Jerry Jones Jr. learned his father was buying the Dallas Cowboys by listening to a message on his answering machine.
The year was 1989 — long before cellphones made almost everyone immediately accessible. Jones, then a freshman, was in the library at Georgetown University studying when his father left the message. And yes. It was the real library. And yes. There was a bar in Georgetown called The Library.
“There was my dad on the answering machine and he said, ‘I was trying to get in touch with you, but I wanted you to be the first to know that I just bought the Dallas Cowboys,’” Jones says of listening to the message at midnight.
“And I hear in the background this shriek, and my mom was just like, ‘Jerry, don’t tell him on the answering machine! Wait and talk to him again in person.’”
Growing up as his father’s namesake, Jones got stuck with the nickname “Little Jerry.” And he isn’t the only Jerry Wayne in the family. He and a cousin — Jerry Wayne Moody — were born two months apart.
“Here I am at 6-foot-2-inches and 200 pounds and if I go to a family reunion someone will walk up and say, ‘How are you doing Little Jerry?’”
Jones is the third and last child of Gene and Jerry Jones Sr. The Joneses raised their children — Stephen, Charlotte Jones Anderson and Jerry Jr. — in Little Rock.
The three siblings work for the Cowboys. Stephen, 54, is chief operating officer, executive vice president and director of player personnel. Charlotte, 52, is executive vice president and chief brand officer. Jerry Jr., 50, is the chief sales and marketing officer and executive vice president.
Both boys graduated from Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock while Anderson graduated from Central High School.
• DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH: Sept. 27, 1967, Little Rock.
• FAVORITE MOVIES: The Shawshank Redemption and Jaws.
• FAVORITE SPORTS TEAMS BESIDE THE DALLAS COWBOYS: Catholic High Rockets and the Arkansas Razorbacks.
• FAVORITE DALLAS COWBOYS GAME: In 1989, we went 1-15 and the one win was up in RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., where I was going to school. ... We beat the Redskins.
• FAVORITE VACATION SPOT: Portofino, Italy.
• YOU WON'T CATCH ME WITHOUT: A smile on my face.
• MY CHILDHOOD NICKNAME WAS: Jerome. When I was 16 that was on my license plate, and my immediate family would call me Jerome. I don't how that came about. Jerome will still come out at the office and among my family.
• I WOULD LIKE TO BE REMEMBERED FOR: Being a good father and a good husband.
• IF I WASN'T AT THE DALLAS COWBOYS I WOULD BE: In politics.
• ONE WORD TO SUM ME UP: Outgoing.
Jones Jr. went to Georgetown because he thought he would like a career in politics — especially after watching his father’s friends, then-U.S. Rep. Tommy Robinson and two-time Republican gubernatorial candidate Sheffield Nelson.
After graduating in 1992, he entered Southern Methodist University and earned a law degree in 1995. He worked as a lawyer for a few years before entering the family business.
“I don’t think we realized back in February of ’89 just how much that was going to impact our lives. Just the path the Dallas Cowboys has taken our family on and the visibility and with that visibility, there is obviously a lot of responsibility and there can be a lot of criticism,” he says.
“Everything is watched under a magnifying glass,” he adds. “But it definitely impacted our lives, and we quickly learned that it was taking a lot and you needed all hands on deck.”
The Jones family is very close. In addition to working together, the whole gang takes family vacations together.
“The good news is Stephen, Charlotte and I were such close siblings growing up and had such a respect for each other that it made it real easy to cross over into our professional careers to work together,” Jones Jr. says.
“The good news is Stephen, Charlotte and I were such close siblings growing up and had such a respect for each other that it made it real easy to cross over into our professional careers to work together.”
Anderson agrees, adding, “We are so close because my parents have always put family first. Growing up we were always like that — a very tight-knit family.”
“At the end of the day, there is no one I would trust more to partner with than my brother and sister,” Stephen Jones says.
Anderson says her baby brother is the “charismatic” sibling. She says he gets a lot of his charisma from their father.
“He is most like my dad,” Anderson says. “He looks the most like him and from a personality standpoint, as well.”
Jerry Sr. agrees, saying he and his son clash occasionally because they are so alike.
“As a matter of a fact, when I was talking about him at my NFL Hall of Fame induction, I said, ‘The reason I get upset when I do with him is because I know what he is thinking and where he is going because he’s just like me.’”
