CANTON, Ohio — Jerry Jones’ spot in NFL history is secure forever now that he has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In reality, whether he had a bust in Canton or not, the league’s history could not be written without Jones, but Saturday’s ceremony was the final confirmation of Jones’ move from ultimate outsider to the insider’s insider.
He battled the NFL early in his tenure as the owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys. Now some consider him the de facto commissioner.
As Jones spoke Saturday, emotions poured from his voice as he talked about a lifetime of football dreams and nearly 29 years with the Cowboys.
For more than 36 minutes, Jones tried to own the room. Jones has a way of making everybody thinking he is personally speaking to them. That’s how he has turned a franchise that was losing $1 million a day into the most valued in the world today at $4.2 billion.
Saturday was the end of a three-day celebration of all things Jones.
On Thursday, the Cowboys won the Hall of Fame Game against the Arizona Cardinals. Jones admitted there wasn’t a whole lot of “GMing” going on during the game. As he was introduced to the crowd, Jones stopped for congratulations from Jason Witten, Sean Lee, Dan Bailey and later Dez Bryant.
He spent the pregame laughing and joking with Michael Irvin and Warren Sapp.
On Friday, the emotions started to hit him at the Ray Nitschke Luncheon, where he was introduced by Irvin, Emmitt Smith and Charles Haley. He listened to the Hall of Famers’ stories and what it meant to them to be in such a special club.
For the first time that night, the gold jacket was slipped over his shoulders by his wife, Gene, who served as his presenter. Later, he hosted a private party at Glenmoor Country Club. More than 20 Hall of Famers attended, including Cowboys greats Roger Staubach, Rayfield Wright, Mel Renfro and Tony Dorsett. The Triplets — Irvin, Aikman and Smith — were there. About 20 owners attended, as did NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Two highlights: The theme of the night was Jerry-isms and a funny video was made with the best Jerry-isms. Throughout the years, Jones has had several famous quotes. Some made sense only to Jones. Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, a Texas native, spoke. So did Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul, a big Cowboys fan. Jon Bon Jovi sang about one of Jones’ more infamous quotes.
Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush made appearances in the video as well.
Then there was a 90-minute set by Justin Timberlake that had some of the current Cowboys acting like the football fans do around them. As Timberlake sang and danced, players held cell phones aloft to take video.
The cost for the evening? Nobody truly knows, but some estimates had it at eight figures.
Jones has shown price is not an issue throughout his time as owner. He spent $140 million on the team and Texas Stadium in 1989. AT&T Stadium cost roughly $2.1 billion. Their new practice facility has a price tag worth around nine figures.
There is one thing left for Jones which would spend any amount of money: the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl and fourth of his ownership run.
The Cowboys have not been in a Super Bowl since 1995. They have won just three playoff games since, and the calls for Jones the owner to fire Jones the general manager have gone on for years, although it has quieted some recently.
Jones turns 75 in October and is not prepared to slow down. He has his stadium. He has his practice facility. He has a team that looks to be on the rise with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the best offensive line in football.
Now he has his place in the Hall of Fame forever.
“We need to win,” Jones said last week after a training-camp practice. “We need to continue to build this foundation we have right now. The No. 1 thing from this point forward is to win a Super Bowl. We can’t rest on our laurels as a team. I sure can’t rest on any laurels in my position. When I look at opportunities ahead for the future, I see a brighter future ahead for the team as well as the NFL. I see more opportunities than I did 29 years ago. I want to be a part of it. I’m going to be very active.”
“I think that I’m doing the best I’ve done, right now, relative to the league. I really do,” Jones said recently. “… I’ve really got a lot of energy, spent a lot of time. This is the most ground I’ve covered since I’ve owned the team, in terms of activity.”