The Big Mac Blog

Big Mac Book Plug: Former Cowboys’ coach changed the NFL

Retired quarterback Danny White said the biggest reason behind the success of the “dynasty era” Dallas Cowboys in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, other than Tom Landry, is Dr. Bob Ward.

There is only a 10,000 percent chance you have never heard of Dr. Bob Ward, but if you are a football, or sports, fan you are familiar with this man’s work. And even if you know Dr. Bob Ward, or his work, that should not stop you from learning more about his career.

Ward is one of the most important “players” in the history of NFL, and - coincidentally - he is the subject of a new book, “Building the Perfect Star.” The author? The wonderfully humble, and eternally good looking, Mac Engel. I’m a big fan.

This was a wonderfully difficult challenge; whether than write a book about an other older guy telling old Cowboys’ stories, I instead found that his work is relevant to today’s sports landscape.

Everything from steroids to integrating computers and analytics to the rapid evolvement of performance enhancement in sports Ward both experienced, and had a hand in changing. I interviewed nearly 40 people about Dr. Bob Ward, and to a man they said they said he was a pioneer that changed the game, and the NFL weight room.

Dr. Bob Ward was the first conditioning coach to be hired by an NFL team to be considered a full-time member of a coaching staff complete with benefits. He was hired in 1976 by team president Tex Schramm and Landry, and Ward had a profound impact on the Cowboys.

Have I failed to mention that I wrote this book and the best place to buy it is right here? Or here. Or here. There, too.

A Ward protege, and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Randy White provided the foreword to the book that you can buy here.

Ward, who is in his early 80s and lives with his wife in North Dallas, is not a guy that believes steroids are evil. He briefly used them in the 1960s, and insists he never distributed any to players in his coaching career. He does believe they work, and that under the right supervision a steroid is helpful, no different than an aspirin.

Ward was the first man to extensively use sophisticated computer analysis towards measuring specific player performance in football. He was one of the first to give each player their own specific offseason workout plans. He was the first man to introduce the concept of martial arts training to NFL players, something that is now widely popular with UFC.

Former Cowboys receiver Butch Johnson said the workouts Ward had the team doing in the ‘70s - nearly all explosion based exercises rooted in Eastern European methods - were the forerunner to today’s Cross Fit craze.

Ward’s believed was to try everything, and rule out nothing.

Ward came from virtually nothing; he was born in the Depression Era 1930s in a home that was damaged by domestic violence. He briefly was raised in a de facto orphanage. Ward used football to earn a scholarship to a small college in Spokane, Wash., and eventually his PED from Indiana University.

The Cowboys eventually found him in the mid ‘70s.

Dr. Bob Ward is one of those guys that you don’t know, but are familiar with his work.