Tom Landry was a well-known American football player and an even more well-known coach. He was well-known for introducing novel approaches and coaching methods to American football and quickly established a reputation in the National Football League (NFL). He coached the Dallas Cowboys for over 30 years and led the team to 20 consecutive victories. He was born and raised in Texas, the son of middle-class parents. His father was an auto technician who enjoyed playing football in his youth. He enrolled at the University of Texas to study industrial engineering but was forced to abandon his studies when he volunteered to fight in World War II. He played football in high school and college before being signed by the Yankees. He also served as a player-assistant coach for the New York Giants, when he discovered his true calling: instructing the players. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his flawless teaching tactics and inventive ideas. He married Alicia Wiggs, his high school sweetheart, and stayed married to her until his death, after a long battle with leukemia.
Childhood & Adolescence
Tom Landry was born in Mission, Texas, on September 11, 1924, to Ray and Ruth Landry. His father was a mechanic who suffered from rheumatism. However, in his youth, he was an athlete who played football.
Landry attended Mission High School in Mission, Texas, and was a member of his school’s football team as a quarterback. The football stadium at the school has been renamed ‘Tom Landry Stadium’ and is currently home to the Mission Eagles.
Landry earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Texas in Austin. Although he desired to attend SMU, he never did so out of concern about his friends and family’s access to him and his football matches.
Landry abandoned his education during World War II in order to join the United States Army Air Corps. He did it in order to pay tribute to his brother Robert Landry’s sacrifice during the ‘Pearl Harbor attack.
He was sent to Iowa at the age of 19 to train as a co-pilot. He gained his Second Lieutenant rank there and flew 30 sorties, including one in Belgium when he survived a crash landing.
He returned to the University of Texas in 1946 to complete his studies. He played football for the school as a fullback and defensive back.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Texas in 1949 and a master’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Houston three years later.
Tom Landry’s Career
Landry began his career with the New York Yankees in 1949 before switching to the New York Giants the following year after being picked as a ‘future pick’ by the NYG.
Landry was offered a position with the Yankees shortly after completing his graduation by Yankee coach Jack White. He was offered 6,000 US dollars and a 500-dollar bonus.
In 1949, the New York Giants acquired Landry based on their territorial rights to select someone in a dispersal draft. It was here that he was coached by Steve Owen and gained his first experience with indirect coaching.
The 1953 season was a disaster for the New York Giants, and as a result, Coach Steve Owen was fired. In 1954, Landry was named an all-pro. He served as a player-assistant coach under new head coach Jim Hee Howell in 1954 and 1955.
Landry entered the coaching profession in 1960 and became the first head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, a position he held for 29 seasons. He collaborated closely with Tex Schramm, the general manager.
In 1964, Landry accepted a ten-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys, an offer made by team owner Clint Murchison Jr., despite the fact that the team was underperforming under his leadership.
In 1965, Murchison’s ten-year deal proved to be the correct move, as the Dallas Cowboys improved significantly under Landry and finished 7-7.
The Dallas Cowboys advanced to the National Football League championship game in 1966 after winning ten games in the NFL. Although the club lost to the Green Bay Packers, they showed great growth.
From 1971 to 1979, Landry coached the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles using his revolutionary teaching approaches. They defeated Miami in their first Super Bowl appearance and Denver in their second.
In 1980, the Dallas Cowboys won successive games under Landry’s coaching, but in the late 1980s, the team lost three major games in a row, jeopardizing Landry’s status within the organization and with the owners.
Bum Bright purchased the Dallas Cowboys from the Murchison in 1984, but the team endured numerous setbacks, exposing Landry and his coaching approaches to widespread public criticism.
Landry was ousted as head coach in 1989 despite the fact that he was interested in coaching the squad for another reason. Additionally, the team was sold from Burn Bright to Jerry Jones.
Landry’s name was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 as a result of his immaculate coaching for 30 years. Simultaneously, he was honored in the ‘Ring of Honor’ in Texas.
Personal History and Legacies
Landry married Alicia Wiggs, his high school sweetheart, in 1949. Together, they have three children: Tom Jr., Kitty, and Lisa. Until Landry’s death, the pair had been married for 51 years.
Landry died of leukemia on February 12, 2000. Highland Park United Methodist Church held his funeral ceremony. He is commemorated on a cenotaph in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.
Landry battled leukemia for several years.
Landry Elementary School is named in his honor in Valley Ranch.
Landry turned down numerous invitations to join the Ring of Honor before finally accepting one in 1993.
Landry paid for his wedding to Alicia Wiggs using the cash he received for accepting the Yankees’ offer to play with them.
Estimated Net Worth
Tom Landry was a $3 million American professional football player and coach. Tom Landry was born in September 1924 in Mission, Texas and died in February 2000.