When the Joneses named their first son John “Stephen” Jones,” they chose to honor both their parents. Jones Sr.’s father was John “Pat” Jones. Gene Jones’ father was John Ed Chambers.
“I thought, ‘Boy, I hope to one day have another son.’ I did want to call him Jerry,” he says.
$1 MILLION A MONTH
The early days were not easy. When Jones Sr. bought the team, it was losing $1 million a month and expected to lose $25 million a year within five years.
“We were about to risk everything we had ever worked for and the life that he provided for us growing up,” Jones Jr. says. “Everything from a business point of view said not to do it.”
But Jones Jr. says his dad is a “natural salesman” with “entrepreneurial business ideas” that ended in success.
First, Jones Jr. says, the family looked toward sponsorships and partnerships with huge brands like the Ford Motor Co. and Pepsi to “leverage the visibility and passion of the Cowboys and help them move their products.”
Another example is their deal with Papa John’s Pizza. The family wanted Papa John’s to be the official pizza of the Dallas Cowboys. Papa John’s founder John Schnatter countered, asking the family to buy half of the corporately owned stores in the region. Since then, Papa John’s revenue has more than doubled in that market, Jones Jr. says. (Schnatter resigned as Papa John’s chairman in July over his use of a racial slur.)
As chief marketing officer, Jones Jr. is responsible for all Cowboys merchandise. The Dallas Cowboys is the only NFL team that handles its own logos and trademarks.
Another innovative project is The Star — the new Dallas Cowboys headquarters, their practice facility at the Ford Center, entertainment district and medical facility in Frisco, Texas.
The Star is a partnership between the Cowboys and the city of Frisco. The city and school district paid $90 million to fund the stadium construction plus $25 million to build the Cowboys’ headquarters.
The eight high schools in Frisco play their games at the Ford Center, which also hosts other school events like cheer and band competitions, lacrosse and more.
The deal gives the Cowboys fans an up-close view of the team.
“We believed that building this facility had the chance to really impact sports at that level but impact it in a way that hadn’t been done before, and that is having a touch and feel,” Jones Jr. says.
After practice, the Cowboys interact with the high school players. “When they walk off after Friday’s practice and they’ve been preparing to play the New York Giants, you’ve got [quarterback] Dak Prescott throwing the football to a kid who’s about to play Friday Night Lights.”
In June, the Baylor Scott and White Sports Therapy and Research center opened at The Star. Jones Jr. called it a “one-of-a-kind” collaboration between a health care system and an NFL team.
The 300,000-square-foot facility focuses on advanced care for sports medicine and orthopedics. Injured Cowboys are treated at the facility. It also is open to the general public.
The idea for the facility dates back to Stephen Jones’ days as a high school football player. He was injured, and Jones Sr. took him to the same surgeon who worked on New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath.
“If it was good enough for Joe Namath, it’s good enough for my son,” Jones Jr. recalls his father saying.
“We created something that is regional, national and I believe even international,” Jones Jr. says of the medical facility. “If you are playing soccer over in Europe and have a need for an orthopedic surgeon, you are coming to Frisco, Texas.”
Stephen Jones says his baby brother has “his fingerprints all over The Star.” He credits Jones Jr. for heading up the partnership with Baylor Scott and White.
CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL
For this interview, Jones Jr. flew in from Texas and was picked up at the airport by Sheffield Nelson.
“Jerry Jones Jr. is really an exceptional young man,” Nelson says. “He’s always been a little understated, in my mind, because he has his older brother and he has a sister who’s always been out front doing things. But Jerry has been performing very well in the background.”
“Jerry is smart,” Nelson adds. “He’s a lawyer … he has a great personality and he has an uncanny ability to be able to decipher what people are saying and doing. He really knows how to make a deal — just like his dad. He knows how to make the deal.”
Nelson took him to his alma mater for the interview. Last year, Catholic High dedicated its new multimillion dollar athletic and academic building. The two-story building, located next to Roy Davis Field, is named the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Academic and Athletic Annex.
In 2013, the Jones Family Charities of Dallas, Denise and John York of San Francisco and an anonymous alumnus gave $10 million to Catholic High.
In high school, Jones Jr. excelled at football and basketball. One of his classmates was Steve Straessle, now principal of Catholic High.
