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The Cowboy who met seven U.S. presidents

Jim Myers worked 25 years for Tom Landry and met seven U.S. presidents.

He’s not sure which was a bigger honor.

“I never think about looking back — that’s my philosophy,” said the 86-year-old Myers when asked to pinpoint a favorite season, a favorite game, a favorite play with the Cowboys.

“It was all fun.”

Here’s one for you, Jim.

“You’re the Oldest Living Cowboy.”

“Hmm. I am?” he replied. “I guess you’re right.”

And here’s another one: When Dallas won Super Bowl VI (Jan. 16, 1971), Myers heard the frantic call of his name inside the locker room.

“Coach Myers, Coach Myers ... telephone. Hurry up, it’s for you.”

When Myers picked up the phone, it was Richard Nixon calling from the White House.

The President had just finished watching Dallas’ offense rack up 23 first downs and 252 yards rushing — both Super Bowl records at the time — against Miami’s highly-touted “No-Name Defense.”

Nixon wanted to congratulate the winning offensive line coach.

“I don’t imagine too many assistant coaches have gotten a phone call from the President of the United States,” recalled Myers, who lives with his bride of 62 years, Carolyn, in Dallas.

For 25 Cowboys seasons (1962-86), Myers took a Marine-style approach to his job. He was fair — but firm. Tough love, they call it now.

He could crack a wall with his voice.

The results were five Super Bowl appearances, three Super Bowl rings and 18 Pro Bowlers. Oh, yeah, and one Hall of Famer ... Rayfield Wright.

“I’m a bowl man,” Myers said proudly.

Aside from five Super Bowls with the Cowboys, Myers appeared in two Rose Bowls (UCLA line coach) and one Sugar and one Orange (both as a University of Tennessee guard).

But it was his time in Southern California (1949-56) that would open the door on a quarter-century career with the Cowboys.

“While at UCLA, I got to know Tex Schramm, who was general manager of the LA Rams,” Myers said. “He tried to get me to come over to the Rams and be their offensive line coach ... but I wasn’t interested in pro football.

“I mean, we were having a lot of success at UCLA.”

The ’54 UCLA team went 9-0 under Red Sanders to gain a share (with Ohio State) of the national championship. The Rose Bowls appearances came in January 1952 and 1954, both loses to Michigan State.

But the Bruins lost only about two games a year while Myers was at UCLA. This success would earn him a head coaching job — first at Iowa State (1957), then Texas A&M (1958-61).

After four losing seasons in Aggieland (12-24-4), Myers was offered another four-year contract by the school president.

Myers took one look at the deal and gasped: “I’d just as soon be fired as have a contract like this.”

“OK ... you’re fired,” came the reply.

Myers — a family man with three kids — was suddenly out of a job. But not for long.

“I don’t know if what I said was stupid or smart,” Myers recalled. “But it turned out to be the best thing I ever did.”

Two days later, he was working for the Cowboys.

Remember Schramm? Well, he was now president of the NFL’s Dallas expansion team. The Cowboys (0-11-1 and 4-9-1) were getting ready for their third season. The so-called “Landry System” was now in place on both sides of the ball.

Sure, Myers needed Schramm to get the job, but he needed Landry to keep it.

Looking back, there must’ve been something Landry immediately liked about Myers (his loyalty, his work ethic, his resonant voice). Because whatever it was — for the next 25 years — whenever you saw one, you usually caught a glimpse of the other.

In the best of ways, Myers was Landry’s Tonto.

One of the earliest compliments Landry paid his offensive line coach came after only first two weeks on the job. Based purely on Myers’ recommendation, Landry would hire Ermal Allen, who would become a longtime Cowboys assistant (1962-83).

One day, Landry approached Myers, who previously had served on the NCAA Rules Committee while at A&M.

Said Landry: “Jim, come on, we’re going to go to the National Coaches Association meeting and find a coach.”Recalled Myers: “I’d been there only two days.....that was quite an honor.”

On April 14, Myers will serve as honorary chairman at this year’s Tom Landry Golf Tournament at Stonebriar Country Club.

How would he describe his former boss?

“There wasn’t a better person walking down the street than Tom Landry,” Myers said. “He didn’t talk a lot. But you could tell whether he was on your side or not by that expression on his face.

“He had a look that could derail you.”

Landry had the look; Myers had the voice. The latter coached like a Marine because ... well, he was a Marine.

In fact, he was promoted to instructor at Quantico during World War II.

“I guess they thought I practiced my commands pretty good,” said Myers, “... and I had a voice that carried.”

On April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt died at his Warm Springs, Ga., retreat — just before the end of World War II. And Quantico got a call from Washington, D.C.: Instructor Myers has been selected as an honor guard for the FDR funeral.

“That’s quite an honor,” Myers said. “But I was getting married.”

Myers declined. He was holding a flight reservation from Washington DC to Knoxville, Tenn., where plans already were in place for his and Carolyn’s wedding day.

“I wanted to serve as honor guard — I really did — and felt bad because I liked Roosevelt,” Myers said. “But you didn’t change airplane reservations during a time of war. You were lucky to have one.”

Myers never met FDR. But he spent an hour chatting with Ronald Reagan (before Reagan was governor) at a party in Bellaire, Calif.; met LBJ, Gerald Ford, both George Bushes, and talked to Nixon on the telephone.

The seventh president he met was Harry Truman — a.k.a. “Give ’Em Hell, Harry.” And that’s exactly what Truman did.

“I saw Truman at college coaches’ meeting in Kansas City,” recalled Myers, then-coach at Iowa State (1957). “Well, he was always yakkin’ about the Marines, so I walked up to him and gave him my take on the Marine Corps.

“I barely hadn’t gotten 10 words out.....and he had me headed back to the seat I came from.”

Myers, an 11-12 handicap in golf, hasn’t played for more than a year. He is dedicated to providing Carolyn with home care.

And while he doesn’t care to dwell on the past — what a past it was.

Myers worked 25 years for an NFL coaching legend. He met seven U.S. presidents (congratulated by one, hollered at by another).

And for now, let’s just say, he’s between rounds on the golf course.

Where else do you go to tell stories like these?

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