Skip to main content

Fathers, Sons & Football: Jerry Jones Jr. Delivers Powerful Speech

Welcome to "Fathers, Sons and Football." This week, in celebration of Father's Day on June 19, we have an array of stories, interviews and videos on the deepest of bonds and the role football has played in forming them.

Cowboys Executive Vice President/Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Jerry Jones Jr. gave a speech on fatherhood at the Episcopal School of Dallas several years ago. The youngest of Jerry and Gene Jones' three children, Jerry Jr. and his wife, Lori, have two children, James and Mary Chambers. What follows are excerpts from his powerful message.

Go back with me to 1985. I was a freshman in high school, and as typical freshmen do, I had earned a couple of hours in detention hall that were to be served on Saturday mornings. I was to serve detention on a weekend that coincided with the 49ers-Dolphins playing in the Super Bowl in Palo Alto, Calif., and our family had the opportunity to go.

So, my father accompanied me up to school on that cold January morning. I went to Catholic High in Little Rock, and we knocked on principal Father George Tribou's office door and walked into a cloud of cigar smoke. My father, of course, is a salesman at heart. He knows how to get people thinking his way. He approached Father Tribou about the possibility of missing detention that day in order to fly out and visit my sister Charlotte, who was attending Stanford University, saying, "What a wonderful opportunity to see the campus of one of the country's finest universities."

Father Tribou looked sternly at my father and quietly quipped, "And I imagine you are going by that big game being played on their campus tomorrow."

Yes, even the good Father knew of the Joe Montana vs. Dan Marino matchup and he called us out on it. Still, my dad was able to negotiate a plea deal where I would rake leaves around campus the following weekend in exchange for temporary clemency.

I am convinced there are three types of fathers: The see-no-evil fathers who are neglectful of their children and are permissive in their relationships with them. Then on the other end of the spectrum are the helicopter fathers that hover over their kids mapping out every move and planning every step. And then, in the middle, is the good father.

Standing firmly behind their sons and/or daughters, ushering them forward, ever cognizant of the fact that the true message of a man is not how many times he has success, but how he handles failure. He understands that preventing failure in a child's life robs him or her of the opportunity to build experiences that they will draw from when their adult lives are less than perfect.

I am fortunate enough to have the good father. And not only is he a good father, he is the most important influence in my life. Jerry Jones was raised in Rose City, Ark. Have you ever heard of Rose City? Not many have.

The first lesson my father taught me was by accident. He taught me that it does not matter where a man starts, what matters is how he runs the race, how he finishes. My dad's father, my grandfather, owned a grocery store in Rose City. Every family member was involved. My grandmother was the bookkeeper and my dad was the marketer. As a distinguished 9-year-old, he would stand at the front of the store, dressed with a bow tie, and greet customers as they came in. Bare in mind that grocery stories in the late-1940s weren't much more than a present-day farmers' market. My grandfather, ever the salesman, would have the local radio station broadcast from the middle of the store to promote business. He would walk around in full cowboy gear, carrying six-shooter guns and all. He taught my dad not only about marketing, but about hard work and discipline. My father passed that down to me.

Our family is very blessed. We are fortunate to be able to work as a family and be involved in something as exciting as the Dallas Cowboys. My dad has always believed in the family business. It was when he was in college that he and my grandfather started an insurance company in Missouri. Although it was the footing that led to a prosperous business career, he is quick to remind me sometimes as we're walking out to watch a practice, "Son, this sure beats selling insurance."

One thing you have probably noticed about my father is that he is, and always has been, a superior motivator. He understands that motivation is not a gimmick. Gimmicks are often used by parents to get the motivational ball rolling, and sometimes that's a good start, even a catalyst. But, gimmicks are not lasting.

However, true motivation comes when that inner fire is lit, when sacrifices are made to the greater good, when that teeth-clenching, fist-making, eye-narrowing, right-foot-forward moment comes to fruition. It occurs when a young man understands that masculinity is born in perseverance. It occurs when a young lady understands that virtue is born in confidence.

My dad has always had high expectations, but at the same time, expectations that are rooted in reality. He specialized in knowing what I could achieve and then advocating for just a little more. He always reminded me I was exchanging a day in my life for today. Make sure you use it wisely, he would say.

He has always believed that the greatest determiner of success is work ethic. His philosophy is simple yet profound: Your work ethic should exceed your ability. Let me repeat that: Your work ethic should exceed your ability. He often paraphrased Theodore Roosevelt, "I have never admired a man who led an easy life; however, I have admired a great number of men who led difficult lives and led them well."

My father believes the finest steel goes through the hottest furnace.

