Mission native Tom Landry was recognized as a “Hometown Hall of Famer” during a special ceremony held at Mission High School Wednesday by the Pro Football Hall of Fame (PFHOF), Allstate Insurance Company and the community of Mission.
As the only head coach the Dallas Cowboys had for the first 29 years of their existence, Landry became widely known as one of the greatest, most innovative coaches in National Football League (NFL) history. As a result, the late Landry received the ultimate honor of being inducted into the PFHOF in 1990.
Among those present at the plaque dedication ceremony Wednesday was Landry’s only son, Tom Landry Jr., who shared a brief history of his father’s years in Mission, including his senior year at Mission High School where Landry Sr. played defense for the Eagles as well as being their quarterback and punter.
“My father was born in Mission in 1924,” Landry Jr. said. “His father, my grandfather, Ray Landry was the volunteer fire chief in Mission for many years. My dad spent all of his childhood, up until the time he left to attend the University of Texas, in the city of Mission.”
Landry Jr. said his dad lived a typical small-town life, playing sports night and day. Landry Sr. was outdoors much of the time, and he helped lead the Mission High School team his senior year through 12 undefeated games.
“As a matter of fact they were only scored upon one time for seven points making it 11 shutouts in 12 games that season so they had quite a year,” Landry Jr. said.
The fact that the city of Mission recognized his father with a mural, depicting his days from playing football for the Eagles to winning Super Bowls, and has named the high school football stadium and a downtown street after him is something which Landry Jr. knows was very meaningful to his father.
“I’ve seen pictures of the mural and my mother and dad were there when they dedicated it,” Landry Jr. said. “He was honored by all of it. Anytime the people that knew you best and the people that knew you before you acquired some national prominence honor you and bring you back as sort of a local hero, it’s very much an honor for him.”
After graduating from Mission High School, Landry Sr. was considering attending and playing football at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. However, he knew how long a drive that would be for his parents to see him play, so he chose the University of Texas at Austin instead.
“Family was very important to him,” explained Landry Jr. “As was his Christian faith. If you were to rank his priorities, his family and his faith would be right up at the top of the list. He always had a remembrance and a good place in his heart for his family.”
While being a family man and a devout Christian were extremely important to Landry Sr., he is best known as one of the greatest, most innovative coaches in NFL history. After playing one season in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) and six years with the New York Giants in the National Football League, he became the defensive coordinator for the Giants, joining forces with then offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi.
In 1960, Landry Sr. was selected as the first head coach of the expansion Dallas Cowboys. He would continue to serve as their head coach for the next 29 seasons. He compiled a regular season career record of 250-162-6 and a record of 270-178-6, including the playoffs. While with the Cowboys, Landry Sr. won two Super Bowl titles (VI, XII), five NFC titles and 13 division titles. Landry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.
“I was born when he was still with the Giants so I remember some of those early games in the 1950s,” Landry Jr. said. “I was at the sudden death game, which has been called the most famous game in NFL history between the Giants and the Colts. Then, when he started with the Cowboys in 1960, I used to go out to training camp and be a ball boy every year so I was really involved and close to the team.”
The induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was among Landry Sr.’s highest honors. Landry Jr. said it was one of the highlights of his dad’s career.
“When you have the recognition of your peers and your fans as one of the very best in the profession that you love that has to be the greatest honor,” Landry Jr. said. “It’s a small group of men that are in the Hall of Fame, so it’s just a tremendous honor for those that are able to get in.”
Wednesday’s plaque dedication ceremony was held in the Neuhaus Gymnasium at Mission High School. Members of the Landry family in attendance were Mrs. Tom Landry Sr. (Alicia), Tom Landry Jr., Mrs. Tom Landry Jr. (Gina) and their son Tom “Tommy” Landry III. Others in attendance included George Veras, Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises; Hector Dominguez, local Allstate Agent; Oton Guerrero Sr., Mission Eagles’ teammate of Landry Sr.; Jose Lopez, Mission High School principal; Ricardo Lopez, MCISD superintendent. A reception was held immediately afterwardsin the Mission High School library resource center.
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The Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.