Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is an outsider no more.
His 27-year journey from oilman to rebel NFL owner to one of most influential figures in NFL history has a final stop.
Jones no longer has to justify his place as the Cowboys general manager or NFL power broker.
As of Saturday, he will be forever immortalized among the greats of the game in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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Jones was voted in as a member of the Class of 2017 for his contributions to the game.
“Oh my goodness, I really was what they call a walk-on in sports,” Jones said, after shedding tears in a room full of family members when he got the word. “The Cowboys lifted me to anything I could ever be.”
There might be questions about his work as general manager of the Cowboys. The team has two playoff wins since 1997.
For all of us players, past and current, he has really been like a father figure to me not only football but in business and his approach.
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten
But there is no discounting the three Super Bowl titles of the 1990s. There is no overlooking the impact he has had on the league in sales, marketing and television.
Jones has changed the game.
He has grown the game.
And he has helped make the NFL a billion-dollar industry.
Now he is a Hall of Famer forever.
“I’m excited for him,” Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. “It’s a no-brainer. His vision and what he has done, not just for the Cowboys, but what he has done for the league. I don’t think anybody can imagine how much he has grown this game. What a remarkable feeling. For all of us players, past and current, he has really been like a father figure to me not only football but in business and his approach. I am thrilled for him.”
Jones is one of a few owners to have three Super Bowl titles. But his Hall of Fame candidacy is rooted in his contributions to the league and the game, specifically how he has grown the Cowboys and the NFL through his efforts in sales, marketing and television deals.
Jones bought a sinking Cowboys franchise for $140 million in 1989. It is now worth more than $4 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
More than half the teams in the NFL were losing money in 1989. The average price for a team now is $2.3 billion, thanks to the $7 billion television revenue deal that Jones helped renegotiate last year.
Jones bucked the NFL tradition of operating all-for-one and cut separate marketing deals with Pepsi, Dr Pepper and Nike.
Jones is a made-man in the NFL these days. He is a respected mover and shaker who helped put the NFL back in Los Angeles, making even more money for the league and his fellow owners.
“I have been fortunate,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “I played for him for eight years. I was an assistant coach coach for four years
“I have been a head coach for six years. I know him in a lot of capacities. This goes all the way back to the early ’90s. The conversations were we love working for him because the pedal is always down to what he believes is necessary to win. His impact on our organization and on the National Football League is significant. It’s great to see him get honored.”
Jones’ induction into the Hall of Fame was earned and warranted.
But it brings him 180 degrees from his rebellious beginning.
Cowboys fans hated Jones early on because of the way he awkwardly fired legendary coach Tom Landry after hiring Jimmy Johnson when he bought the team in 1989.
Those feelings softened when Johnson and Jones led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in his first seven years with the team.
I never thought this was possible, because first of all, right off the bat, I was just trying to breathe and survive, seriously.
Jerry Jones, on his early days as Cowboys owner
While many remember the fallout with Johnson and his eventual firing after the 1993 season, the marriage worked well enough.
The Johnson-Jones combination pulled off the trade of the century when they moved running back Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings for a horde of draft picks that proved to be foundation of the title teams.
But it was the owners who initially pushed back the hardest against Jones.
Jones bucked the NFL tradition of operating all-for-one and cut separate marketing deals for the Cowboys and then-Texas Stadium with Pepsi, Dr Pepper and Nike.
Of course, today the owners have followed Jones lead, cutting their own locals deals to the tune of millions in their own pockets.
“I never thought this was possible, because first of all, right off the bat, I was just trying to breathe and survive, seriously,” Jones said. “Of course, the NFL, we had very contentious times early and, of course, competing [with other teams], but the respect I had for the people that had gone before me in the NFL kept me from thinking I could walk with them.”