Now, having spent his entire life in athletics, my father was always putting life in perspective by using sports as a metaphor. He would advise me and my brother, Stephen, of another simple rule: Celebrate the victories and learn from the defeats. He didn't allow us to dwell on the defeats, or spend too much time patting ourselves on the back for our victories. Every situation was an opportunity to learn. That's one of the great truths of life. He was always quick to say, "Enjoy the process … enjoy the process."[embeddedad0]

This has been another great lesson on fatherhood for me. It's so easy to concentrate on trophies, on playing time, on accolades. But really, it's the process that is the most enriching part of life. How you got there? What you are doing to get better? That is the Big Jerry philosophy. As he often told us: Sometimes hard work is not rewarded in an outward fashion. Sometimes you'll give something you're very best at and still fall short and there will be no particular award. It's difficult. It's life. But he would reiterate that his pride in us was still very much there.

You see, failure in life is inevitable. It happens to everyone at some point in time. But failure does not mark you as a man. What you do after you fail is what marks you as a man.

I can tell you that my dad is my best friend, but a father-son friendship is an evolving process. During my formative adolescent years, he was a disciplinarian and a mentor. He was the father figure that challenged me to do the right thing. He would sit me down and ask: 1) What do you want out of life? 2) What are your expectations? 3) And what steps are you taking to get there?

It wasn't about setting a goal for change by January 1 of next year. It was set the goal for February 1 of this year, then March, then April, and keep on building. Also, it was important for him to be a good listener.

A few years back, I was sitting silently in front of my dad. Unbeknownst to him, the weight of the world was sitting on my shoulders, or so I believed at the time. Just looking at me, he knew there was a problem and asked, "Are you okay?" I curtly responded, "No," and shared with him what was bothering me. Never one to give a short answer, he, as he always did, reflected upon one of this own life's lessons to help me better understand the issue.

He was quick to point out that I was not alone, adding, "Those days that seem so challenging and unbearable are days that we all face. There is not a grown man who hasn't gotten up every morning and looked into the mirror and had feelings of doubt. Concerned and even scared of the unknown. I have had my share of these. We have all had to overcome great challenges in life. It's part of the process. So enjoy the process …. enjoy the process."

He helped me to understand that becoming an adult meant tackling commitments, taking responsibility for one's actions, managing fear. After all, it is that commonality of life that binds all humans together.

Still to this day, he listens to my disappointments and my thrills. Always there to guide me. And as all fathers should be, remaining the strongest influence in my life. Never surrendering that responsibility, never surrendering that honor.

My father taught me several important lessons, but the most important one can be explained in just three words: "I love you." Tell your kids that you understand their goals. Tell them that you understand their disappointment when they have fallen short. Tell them that you will not hold their hands to prevent their future falls, but you sure will offer them a hand up. Tell them that you are most proud of them when they fail and then climb right back into the ring for another round. You will continue to cheer their every victory. You will continue to help them learn from every defeat.

But most importantly, tell him that you love them. Tell him that you have loved him since the day you felt his first foot fall in the comfort of his mother's stomach.

My father is one of the toughest men I've ever known, and he has never been afraid to say I love you. Those words are so important to children. They are so important because they build the most basic confidence and the most sturdy backbones.

I've heard those words from my father a million times and it's a large part of why our relationship is so strong. Those three words mean so much, and truly, only the very strongest of men understand that. To be a strong father, you must first be able to communicate your love to your children.

In closing I would like to say, I am a firm believer that life's greatest moments come in finding challenges and over-coming them. Life's greatest moments are a product of character. These moments are built brick-by-brick, row-by-row, one experience at a time, and they are a product of commitment. Life's greatest moments are made by pulling together everything you've learned and casting it far into the wind of Faith. No one gets a guarantee. In taking a phrase from Shakespeare, "Life is a sea of troubles."

Life IS not easy. Families are sometimes difficult. Careers can be overwhelming. But I guarantee you this: You will never regret being a good father.My dad went to great lengths to help us build our confidence on a foundation of love and support. Ever the disciplinarian, he was also a great mentor and friend. The approach he took was obvious to him because that's how his father was with him. I leave you with one final piece he shared with me at my high school graduation. It's title, *Your Name *…

You got from your father,

A most precious thing to give.

So it's yours to use and cherish,

For as long as you may live.

If you lose the watch he gave you,

It can always be replaced.

But a black mark on your name son,

Can never be erased.

It was clean the day you took it,

And a worthy name to bear.

When he got it from his father,

There was no dishonor there.

So make sure you guard it wisely,

After all is said and done.

You'll be glad the name is spotless,

When you give it to your son.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content