Tom Landry: The All-Business Longhorn Behind "America's Team"
From the fall 2016 issue of McCOMBS, the magazine for alumni and friends of the McCombs School of Business.
Unshakably Business-like in his sports coat and fedora, Tom Landry, BBA '49, reigned over 29 seasons of Dallas Cowboys football, never cracking a smile. But don't let his stoicism fool you, says his son-in-law Eddie Phillips, BBA '72, who insists Landry, who passed away in 2000, was one of the funniest, most genuine family men he's ever known. "It's just he was all about the game," Phillips says.
Landry would enter his football career right out of college, but he did not assume it would last, says Phillips. Even when he started as defensive coach for the New York Giants, Landry dressed as a businessman for the benefit of any of his future insurance clients.
But in coaching football, Landry found another way to put his analytical business mind to good use, says Phillips: "He was able to break down the offense and what it showed him, to get a step ahead of receivers."
Landry's focus on the game began in his hometown of Mission, Texas, as a defensive back at Mission High School where, his senior year, the team allowed only one touchdown. After a semester at The University of Texas at Austin, Landry volunteered to serve in World War II, flying more than 30 combat missions before returning to Austin to pursue his business degree — and to play Longhorn football.
As fullback and defensive back, Landry earned All-Southwest Conference honors as a junior. Then as a senior and co-captain, he led the team to an Orange Bowl victory in 1949, the same year he married fellow UT student Alicia Wiggs.
A fellow McCombs alumnus and Longhorn football player who also went pro, Phillips saw much to admire in Landry, both on and off the field. "He had great faith, which brought him peace of mind," says Phillips, always amazed at how Landry managed disappointment.
"He might have to think about it for a day or two, but the next day, his attitude was full speed ahead."
-Selah Maya Zighelboim