“He was a top-notch student, very bright,” Straessle says. “He had natural leadership qualities in addition to an easy-going demeanor. Jerry was very approachable and kind but also driven so it was no surprise to see him excel in the Cowboy organization.”
When Jones Jr. was in high school, Father George Tribou was at the helm. Tribou died in 2001. Jerry Sr. and his two sons were pallbearers at his funeral, Straessle recalls.
“Their loyalty to the school has not been [affected] by distance or the success of their venture,” Straessle says. “Instead it has been enhanced by their success.”
The lessons he learned from Tribou still govern Jones’ life.
“Father Tribou preached it. You are going to have choices in life and with these choices you are going to make decisions and with these decisions, there’s going to be consequences,” Jones Jr. says. “You are going to have failures, and these failures don’t need to define you. They need to be how you answer and stand back up and address those failures.”
Straessle says that Jones Jr. is “just an all-around genuine person” who has not let success go to his head. He tells the story of the day the Jones family held the news conference to announce the $10 million gift. One of Catholic High’s teachers asked to bring his neighbor, a young man with special needs who is a huge Cowboys fan. After the news conference ended, Straessle asked Jones Jr. if he could bring the man backstage to meet the Joneses.
“Father Tribou preached it. You are going to have choices in life and with these choices you are going to make decisions and with these decisions, there’s going to be consequences. You are going to have failures, and these failures don’t need to define you. They need to be how you answer and stand back up and address those failures.”
“He said, ‘Of course. That is why we do this. Without the fans, we would be nothing.’”
“The young man had on a Cowboys hat and jersey, and the Joneses surrounded him like he was the most important person they had ever met,” Straessle says.
“It was so genuine and so heartwarming. It is such a telling aspect — what you do when no one is watching,” he adds. “They treated the man with respect and dignity. It was just mesmerizing. … This is the true character of Jerry Jones Jr.”
OFF THE MOST ELIGIBLE BACHELOR LIST
Jones Jr. was a bachelor until he was 36. But that changed when he was introduced — by his cousin Jerry Wayne Moody — to Lori Lemon, a former Olympic-caliber equestrian.
“We first started dating and she had a horse that was pregnant and we went on a date and I kept asking her out and she said, ‘Well, I have to go to the barn because my horse could have this colt at any time.’
“After about three or four times — and this went on for a couple of weeks — I was like, ‘Is there really a barn and is there really a horse or are you just telling me you don’t want to go out?’”
There really was a barn. The horse is named Knickknack and her colt is Nonsense.
“On our dates, we would go to the barn, and I watched her give all of this love to this horse and the horse’s little colt, and I was like ‘If she can be that sweet to that horse, maybe she will be that sweet to me and I am sure she will be that sweet to our kids.’”
The two were married Sept. 23, 2006, in Portofino on the Italian Riviera. They have two children — James Alexander, 12, and Mary Chambers, 10.
Nonsense lives at the Jones’ ranch in Springfield, Mo. Knickknack is too old to transport and lives at their ranch in Dallas. In all, the Joneses have six horses in Missouri and three in Dallas.
Jones Jr. has a trophy room at his home in Dallas — but it is not filled with Cowboy trophies. Instead it is filled with 44 trophies he earned from coaching the teams of his children (who also have their own trophies). James has played flag football, basketball, soccer and tackle football. Chambers plays tennis, soccer and basketball.
“He has his priorities straight. He is a wonderful father. … He does everything the right way. And he is there for him all of the time,” Stephen Jones says of his brother.
Jones Jr. has coached all of his children’s teams — with the exception of tennis.
“The YMCA director came to me when we were playing tackle football, and he was trying to schedule the games and all that, and he said, ‘Everyone wants to beat you. I’ve never seen anything like it,’” he recalls. “They wanted to be able to beat me in football.”
While he has seen parents who hire “personal trainers for 8-year-olds,” he is not that kind of dad.
“That’s not happening at my house and won’t ever,” he says. “We are having a good time and having a good experience and enjoying it.
“The beauty of getting involved in the youth sports is learning to work together as a team and being a part of something that’s not always going to go right and might have some adversity but you just play through it and try to enjoy it,” he adds. “That’s a great lesson for life, but I would say if you talked to any of the parents who have watched me coach over the years, it’s about them having a good time.”
High Profile on 08/05/2018
Print Headline: Jerral Wayne Jones Jr.