JFK Remembered: Gil Brandt

Former Cowboys vice president of player personnel Gil Brandt remembers Tom Landry's leadership. AP Photo/NFL Photos

The former Cowboys vice president of player personnel reflects on the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy:

“We were in the office working because the draft that year, I think it was maybe Dec. 2. We were trying to do it the Monday after the Army-Navy game, so I was in the office and we had the scouts in there and we had what at that time was our board up. That’s what we were trying to do. And Tex Schramm’s office is right next to mine and he came in and says, ‘The President has just been assassinated. I’ve got a call into Pete Rozelle now to see what we’re going to do.’ A little while later he came back and said, ‘I talked to Pete and he has talked to [Pierre] Salinger, who was his roommate at the University of San Francisco, and he’s going to talk to Bobby Kennedy and find out what Bobby thinks.’ A little while later he returns and says, ‘We’re going to play on Sunday. Bobby says with all of the problems we’re experiencing in the country, he would want us to play.’ So we played. That’s what happened.

“Now, did we have nine Secret Service guys or anything like that? Honest to gosh, I don’t remember anybody on the airplane going to Cleveland other than the usual crew is what it was. Then when we got there, we had a list of dos and don’ts and one was don’t go out and say you’re from Dallas. Everybody went out in small groups to eat but it was not the Dallas Cowboys. If anything, it was the Cowboys but not the Dallas Cowboys. Then on Sunday, the only difference we did was we used to travel with three buses -- two for the players and let’s say that left at 12 o’clock, one we called the deadhead bus. That was for [Tom] Landry’s wife or Schramm’s wife and the flight attendants would be on there, coming from the hotel to the game before they would go out to the airplane. Instead of the usual procedure where the deadhead bus would leave 30 minutes after the players’ bus, in this case, we all went at the same time. There was no staggering of the buses.

“When we got to the stadium, there were no boycotts or anything like that, Go home Dallas, or anything like that that I can remember. We went out to warm up and in Cleveland you had to go through the dugout. So we come back and go through the dugout and then went upstairs. Outside the locker room on a chair they had this security person. We’d gone out and came back in for that 20-minute or so period where everybody got re-taped and so forth. About 10 minutes before we leave to go on the field, Tom’s starting to write the first play. It’s going to be ‘slant’ and this security guy opens the door and says, ‘Coach, the guy that shot the President, they just killed him in the jailhouse.’ Landry is his unflappable self and said, ‘Thank you,’ and, ‘Let’s not worry about this. I’m sure the powers that be are deciding what to do.’ I think we started maybe 10 minutes late is what we did.

“... We were fortunate in that we had somebody like Tom there and somebody like Tex there that’s not running scared and would be proactive. I think Tom and Tex did a good job informing everybody of what was going on and I think Tom did a good job of telling the players why.”

--Brandt, 80, as told to ESPN.com Cowboys reporter Todd Archer