Jerry Jones pivoted to his left, outstretched his arm, and pointed at Jimmy Johnson, praising the former coach of his Dallas Cowboys for the role he played in starting a dynasty in Dallas in the early 1990s.
Jones credited a coach who he feuded with at the end, for helping lay the groundwork for a franchise that became the most valuable in all of professional sports."You were a great teammate. You were a great partner," Jones said to Johnson, as Johnson smiled back at him. "And contrary to popular belief, we worked so well together for five years."
Jones didn't break down over the course of his speech. He held it together for 36 minutes and 47 seconds -- as far as anyone can tell, the longest induction speech the Pro Football Hall of Fame has seen. At minimum, it was the longest of Saturday night's proceedings.
Jones weaved stories about Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Charles Haley, Larry Allen, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and others. He credited his family, thanking Stephen Jones for his support over more than 20 years as his right-hand man in the organization. He thanked Charlotte Jones Anderson, his daughter, and Jerry, Jr., his youngest son.
He spoke of his father, Pat, the grocery store owner in Little Rock, Arkansas, and how Pat was a better salesman than he. Jones says the time he spent with his parents gave him an edge in life because he made sure to learn as much as he could from them.
And Jones talked football.
About three Super Bowl championships, recruiting Deion Sanders to join the Cowboys after Dallas had lost to a Sanders-led 49ers team the season prior. About Tony Romo, and his place in Jones' heart as the quarterback who had to overcome more than any quarterback in the history of the game. And about Jason Witten, a man Jones is certain will be enshrined in Canton just shortly after Demarcus Ware.
Jones speech wasn't short, but it wasn't short on substance. He noted John Madden's famous line, about how when the lights go out in Canton, the busts come alive at night and talk to each other. Jones says he can't wait for the lights to go out tonight, so he can go over and talk to Madden about how much he means to him.
Jerry was introduced by his wife Gene, and had her sitting by his side throughout the speech. He made sure to thank her, and mentioned her reaction when Jimmy Johnson left the Cowboys. He said when he came to bed that night, she admonished him with one line - "you just can't leave it alone".
Jerry says he didn't have much of a response for that.
That's just fine. He had a response for just about everything else on Saturday night.
And his place in Canton is cemented.
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