CANTON, OHIO -Love him or loathe him, Jerry Jones is an immortal now. The day before the always entertaining 74-year-old Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he met the media while in rare form, encapsulating his NFL experience as only he can.
And what a long, strange trip it has been for Jones, who has played almost every role an owner can play in the league that drives professional sports in America like none other: three-time Super Bowl champion, bottom-of-the-barrel loser, running punch line, visionary, pace-setter and ultimately, a survivor who has taken one of the most iconic and recognizable brands in history and greatly enhanced its stature and value.
Never one to side-step a question or render himself speechless, Jones has been in his element this Hall of Fame weekend, basking in his career-capping honor and reflecting on how he got here, on the doorstep of the game's history. He was elected from the "contributor" category, and oh, how Jones has undeniably contributed to everything he has ever deemed to take part in. When Jones is involved, you know it, and everyone in the vicinity knows it. For better or worse.
Here are highlights of his wide-ranging 30-minute session in the Pro Football Hall of Fame media center on Friday afternoon, where he covered as much ground as any Cowboys playmaker he's ever paid, discussing everything from Ezekiel Elliott's potential league discipline, to his thoughts on old pal/nemesis Jimmy Johnson, to the size and scope of his epic Friday night Hall of Fame party. Jones is most definitely ready for his close-up on the game's grandest stage.
Q: What does the Hall of Fame enshrinement mean to you now that you're on the brink of it?
A: "It's the inclusion factor, being in such a limited group. This NFL covers so many generations, so many years. It's just getting to be included in what the Hall of Fame is about. The best thing I've done so far is go to this Ray Nitschke luncheon (today) with all the returning Hall of Famers. Listening to the players I've presented talk about me, it really was an emotional thing. It just reminded me what happens with this game. You bond with your relationships more so than you do in any other discipline I've ever been in, business or anything. For me, (it's) religion."
Q: Can you share some of the themes that will be in your induction speech?
A:* *"There's no question it's going to come across, how much I love this game, and how much I have benefitted from our game. From the NFL and being a part of the Dallas Cowboys. It's elevated me. As most people here know, I've had a lot of fun for 30 years. A lot of fun."
Q: Any memories from when you first joined the league as the Cowboys owner in 1989?
A: "I'll never forget I was talking to (fellow NFL owners) and Bud Adams of the Houston Oilers at the time came up after the meeting was over with and he said, 'Jerry, I don't think I understood a word you said. But as excited as you are about it, I want some of it. I'm in.' That's kind of the way I think of things. But what (the other owners) didn't hear was that legal pad full of all the times I tried (some new idea) and got it shoved up my you know what."
Q: Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson is here as the Hall of Fame presenter for Miami defensive end Jason Taylor. Have you gotten a chance to visit with Johnson here?
A: "I did. It was great to see him. I had a visit with Jimmy right before the Ray Nitschke Luncheon. I certainly feel that this wouldn't have been possible, the Hall of Fame, for me had he not initially been the coach of the Cowboys. As you know, we've been knowing each other since he was 17 or 18 and I was 18 or 19. So we've spent a long time (together) and I'm particularly thrilled that he's here. We'll get to hear some of the things I've got to say about him (Saturday night)."
Q: Are you anticipating a league suspension for running back Ezekiel Elliott for any of his actions?
A: "No. No, I'm not. I don't want to basically be too, let's say, proactive about how I feel, because that's not going to make any difference here at all (in the eyes of the league). What I don't want to do is hurt things by how I feel. But I think when you look at everything that I'm aware of, then I'm not anticipating a suspension."
Q: Have you thought about your father much this weekend (J.W. "Pat" Jones)?
A: "Dad's constantly a part of my life. I get dressed in the morning and I have visits with him - (Jones pauses as his voice catches and emotion gathers in his eyes) - with different pictures of periods of times in his life. And they change them out for me, so I get to visit with him quite a bit.
He had tremendous marketing skills. He was an entrepreneur. He didn't take the risks that I have taken, he did not. But he put me to shame as a salesman, really he could. And certainly when you have someone who has your best interests at heart, as a parent, that's a precious asset, and I used it to the fare-thee-well.
He called me about 10 days after I bought the Cowboys and he really couldn't believe it. He really didn't have that close grasp of what that would entail, what the commitment might be and just what the Cowboys were worth. He called me on the phone and he said, 'Jerry, I've never see anything like this. This is the damnedest visible thing I've ever seen.' And he said, 'Whether you are successful, whether you use mirror to look like it's successful, whether you use smoke or mirrors, you're a young man. You've got to make this look successful or you're going to be known as a loser all over the damn world for the rest of your life.'
I said 'Well, dad, you know how to make my day.' "
Q: What has it been like getting the chance to work with your own three children, Stephen, Jerry and Charlotte, in owning the Cowboys?
A: "You get to go through those ups and downs together, but at the end of the day that family is who's going to be standing at the end of the bed. And if you had a chance to spend all of your work time, which in my case is most of my time, and you got to spend it with your family, that's quite a blessing. And I've gotten to do that, and that singularly is the best thing being in the NFL has been about for me."
Q: You've always liked to do things on a large scale and make a big spectacle. So what's your party going to be like tonight?
A: "Well the idea of wanting to demonstrate or show just how much it meant to me and my family to get to go into the Hall of Fame, I think it'll be fully evidenced by the party tonight. I'm not going to disappoint, I know that."
Q: Will it be bigger than ex-49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo's Hall of Fame party last year?
A: "No, I'm going to come in second behind Eddie every time."
Q: Will you go straight from your party to the Hall of Fame parade (which starts at 8 A.M. Saturday)?
A: "Well they've given me the last car. I don't even have to start until it's over for many. It's good to be the last car."
Q: Between friends, family and members of the franchise, how many people are here for you and your induction this weekend?
A: "Do I get to count all the Cowboys fans? Thousands… No, seriously. Pretty close in I would say it's approaching 600-700 people."