JFK Remembered: Lee Roy Jordan

Former Cowboys linebacker Lee Roy Jordan was a rookie at the time of President Kennedy's death. James Flores/Getty Images

The former Cowboys linebacker reflects on the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy:

“I came out and got in my car that morning and started to go to the training room and it was all over the news. They’re chasing Lee Harvey Oswald downtown. He shot the president. It was just an unbelievable shock and feeling that you had when you hear something like that. I wasn’t at [the facility] yet because I had been injured two or three weeks before and I was just going in for rehab and stuff. I was on my way to the training room to get rehab work done on my body. I had punctured a kidney two or three weeks before and was out for the rest of the season.

“Everybody was just in shock that it could happen. Coach [Tom] Landry was the same way. He just couldn’t believe this could happen in our country, much less our city.

“We were all so caught up with the tragedy. That’s what it was. We were all just in shock I think through the meetings and through practice also. Coach Landry was very calm but I think he was very stressed out by this thing happening here in the city of Dallas. I think emotionally he was disturbed by it but he was calm, which is what you would expect from Coach Landry.

“I didn’t make the trip to the game. I had to stay here. I watched it on television but we kept thinking that it would be canceled or they would cancel the entire schedule that week, but that didn’t happen. I think there were mixed emotions. Maybe, well, if we go on it might take people’s minds off the bad thing that happened here. I still don’t know if it was a bad or good thing. I think the commissioner [Pete Rozelle] thought later on he wished he had not made the decision to play that weekend.

“I don’t remember them having not talked about it on television. I’m sure it was mentioned that the president had been shot in the city of Dallas, but he was already dead and Jack Ruby, I guess he shot Lee Harvey Oswald by then. It all happened so quick.

“The next few years when we played out of the state in Philadelphia or New York or Los Angeles, they treated us like we had done the assassination. Some not-so-pretty things we had to listen to, the name-calling going on in the stadiums as we’d go on the field and come back with the people at the overhangs of the tunnel. They weren’t nice to the Dallas Cowboys. They blamed the city of Dallas and the Cowboys and everything with it. I think once we started winning in ’65, ’66 and ’67, I think it started to take some of that energy out of those people and get them back. Maybe they were like, ‘They’re not only a good football team, but we need to give them a little respect for that, too.’

“I still think it’s such a tragedy and we had to deal with it. I guess we all wished we would’ve been somewhere else in another state when it happened. That wasn’t the case. We couldn’t opt out and say we wanted to be somewhere else. We had to go on being with the Dallas Cowboys and living in Dallas and raising our families in Dallas. That was important. We all stuck together and worked hard to overcome the stigma Dallas had for the assassination of the president.

“It was a tough situation. I was a rookie, but I had some really good friends and some really good teammates, so we were able to share it together and not let anyone deal with it alone.”

--Jordan, 72, as told to ESPN.com Cowboys reporter Todd Archer