Jerry Tubbs was there at the dawn of the Cowboys’ franchise in 1960 and he was still a member of the organization at the end of Tom Landry’s tenure in the late 1980’s. A man who watched the Cowboys grow into America’s Team, first as a player and then an assistant coach, died this week in the Dallas area.
He was 77 and was survived by his wife, Marlene.
Tubbs, who grew up in Breckenridge, a town located 130 miles west of Dallas, became a well-known figure with the Cowboys after an accomplished career at Oklahoma, where he played for legendary coach Bud Wilkinson and never suffered defeat during the Sooners’ dynasty.
After beginning his NFL career with the Chicago Cardinals as a first round pick in 1957 and then being traded to San Francisco a year later, he came to Dallas in 1960, when the newly-formed Cowboys selected him and 35 other players in an expansion draft.
“The only reason we got him was because he told the 49ers he was going to retire,” said former Cowboys vice president of player personnel Gil Brandt.
It turned out to be quite a coup for the Cowboys. As a middle linebacker – a key position in Landry’s defense — he immediately became integral member of the team and was invited to the Pro Bowl in 1962. Eventually, in 1966, he became a player-coach and transitioned into a full-time assistant one year later.
“He handled that extremely well,” recalled former Cowboys defensive back Mel Renfro. “He wasn’t a very vocal guy. He was nuts and bolts…Everybody loved him.”
Naturally, Tubbs supervised the linebackers he once played alongside and the ones he coached at the outset — Lee Roy Jordan, Chuck Howley and Dave Edwards — were regarded as great defenders.
“He was a very down-to-earth guy,” Edwards said. “He was the type of coach that could be friends with his players.”
He also shared many of the same personality traits that Landry had. An analytical type, he was more reserved than vocal. And by the time his run in Dallas was up after the 1988 season, he was the third-longest tenured assistant or head coach in Cowboys history. In fact, he still is.
“Tom had a great deal of faith in him as a coach,” Brandt said. “Jerry was very, very smart. And he was one of the toughest guys.”
But Edwards said what he remembers most about Tubbs was that he was “just a real, real good person.”
January 23, 1935 – June 13, 2012
Gerald J. Tubbs (January 23, 1935 – June 13, 2012) was a linebacker who played for ten seasons in the National Football League from 1957 to 1966, mainly for the Dallas Cowboys. He was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1960 NFL Expansion Draft. After his retirement he stayed with the Cowboys as an assistant coach for 22 years.
Tubbs played college football at the University of Oklahoma. In 1996 he was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame. Tubbs never played in a game his team lost until turning pro.
High school career
Tubbs was an honor graduate student and played center at Breckenridge High School. He was part of two Texas state championship football teams in 1951 and 1952. He played in three high school All-Star games and was a unanimous Texas All-State selection in 1952.
He never lost a game in high school.
The teams were coached by Cooper Robbins (1951) and Joe Kerbel (1952). Both went on to the college ranks.
Since 2008, the Breckenridge Buckaroos open the football season playing the “Jerry Tubbs Kickoff Classic”.
In 1971, he was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of fame.
Tubbs played three varsity years at the University of Oklahoma, and the Sooners won all 31 games in that period. He was a fullback in 1954 and averaged six yards on rushing attempts. Head coach Bud Wilkinson moved him to center in 1955, and this became his signature position. He also played linebacker and in a victory over Texas in 1955, he intercepted three passes. In 1956 he was unanimous All-America center and was named Lineman of the Year by three agencies.
In 1954, when fullback Billy Pricer was injured, Tubbs had to replace him playing against University of Texas, the first time he had ever played in the backfield. In the remaining games of that season, he averaged 6.1 yards per carry.
Tubbs graduated from Oklahoma with a degree in economics and was a 1956 Academic All-America.
During his three varsity years, Oklahoma’s record was 10-0, 11-0, 10-0. His 31 wins were part of that legendary 47-game winning streak and two national titles from 1954-56.
The 1954 team was ranked third nationally in the Associated Press and United Press polls. The 1955 and 1956 teams were national champions. In those years Oklahoma played one bowl game. The 1955 team beat Maryland University 20-6 in the Orange Bowl.
A consensus selection for 1955 and 1956 All-American honors at center and linebacker, Tubbs was the first Sooner ever to win the Walter Camp Award as the outstanding player of the year. He was the leading vote-getter for All-American in both UPI and AP polls and was voted the outstanding lineman in every poll he was eligible.
Tubbs finished fourth in the 1956 Heisman Trophy voting (very high for a lineman), behind his second place teammate, Tommy McDonald, and winner Paul Hornung of Notre Dame University.
In 1996, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
In 1999, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
Cardinals and 49ers
He was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals in the first round of the 1957 NFL Draft — 10th overall. Suddenly, he found himself on a perennial loser, playing out of position as an outside linebacker. He was benched, then traded to the San Francisco 49ers near the end of his second season. He finished out that year at outside linebacker. The following year he moved into the middle linebacker spot.
After the 1959 season, Tubbs planned to retire, so the Forty Niners left him off their list of players who were exempt from the 1960 NFL Expansion Draft.
Tubbs was acquired by the Dallas Cowboys in 1960 NFL Expansion Draft. As it turned out, he would spend the next 29 years in Dallas — as a player, then a player-coach, then a fulltime assistant coach.
