DALLAS (AP) -- Had Tex Schramm only built the Dallas Cowboys into "America's Team," his contribution to pro football would've been immense. Yet it was only part of his impact on the NFL.
From using professional dancers as cheerleaders to letting officials correct calls through instant replay, Schramm's bold innovations and keen eye for promotion made him one of the driving forces in turning the NFL into a billion-dollar industry.
Schramm, the first team executive elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died Tuesday at his Dallas home. The former Cowboys president and general manager was 83.
As the man who gave Pete Rozelle his first job in the league and the chairman of the powerful competition committee for 25 years, Schramm's contributions to league history run deep. "You would run out of ink if you tried to write them all down," Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt said.
Yet Schramm always made it clear that the Cowboys were his top priority.
Hired before the team was officially given an NFL franchise, Schramm's first move was hiring Tom Landry as the head coach. Despite opposite personalities, their "business relationship" -- as Schramm called it -- produced 20 consecutive winning seasons, 18 playoff appearances, 13 division titles, five Super Bowl appearances and two championships.
"Tex was responsible for building the Dallas Cowboys and making them the team that they were," said Wellington Mara, owner of the rival New York Giants. "He built that franchise up and kept it running."
Schramm left the organization in 1989, two months after Jerry Jones bought the club and fired Landry. He went into the Hall of Fame two years later, but a strained relationship with Jones kept him out of the club's Ring of Honor.Statements on
Schramm's Death Paul Tagliabue
NFL Commissioner His name was Texas and he led the Cowboys, but the NFL family has lost one of its giants. Tex Schramm was one of the visionary leaders in sports history -- a thinker, doer, innovator and winner with few equals.
He played a major role in building the NFL into America's passion by developing a glamour franchise with national appeal and by his leadership on so many league issues.
As Commissioner, I have benefited greatly from what Tex had a big hand in creating. Personally, I am mourning the loss of a friend of three decades. Gene Upshaw
NFLPA Executive Director We were on opposite sides of the negotiating table and he was always firm in his beliefs, but Tex and I had great respect for each other. He was a competitor and loved to argue, but he had a lot of class and you always knew he was trying to do what was best for the NFL. He played a big part in getting us to where we are today. Don Shula
Former Dolphins head coach I was very sorry to hear about the passing of Tex Schramm, a close friend of mine for over 30 years.
Tex will go down as one of the most influential figures in the history of the NFL. I truly believe he had as much, or more to do with the success of professional football as anyone who has ever been connected with the league.
I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity and privilege to have worked with Tex as a member of the Competition Committee for over two decades. During that time he worked tirelessly to make the game as exciting as possible, while at the same time he championed the cause of player safety.
With Tex's passing the game has lost one of its true innovators and one of the most brilliant minds in the history of the sport."
For 12 years, Schramm was in the awkward position of being recognized among the game's greats in Canton, Ohio, but not among the team's greats in Irving, Texas. That changed in April when Jones decided the man who created the Ring should be in it.
Schramm will become the 12th honoree this fall, joining 11 people he brought to the Cowboys.
"I never gave up hope," he had said at a news conference announcing his selection, his eyes filling with tears. "Things that should happen to people that deserve them, usually do happen."
Gil Brandt, the baby photographer tapped by Schramm to become the team's top talent evaluator, said being given a spot in the ring meant so much to Schramm that "it was like having a new grandchild."
"This was every bit as important to him as being put in the Hall of Fame or winning the Super Bowl," Brandt said.
Jones said Tuesday that having Schramm's name on the facade of the upper deck at Texas Stadium ensures "his spirit will be honored for years to come."
In a way, Schramm's spirit lives on wherever NFL games are played.
It was his idea to put radios in quarterback helmets, to make the sideline borders real wide and for wind-direction strips to dangle atop the goalpost uprights. He also pushed the six-division, wild-card playoff concept.