our sport, certainly at the level of youth.
She was the first woman in a 125 years to ever be named the National Chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board. She served for seven years. It was her energy that kicked off every Thanksgiving Day. When we play, she kicks off, and the Salvation Army kicks off, the Red Kettle campaign.
I can assure you, next to the Super Bowl, having done that for the millions of volunteers and having several million we’ve been as high as 60 and 70 million people that watch that Red Kettle campaign kickoff, we know firsthand that it's helped a lot of people that can't run with a football because of the interest in Thanksgiving Day. So, I'm really proud of that. Thank you, Charlotte.
Jerry Jr. is the most one like me. You can tell that because I want to grab him by the throat every other day. He's my namesake. He's my baby. He's a pit bull. The third apple did fall the closest to the tree. And why I get so frustrated is he's creating new ways to out Jerry Jones Jerry Jones. Thank you, Jerry.
My wife, Gene. Gene: You've kept me between the rails when I didn't really have the strength to get to the middle. You're my presenter tonight because you've always presented this family in a loving and caring light that only you could provide. Since 1989, Gene has been the host for our friends and guests for over 597 football games. She's never missed a football game since we've been involved in the NFL.
(Cheers and applause.)
After Jimmy screwed up and we parted ways
and, Kenny Easley, there will be no confessions here tonight.
I come home, and of course Gene has been watching the news and finds out about it, and I lay down. It's as silent as anything you can imagine. After I laid there a minute, she just looks over and said: "You can't stand it, can you? You just absolutely, when it gets going, you just got to get in it and mess it up." I was asked what I said, and I just shut up and went to sleep.
Our children are blessed by having great spouses. It may be the single most important thing I taught them Stephen’s wife, Karen; Charlotte's husband, Shy; Jerry's life, Lori. They've given us the greatest gift that any grandparent could ask for: nine of the most precious grandchildren -- a backyard full of them -- of accomplished grandchildren. I thank you.
In a football game, actually a major ball game, Troy Aikman dropped back. It looked as though because of the rush, it looked as though that he didn't even look at where he threw the ball. He launched the ball, and right there stood Jay Novacek. Bam. And it was the game-winning play.
After the game, as I'm told, someone asked, "Troy, It appeared you didn't even look. How did you throw the ball?" And he said, "Well, I knew Jay would be there. He's always there."
That's my family. Y'all always there.
How'd we get here? We got here by playing football, learning there are no excuses for failing. Who hires his college teammate for the greatest adventure ever had? Someone that knew he was borderline genius. I'll tell you who does that. But that's football. Maybe it's someone who didn't play football, someone who was scared every single day of my life, in his business life, but football taught you to not show it and go on.
Michael Irvin taught me the art of smiling in the face of adversity. The rougher it was, the louder he laughed. He was a football player. Frank Broyles taught me that the games were won in the fourth quarter. He was a football coach.
I did things sometimes against the grain, and sometimes it rubbed people the wrong way. We introduced Phil Knight and Nike, and the League sued me for $300 million when I did it. I had to turn around and sue the league back for $700 million at the time. We got that all worked out real quick, but I sure wanted Nike to be part of the NFL. And aren't we proud to have them?
And Phil, Phil Knight, in my locker room the other night, sent these shoes and had them made, and they're the shoes that are the coat I'm wearing up here tonight. Thank you, Phil.
(Cheers and applause.)
Rupert Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch had a vision. He had a dream. Boy, was he going into a pretty established situation with the networks. But, boy, did he have courage, and he saw value that nobody saw. Thank you, Rupert. Thank you very much.
We had a show on "Nightline" right after that contract was negotiated. And the NFL and Rupert asked me to go on "Nightline," and they asked Pat Summerall to debate, because Pat there was with CBS, and they were the odd man out and it was Fox now.
And Pat aptly pointed out -- Pat’s a great friend. God bless you, Pat -- that Fox didn't even cover the entire United States. How were they going to show everybody our games? They didn't have any talent. How were they going to get it done?
I said one thing there on "Nightline." When I bought the Cowboys, I really didn't know either how I was going to get it done, but all I'd known is I burned the boats. I put everything in the world I had into it. And it wasn't about getting it done, it was about getting it done yesterday. It was urgent. That clock was ticking.
And that's the kind of urgency that men like that have brought to our great game, and that's what we've got in store for us in the future, because of this great game and the interest in this game. And you men whose shoulders we've stood on, you men who made this happen for us, that's the kind of interest in the game, there is no telling where football can go to.
It's a place where you can make the block, football, you can make the block in the line. Nobody in the world knows about it, but next day when you hit the film, your teammates do. And you can look in the mirror, and you can feel as good as if you'd made six touchdowns the day before. That's football.
A place that you know, when I look, when I think about the life lessons, I just cannot think about other than how bad every day it felt when you went out for two-a-days and you ask every reason in the world why not to be there, but you just kept on keeping on.
I'm gonna paraphrase Garth Brooks: Looking back on the memory, our lives really are better left to chance. I could have missed the pain, but I've had to have missed the dance. That's football. Inspiration, dreams. We got here with the love of football and love of family.
Folks, obviously to have had the chance to be a part of this great game, use whatever skills that might work to help move the ball forward, I leave you tonight with one last thank you. It's for you, the fans. I'm a fan. You're the heartbeat of the game. And the Dallas Cowboy fans are the greatest fans on Earth.
(Cheers and applause.)
But I love Giant fans. I love Eagle fans. I love Redskin fans. I love Massillon High School fans here. I love McKinley fans right here in town. You're here tonight because you love the game. Guys, I'm here because I love it, too. Thank you, guys.
(Cheers and applause.)