When Jack Patera fell to injury in the 4th game of the 1960 season, Tubbs became the starter at middle linebacker.
He was an impact player on those early Cowboys teams. He had quickness, toughness and an unbeatable motor. In 1962, he was one of the first Cowboys players voted to the Pro Bowl, along with: QB Eddie LeBaron; DT Bob Lilly; RB Don Perkins; and CB Don Bishop.
During his playing days, he rated among the top middle linebackers in the NFL.
Tubbs became a player-coach in 1965. In 1966 he retired and was working for the Dallas Federal Savings and Loan Association, but was lured back for one more year by Tom Landry. He played just the first 3 games of the season, until he suffered a back injury. The following year (1967), Landry, sensing that the Cowboys had a real chance at a championship, wanted to have Tubbs as insurance in the event Lee Roy Jordan should be injured. He came back again, but didn’t play a single down.
When he finally retired as a player in 1968, he became the linebackers coach under Tom Landry for 21 years. He coached in five Super Bowls, with Dallas winning two.
More about Jerry Tubbs
- College Hall Of Fame – Jerry Tubbs Biography
- First win for Cowboys was a memorable one
- Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame – Jerry Tubbs Biography
- Jerry Tubbs football cards
Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl VI Champions
10 Ron Widby | 12 Roger Staubach (MVP) | 14 Craig Morton | 15 Toni Fritsch | 19 Lance Alworth | 20 Mel Renfro | 22 Bob Hayes | 23 Margene Adkins | 26 Herb Adderley | 30 Dan Reeves | 31 Gloster Richardson | 32 Walt Garrison | 33 Duane Thomas | 34 Cornell Green | 35 Calvin Hill | 36 Joe Williams | 37 Isaac Thomas | 41 Charlie Waters | 42 Claxton Welch | 43 Cliff Harris | 46 Mark Washington | 50 D. D. Lewis | 51 Dave Manders | 52 Dave Edwards | 54 Chuck Howley | 55 Lee Roy Jordan | 56 Tom Stincic | 60 Lee Roy Caffey | 61 Blaine Nye | 62 John Fitzgerald | 63 Larry Cole | 64 Tony Liscio | 66 George Andrie | 67 Pat Toomay | 70 Rayfield Wright | 71 Rodney Wallace | 72 Don Talbert | 73 Ralph Neely | 74 Bob Lilly | 75 Jethro Pugh | 76 John Niland | 77 Bill Gregory | 79 Forrest Gregg | 83 Mike Clark | 85 Tody Smith | 87 Billy Truax | 89 Mike Ditka
Head Coach: Tom Landry Assistant Coaches: Ermal Allen | Bobby Franklin | Jim Myers | Dan Reeves | Ray Renfro | Ernie Stautner | Jerry Tubbs
Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XII Champions
1 Efren Herrera | 11 Danny White | 12 Roger Staubach | 18 Glenn Carano | 20 Mel Renfro | 21 Doug Dennison | 25 Aaron Kyle | 26 Preston Pearson | 31 Benny Barnes | 33 Tony Dorsett | 35 Scott Laidlaw | 36 Larry Brinson | 41 Charlie Waters | 42 Randy Hughes | 43 Cliff Harris | 44 Robert Newhouse | 46 Mark Washington | 50 D. D. Lewis | 53 Bob Breunig | 54 Randy White (Co-MVP) | 56 Thomas Henderson | 57 Bruce Huther | 58 Mike Hegman | 59 Guy Brown | 61 Jim Cooper | 62 John Fitzgerald | 63 Larry Cole | 64 Tom Rafferty | 65 Dave Stalls | 66 Burton Lawless | 67 Pat Donovan | 68 Herbert Scott | 70 Rayfield Wright | 71 Andy Frederick | 72 Ed Jones | 73 Ralph Neely | 75 Jethro Pugh | 77 Bill Gregory | 79 Harvey Martin (Co-MVP) | 80 Tony Hill | 83 Golden Richards | 86 Butch Johnson | 87 Jay Saldi | 88 Drew Pearson | 89 Billy Joe DuPree
Head Coach: Tom Landry Assistant Coaches: Ermal Allen | Mike Ditka | Jim Myers | Dan Reeves | Gene Stallings | Ernie Stautner | Jerry Tubbs
Dallas Cowboys 1960 Inaugural Season Roster
Gene Babb | Bob Bercich | Dick Bielski | Don Bishop | Nate Borden | Tom Braatz | Byron Bradfute | Bill Butler | Frank Clarke | Fred Cone | Mike Connelly | Gene Cronin | Paul Dickson | Fred Doelling | Jim Doran | Mike Dowdle | Fred Dugan | L. G. Dupree | Mike Falls | Tom Franckhauser | Bob Fry | John Gonzaga | Buzz Guy | Wayne Hansen | Don Healy | Don Heinrich | Bill Herchman | John Houser | Billy Howton | Ed Husmann | Dick Klein | Walt Kowalczyk | Eddie LeBaron | Woodley Lewis | Ray Mathews | Don McIlhenny | Don Meredith | Jim Mooty | Jack Patera | Duane Putnam | Dave Sherer | Jerry Tubbs | Gary Wisener
Head Coach: Tom Landry Assistant Coaches: Tom Dahms | Babe Dimancheff | Brad Ecklund