Tom Landry biography
Tom Landry was born on September 11, 1924, in Mission, Texas. From 1950 to 1955, he played pro football for the New York Giants. In 1960, he was appointed head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. As coach, he led the Cowboys to 20 winning seasons in a row, multiple championship games and Super Bowls. In the 1990s, Landry made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He died on February 12, 2000, in Dallas, Texas.
Early Years and School
Famed football coach Thomas Wade Landry was born on September 11, 1924, in Mission, Texas. He starred at quarterback for Mission High School, helping his team outscore the opposition by an accumulated score of 322-0 en route to a 12-0 record in his senior year.
Landry joined the U.S. Army Air Corps after one semester at the University of Texas, and flew 30 B-17 missions during World War II before earning his discharge in 1945 as a first lieutenant. He primarily played defensive back and fullback after returning to UT, earning All-Southwest Conference honors as a junior and serving as team co-captain his senior year.
After spending the 1949 season with the New York Yankees in the All-America Football Conference, Landry became a renowned defensive back with the New York Giants in the National Football League. He was named an All-Pro in 1954, and recorded 31 interceptions during his six-year run with the Giants.
Named a player-coach for the Giants in 1954, Landry displayed his knack for innovation by moving a defender off the line of scrimmage to create the 4-3 defense. He became a full-time coach in 1956, running the defense while another rising coach named Vince Lombardi oversaw the offense, and helped the Giants win three Eastern Conference titles and an NFL championship in a four-year stretch.
Tapped to coach the newly formed Dallas Cowboys in 1960, Landry went 0-11-1 in his first year and seemingly was on thin ice after a few rough campaigns. However, the coach hit his stride with a vastly improved squad in 1966, kicking off a streak of 20 consecutive winning seasons that included 18 postseason appearances, 13 division championships and five NFC titles.
Cutting a distinct figure on the sidelines with his suits and trademark fedora, Landry was famed for his perpetually stoic expression. But hidden behind the even-keeled demeanor was that innovative mind, which altered the 4-3 formation to create the Cowboys' feared "Doomsday Defense" and revived the shotgun offense in the NFL.
With defensive stars Bob Lilly and Randy White along with quarterback Roger Staubach executing Landry's strategies, the Cowboys reached the big game a whopping five times in the 1970s, winning Super Bowls VI (1971) and XII (1977) by the combined score of 51-13.
Dallas continued to pile up wins in the 1980s behind star running back Tony Dorsett and defensive end Ed "Too Tall" Jones, but the combination of three straight losing seasons and a change of ownership led to Landry's dismissal in February 1989. The man synonymous with Cowboys football finished with a regular-season coaching record of 250-162-6, his win total behind only Don Shula and George Halas on the all-time list.
Landry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Cowboys' Ring of Honor in 1993. After being diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in May 1999, the coaching legend passed away on February 12, 2000.