Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, former rebel outsider, on brink of Hall

Jerry Jones wanted to cry, but ultimately fought back the tears.

But his words and sincerity rang true when he talked with humility about a 27-year journey that began with him as a maverick outsider after buying the Dallas Cowboys in 1989 and now has him at the doorstep of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jones was named one of the two finalists in the “contributors” category for the Class of 2017. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was the other contributor nominee voted to be considered. Other candidates included Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, former New York Giants general manager George Young and former Washington Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard.

Jones could join predecessor Tex Schramm as the only Cowboys team executive/owner to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall. For now, Jones felt like he has already been in heaven.

“I sometimes wonder, and I don’t want to get emotional, but I really do wonder if when I was 45, I got hit by a car and I’m just sitting here in heaven and have been for the last 27 years and this is what it’s like up there,” Jones said perched atop podium at Cowboys training camp Tuesday. “It’s humbling. It’s really humbling. When I look at the people who were under consideration, how deserving they are.

“It hardly seems fair to have had the great experiences I’ve had for 27 years and the thrill that has lifted me ... to be a part of the NFL, to be a part of the league in these times. So all of that is going through my mind. It’s just a privilege and an honor to be a part of it.”

The contributor category is for individuals who made outstanding contributions to professional football in capacities other than playing or coaching.

A final decision will be made on Jones, Tagliabue and seniors candidate Kenny Easley, along with the 15 other finalists on Feb. 16 , the day before Super Bowl LI in Houston.

“I was just overwhelmed in terms of the joy because he loves this game,” said Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones, Jerry’s son. “He loves the game. He loves the league. He loves the Cowboys. I know this is a big, big deal for him. He is not going to take it for granted. But as great of an owner, as great of a member of the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys that he is … He is a better father. He has always been there for me. We will celebrate with him if this all comes to fruition.”

As far as voting is concerned, Stephen Jones said it should be a no-brainer.

Not only has Jerry Jones led the Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles since buying the team in 1989, he has gone from outside maverick to one of the most powerful and influential owners in the NFL. Under Jones, the Cowboys have grown to become the richest sports franchise in the world, worth roughly $4 billion according to Forbes magazine.

“Well, I think it’s long overdue in my opinion,” Stephen Jones said. “He’s not only been an owner that has had his team, there’s only three that have won more Super Bowls than him as an owner. And then of course the business side is, to me, where it really locks in. I don’t think from a club standpoint with an AT&T Stadium, The Star, revenue generations that have happened at club levels has raised the bar, but also the league in terms of what he’s done with the league on television committees and what he’s done with the management council.

“He’s been a huge contributor to, I think, raising franchise values and making the NFL a better place. That’s what you look for when you have ownership and you have men like that who deserve to be differentiated and obviously certainly have the consideration to go in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”

Jerry Jones has been criticized for firing former head coach Jimmy Johnson after winning Super Bowl titles in 1992 and 1993, and starting a feud that lasted for years. But Johnson was one the first people to post a congratulatory message for Jones on Twitter, writing: “Congratulations to Jerry Jones as Finalist Pro Football HOF. I know his passion and contribution he has made to the growth of the NFL.”

Jones has helped grow the league in terms of television rights and marketing. He recently helped spearhead the move to put football back in Los Angeles with the Rams relocating from St. Louis.

Jerry Jones came into the league as an outsider in 1989 and was met with skepticism and ridicule because he changed the way teams and the league did business in terms of marketing and sponsorship. The NFL soon jumped on Jones’ bandwagon and is now the richest and most powerful sports league in the world.

The list of modern-era nominees for 2017 will be revealed in mid-September.

Cowboys vs. Miami

7 p.m. Friday, KTVT/11

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram