OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys are very much a family business. A Jones family business.
Jerry Jones' three children (Stephen, Jerry Jr. and Charlotte) have prominent roles with the franchise. His wife, Gene, so influential in the organization's philanthropic initiatives over the years, will present him on stage Saturday night in Canton, Ohio.
When Jones is formally enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he'll be proud to share the enormous honor with his entire family.
"As Jerry so wonderfully says about everybody around him, he's stood on a lot of shoulders," says Stephen, the Cowboys' executive vice president, chief operating officer and director of player personnel. "He really looks at this in his mind as a family induction, or voting in, whatever the proper term is."
Stephen has been heavily involved in the organization since Jerry bought the team in 1989. He says it's been an honor to work alongside his father as Jerry helped reshape the league's landscape in terms of visibility and profitability, all while winning three Super Bowls along the way.
Stephen, now the Cowboys' executive vice president and chief operating officer, has grown into a central front office role with the additional title of director of player personnel.
"His father had a lot of confidence in him at a young age. I think he made Jerry V.P. of an insurance company with a lot of moving parts right out of college," Stephen says. "He's told me it's probably the best thing that ever happened to him because he had to be accountable to a higher position. He may not have been ready for it, but he certainly didn't want to let down his father and he certainly wanted to answer the bell, and off he went. And of course the rest is history.
"I'd like to think he feels the same way, that he made a good decision (with me). I know that's the way I felt. I said, I may be a little young for this, but I'm not going to fail because lack of effort. I'm going to make this thing work and roll up my sleeves. Of course I had him to look up to in terms of work ethic. But he started with me on work ethic going way, way back. My grandfather was always huge when it came to putting accountability in place."
There's more the Joneses want to accomplish with America's Team. And they cherish the opportunity to do it together.
"There's no question that's been a big part of the joy for him, getting to share time and spend more time than most parents would be able to get to share with their children," Stephen says. "When we go on family trips, we love to do it together, but they really are, half the time, we kid about it, it's a board meeting. And of course he enjoys having his moments with his grandchildren and sharing with them his vision at the moment for whatever project it may be and educating them in the world of business and the world of sport.
"People ask a lot how does it feel to work for your dad for that long. I'm comfortable with being differential to him. I understand what the roles are here, but I also feel a huge accountability to challenge him when he needs to be challenged. That doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to win all the arguments or you're going to push him in a way that you feel like you ought to be pushing him, but hopefully you'll make a difference enough times that we end up in good, solid spots, not in a rough corner. We've worked well together. I think we work well together as a family."
Together, they'll all celebrate a milestone achievement this weekend in Canton.