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Remembering Tex Schramm
Ring of Honor
Friends and colleagues remember Cowboys legend Tex Schramm.
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AllNight: Gil Brandt, one of Tex Schramm's first hires in 1959, tells Todd Wright about the great Cowboys architect.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Schramm helped build Cowboys into dynasty
DALLAS -- With Tex Schramm calling the shots, the Dallas Cowboys went from expansion team to Super Bowl team to "America's Team."
And, all the while, Schramm was doing just as much to turn the NFL into America's game.
Schramm was a pioneer for both his team and his league. Although Schramm died Tuesday at age 83, his legacy will continue as long as pro football is played.
"He was a remarkable person, a remarkable figure in the history of pro football," said Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, who in 1966 negotiated with Schramm the NFL-AFL merger that paved the way for the Super Bowl and created a joint league that would become a billion-dollar industry.
"He made so many contributions, you would run out of ink if you tried to write them all down," Hunt said.
Schramm became president and general manager of the Cowboys before the team officially became an NFL franchise. His first move was hiring Tom Landry as the coach.
Despite opposite personalities, their "business relationship" -- as Schramm called it -- produced 20 straight winning seasons, 18 playoff appearances, 13 division titles, five Super Bowl appearances and two championships.
"He built that franchise up and kept it running," said Wellington Mara, owner of the rival New York Giants.
Schramm left the organization in 1989, two months after Jerry Jones bought the club and fired Landry. Two years later, Schramm became the first team executive elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A strained relationship with Jones kept him out of the club's Ring of Honor, which meant that for 12 years Schramm was in the awkward position of being recognized among the game's greats in Canton, Ohio, but not among the team's greats in Irving, Texas.
That changed in April when Jones decided the man who created the Ring should be in it. Schramm will become the 12th honoree this fall, joining 11 people he brought to the Cowboys.
"I never gave up hope," he had said at a news conference announcing his selection, his eyes filling with tears. "Things that should happen to people that deserve them, usually do happen."
Schramm helped make the Cowboys' blue star logo among the most recognizable in pro sports through promotional risks such as a Thanksgiving home game and using professional dancers as cheerleaders.
Although Schramm didn't come up with the "America's Team" moniker, he certainly popularized it. It fit, too, considering he put together a radio network that broadcast games on 225 stations in 19 states, plus a Spanish-speaking network with 16 stations in seven states and Mexico.
"Tex was the ultimate football-minded man," said Hall of Famer Bob Lilly, the team's first draft pick. "He loved the game and he had a flair about him of show business."
Schramm also had ideas that benefited the entire league, such as the creation of instant replay, radios in quarterback helmets, wide sideline borders and wind-direction strips dangling atop goalpost uprights. He also pushed the six-division, wild-card playoff concept.
"Tex will go down as one of the most influential figures in the history of the NFL," said Don Shula, the league's winningest coach. "I truly believe he had as much, or more, to do with the success of professional football as anyone who has ever been connected with the league."
During a 25-year tenure running the NFL competition committee, he oversaw rules changes such as using overtime in the regular season, putting the official time on the scoreboard, moving goalposts from the front of the end zone to the back and protecting quarterbacks through the in-the-grasp rule.
He also pushed the use of replacement players to break a strike by players in 1987. Players haven't gone on strike again.
"The NFL family has lost one of its giants," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said. "Tex Schramm was one of the visionary leaders in sports history -- a thinker, doer, innovator and winner with few equals."
Texas Earnest Schramm Jr. was born June 2, 1920 -- but not in Texas. He grew up in San Gabriel, Calif. Texas was his father's name, and where his parents met.
A 147-pound fullback in high school, Schramm earned a journalism degree from Texas and became a sports writer after a stint in the Air Force.
He worked for the Rams from 1947-56, going from publicity director to general manager. In '52, he gave his old job as publicity director to Pete Rozelle, who went on to become the NFL commissioner. At times, Schramm was mockingly referred to as the "vice commissioner."
After the Rams, Schramm went to CBS-TV Sports. He also orchestrated the first TV broadcast of the Winter Olympics and hired Pat Summerall to broadcast Giants football games.
Schramm's wife of 60 years, Marty, died in December. Their oldest daughter, Mardee Anne Smith, died before them.
He's survived by daughter Christi Wilkinson and son-in-law Bill Wilkinson of San Antonio, daughter Kandy Court and son-in-law Greg Court of Bryan, and six grandchildren.
A private funeral will be held Friday, followed by a public memorial service at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church.
"The world is not as lively a place without Tex," Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell said.
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