The man behind the Tom Landry Classic

Posted Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Tom Landry Classic has become a treasured North Texas high school football tradition in a relatively short time.

The 14th edition of the Classic features Coppell versus Longview on Aug. 30 and Aledo against Highland Park the following day. The venue shifts to Eagle Stadium in Allen after being held the past five seasons at SMU’s Ford Stadium.

Classic alumni includes several NFL players such as Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (Highland Park) and San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown (North Mesquite).

Every April scholarships are awarded to student participants (players, cheerleaders, band, drill team, etc.). The Classic has awarded over $700K in scholarships to 188 students over the years.

The Classic is the brainchild of executive director Kris Cumnock, who has steered the ship since the beginning. He took time recently to talk about how the tradition originated, how it has changed and where it’s headed in the future.

How and when did the Tom Landry Classic start?

I created it in 2000. Originally it was going to be called the Super Six Football Festival and I actually talked with coach Landry before he passed about the football festival; that we were going to do scholarships and reward kids who did the right things off the field. So when he passed I sat down with Tom Jr. and Alicia and told them I knew he was very interested with what we were doing here and it all just aligns with the way he lived his life so I’d like to call it the Tom Landry Classic. Tom Jr. said ‘we have 100 things on my desk we can put his name on and we’re just not doing much of that. We’ll give you a call back in a couple days. Let us think it over.’ He actually called back the next day and said they were going to let me put his name on it, they liked the sound of it. 14 years later they still love it and love the fact we’ve done $750K in scholarships.

Where did you get the idea to do this? Was there a specific kid or group that you wanted to help out?

Not really. I remember just sitting on my couch one day with a legal pad watching a Cowboys game and just kind of sketched this thing out that I wanted to do. I’ve always been very interested in high school football , but I wanted to do something different then what a lot of people had done. The scholarship aspect really appealed to me and it kind of took off from there. I didn’t plan on doing it very long. My goal was to reach $100K and try to do it for four years.

The games are moving to Allen. Why?

SMU has got Texas Tech at home this year, so we really had no choice. As much as I love playing at SMU, it’s very difficult to park over there and we saved some money to put towards the scholarships by having it at Allen. It’s certainly big enough to do all that we need to do.

Do you have an estimate of how many scholarships you’re going to award this year or is it too early to tell?

Yeah, it’s too early to tell because it’s based on crowd size. It’s hard to tell but hopefully it will be good. We gave away 14 or 15 last year and hopefully we’ll do the same amount this year.

How long do you foresee yourself doing this and putting on the Classic?

Well, I know we’re definitely doing ‘14 and ‘15 because I already have those scheduled. That will put us at 16 years and you start looking and say gosh just four more years and you get to 20 but I don’t know. I’m not ready to commit to six after this one, but who knows? I wouldn’t be surprised if we got to 20 and ended it there, but I don’t know. It’s a lot of work. I mean to do it right is a lot of work and I think we do it right.

Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JohnsonJarret

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