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As the architect of America’s Team, Gil Brandt helped build the Dallas Cowboys into the dynasty of the 1960s & 1970s

It’s that time of year when Dallas Cowboy fans gear up for the regular football season. The preseason games are over. The returning veterans are chomping at the bit to “hit the field.” Hopefully, all the injuries from last season are in the rearview mirror.

Cowboy head coach Mike McCarthy will have the opportunity to prove his skill at calling plays this year. Quarterback Dak Prescott did an excellent job of play-calling against the Raiders. I wonder if the coaching staff and front office had second thoughts about dealing Will Grier to the Bengals after the impressive showcase he put on in the preseason finale. Oh well! They come and go.

Success in football will always be measured by win-loss record, coaching and the talent the team can put on the field. Coaching can come and go from team to team. But talent remains hard to come by. And make no mistake about it, talent is talent. You guys that played 50-60 years ago – which includes myself – must admit something. These guys today are much better athletes than we were. They are bigger, faster, smarter, richer, and certainly, more dangerous.

I don’t remember too many 300-plus linemen or many 230-pound backs with sprinter speed. Football equipment, playing surfaces and rule changes have been made over the years to compensate for the physical changes we see in athletes today. Talent, remarkable athletic ability, is what coaches and team owners are looking for today, and they are willing to pay for it.

True Cowboy fans remember the late Gil Brandt. He, along with Coach Tom Landry, built America’s Team over the years. Gil Brandt spent 29 years with the Cowboys organization as the Director of Player Personnel. He had an eye for spotting talent and bringing it to Dallas. He can claim an impressive list of players we will not soon forget.

But not only was he a good recruiter, Brandt was probably the first one in the NFL to computerize his talent scouting system. He was also instrumental in starting the NFL scouting combine each year. He was also good at locating talented players in unsuspecting places. Gil Brandt was successful at bringing the best possible talent to Tom Landry’s system of football.

While I was at Cameron Junior College, Coach Harry Buffington of Oklahoma State was recruiting me. On one of our recruitment trips, he took me to Dallas to visit my parents. On the way, he stopped by the Cowboy’s training facility on North Central Expressway. On that trip, I learned that he was a scout for the Dallas Cowboys, and he wanted me to meet someone.

I stayed in the car while Buffington went into the office, and he came back a few minutes later to introduce me to a friend. At the time, I didn’t know his name, but Buffington said he was the director of player personnel.

I really didn’t think about it again until I started receiving information from Mr. Gil Brandt telling me about the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys. In October of 1961, I received a really nice letter from Brandt stating they were considering drafting me in December. He sent tickets for me and my wife to attend the Cowboys vs Cardinals game. Brandt called to give me a phone number, telling me to call after the game so he could meet up and take us to La Tunisia Restaurant.

I did not make that phone call, so I guess I missed getting to know Gil Brandt better. My 38 years in education was probably a wiser choice.

I have always been a fan of Tom Landry and Gil Brandt. They were class acts. Brandt sought out and brought home top-notch, legendary athletes such as Don Perkins, Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, LeRoy Jordan, Randy White and Rayfield Wright, as well as others who brought so much success to the Dallas Cowboys over the years.

Gil Brandt was been honored in numerous ways over his career with Dallas, selected a NFL Hall of Fame member; a member of the Dallas Cowboy Ring of Honor and an inductee into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. He also oversaw the drafting of nine Dallas Cowboys players who are also in the NFL Hall of Fame today. Sadly, the world lost Gil Brandt when he passed away on August 31, 2023 at the age of 91.

Gil Brandt made a difference.


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