Famed football coach Thomas Wade Landry was born on September 11, 1924, in Mission, Texas. He starred at quarterback for Mission High School, helping his team outscore the opposition by an accumulated score of 322-0 en route to a 12-0 record in his senior year.
Landry joined the U.S. Army Air Corps after one semester at the University of Texas and flew 30 B-17 missions during World War II before earning his discharge in 1945 as a first lieutenant. He primarily played defensive back and fullback after returning to UT, earning All-Southwest Conference honors as a junior and serving as team co-captain his senior year. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Business Administration in 1949.
Tapped to coach the newly formed Dallas Cowboys in 1960, Landry went 0-11-1 in his first year and seemingly was on thin ice after a few rough campaigns. However, the coach hit his stride with a vastly improved squad in 1966, kicking off a streak of 20 consecutive winning seasons that included 18 postseason appearances, 13 division championships, and five NFC titles.
Cutting a distinct figure on the sidelines with his suits and trademark fedora, Landry was famed for his perpetually stoic expression. But hidden behind the even-keeled demeanor was that innovative mind, which altered the 4-3 formation to create the Cowboys’ feared “Doomsday Defense” and revived the shotgun offense in the NFL.
With defensive stars Bob Lilly and Randy White along with quarterback Roger Staubach executing Landry’s strategies, the Cowboys reached the big game a whopping five times in the 1970s, winning Super Bowls VI (1971) and XII (1977) by the combined score of 51-13.
Dallas continued to pile up wins in the 1980s behind star running back Tony Dorsett and defensive end Ed “Too Tall” Jones, but the combination of three straight losing seasons and a change of ownership led to Landry’s dismissal in February 1989. The man synonymous with Cowboys football finished with a regular-season coaching record of 250-162-6, his win total behind only Don Shula and George Halas on the all-time list.
Landry was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor in 1993. After being diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in May 1999, the coaching legend passed away on February 12, 2000.