For Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, SoCal has been a second home

Jerry Jones has always tested the limits, not just as the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and influential sponsor of the NFL’s return to Los Angeles, but as a young man on the loose in El Segundo, a 5-year-old cowboy.

“My parents had a hard time keeping me close,” said Jones, whose modest family home, built by his father with $ 400, was three blocks from the south runways of Los Angeles International Airport. “He was always running away, not permanently, but just getting out of the house.”

Jones returns to Los Angeles on Sunday, with his Cowboys taking on the Chargers in a nationally televised game at SoFi Stadium. Southern California is something of a second home for Jones, who joins his team at training camp in Oxnard every summer and revels in all the Cowboys fans in the region. The NFL acknowledges the connection. The Cowboys played their first game in Los Angeles in the 2016 preseason and again faced the Rams in their first game last season at their new stadium.

What’s more, Jones is a co-owner of Legends, the hospitality and stadium management company that oversees the sale of naming rights, suites and concessions for SoFi Stadium and many other venues.

“California has always been a part of my life,” said Jones, 78, whose Cowboys lead Forbes’ NFL team valuations at $ 6.9 billion. “I really had a deep-seated feeling that the NFL doesn’t have a team in Los Angeles. I really had an inordinate passion to push this forward and achieve it. “

For two decades, Jones strongly advocated a return to the second largest market in the country.

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“Jerry is a man who sees the future,” said Eric Grubman, former executive vice president of business operations for the NFL. “You may not like what you see, but you have to listen. He was one of the first and staunch supporters of returning to Los Angeles, even before the clubs and venues were identified. He and I disagreed the entire time on individual steps, but we definitely agreed that Los Angeles was in the end zone. “

Four years after they moved north to join the Rams, the Chargers are set for their first significant game in front of the spectators at SoFi Stadium. They are coming off an impressive victory in Washington and are facing a Cowboys team that suffered a two-point loss at the Kickoff Opener in Tampa Bay.

CBS announcer Jim Nantz, who will call Sunday’s game, said it’s appropriate that Jones and the Cowboys once again share the Los Angeles spotlight.

“Jerry Jones likes to be where the pulse is, he likes the energy,” Nantz said. “He feeds on that and has always felt at home in Los Angeles.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones speaks with Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb before a game against the Rams at SoFi Stadium in September 2020.

(Katelyn Mulcahy / Getty Images)

“I’ve always said that I would have loved to see what would have happened if my father had stayed in California and had that boom after World War II. It was much more fertile ground for small business advancement than in Arkansas. “

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Jerry Jones

The futuristic and fast-paced spectacle of the $ 5 billion SoFi Stadium is a long way off West Sycamore Avenue in El Segundo, where JW “Pat” Jones and his wife, Arminta, relocated their young family in the 1940s. Jerry was born in 1942 and his sister, Jaquelyn, two years later. A generous neighbor gave the family a small piece of land, and Pat, who assembled planes at nearby North American Aircraft, built a simple three-room house.

Arminta and Pat Jones had moved to Southern California from Arkansas, stopping in Arizona. They first lived in a one-bedroom bungalow on 112th Street, near what is now the intersection of the 110 and 105 freeways.

That entrepreneurial spirit that defines Jerry Jones? His dad had it too. In addition to his day job, Pat Jones was a sharecropper, growing and selling poinsettias. Jones said he was 6 years old when his family moved back to Arkansas and that his father had between $ 30,000 and $ 40,000 in cash from the flower business.

“He was a hard worker,” Jones said. “I’ve always said that I would have loved to see what would have happened if my father had stayed in California and had that boom after World War II. It was much more fertile ground for small business advancement than in Arkansas. “

Pat Jones built a successful grocery business in Little Rock, then in 1960 moved the family to Springfield, Missouri, and founded Modern Security Life Insurance Co., which grew into a multi-million dollar company.

That allowed the family to purchase the 5,500-acre Buena Vista Ranch east of Springfield, where Elder Jones and his wife dug 400 acres for the Buena Vista Exotic Animal Paradise that included llamas, buffalo, elk, sheep, geese, turkeys. real, deer. and mountain goats. Visitors rode a four-mile loop inside the park to see the animals.

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It was a difficult business. Jones recalled a frantic search for a leopard that had disappeared. It turns out that the cat was wedged between a chain-link fence and a building.

“They reassured the leopard and one of the younger guys said, ‘I’ll go up and take him out by the tail,’” Jones recalled. “So the guy did it, he pulled the leopard out by the tail. One of the people who worked for my father said, “That must be the bravest boy I’ve ever seen.” Dad said, ‘I have to run it, because anyone who’s that dumb can cause a lot of people to get hurt.’

Pat Jones, who died of heart failure in 1997, instilled in his son business acumen, a tolerance for the risk of rolling the dice, and an appreciation for showmanship.

“There’s no question I got a lot of the marketing from him,” Jones said. “He was my mentor.”

Jones said he has about 30 first, second and third cousins ​​still living in Southern California. He still drives around Sycamore at times. It’s only five miles from the gleaming new football stadium.

“I have never been prouder to have had something to do with something,” he said. “Look at that street and then look at that stadium.”

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