On this day in 2003, former Dallas Cowboys General Manager Tex Schramm dies at the age of 83. Schramm served as the architect of 30 Cowboys teams, from the franchise’s inception as an NFL expansion team in 1960 until 1989, when owner Burn Bright sold the team to oil billionaire Jerry Jones. Under Schramm’s stewardship, the Cowboys won five NFC titles and two Super Bowl championships.
Contrary to his nickname, Tex Schramm was born and raised in Southern California. He played high school football in his home state before moving to Austin to study journalism at the University of Texas. After graduation, he took a job as public relations director for the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams had moved from Cleveland to Los Angeles in 1945, and had been the first team to integrate the segregated NFL that same year, with the signing of Kenny Washington and Woody Strode out of UCLA. After being promoted to general manager of the Rams in 1949, Schramm signed the first player from a historically black college, Tank Younger out of Grambling. In 1950, Schramm selected the first African American in NFL draft history, Dan Towler from Washington and Jefferson.
In 1960, after three years working in television, Schramm was hired as general manager of the expansion Dallas Cowboys. His philosophy centered on building a team through the draft, and in 1961, he began by selecting Bob Lilly, a defensive tackle who went on to anchor Dallas’ feared “Doomsday Defense” from 1961 to 1974. In 1963, Schramm drafted Lee Roy Jordan to play linebacker behind Lilly, and the next year chose defensive back Mel Renfro; wide receiver “Bullet” Bob Hayes; and, last but not least, quarterback Roger “The Dodger” Staubach out of the Naval Academy. With a strong foundation in place and legendary coach Tom Landry at the helm, the Cowboys managed winning seasons every year from 1966 to 1985. In the process, they became “America’s Team,” beloved by fans across the country.
As head of the NFL’s competition committee, Schramm teamed with the American Football League’s Lamar Hunt to unite the NFL and AFL, first with a Super Bowl played between the champions of the two leagues after the 1966 season and finally with a complete merger in 1970. He also instituted microphones for referees, flags in the end zone to judge the direction of the wind and instant replay to ensure that calls were made correctly.
Upon Schramm’s death, no less an authority than former Dolphins Coach Don Shula told the Associated Press that Schramm had “as much or more to do with the success of professional football as anyone who has ever been connected with the league.”