“With the 31st pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys select…”
For Phi Stephen Jones, Arkansas, ’88, chief operating officer, executive vice president and director of player personnel of the Cowboys, the words that come out of the commissioner’s mouth represent the culmination of 12 months of intense work by the team’s leadership. It’s a thrilling moment that never gets old.
“There’s so much at stake,” Jones says. “We spend in excess of $3 million scouting football players. We put so much into it to have it all come down to a pick in a 15 minute time period – it’s certainly exhilarating.”
Draft day is just part of the multifaceted world of leading an NFL team – from player contracts to fan relations to developing one of the world’s greatest sports venues in AT&T Stadium. The job is a dream come true for this former Arkansas football player.
“To be involved with the Cowboys – It’s like you are getting to play real -time fantasy football,” Jones says. “For that to be your work every day – you certainly feel blessed. You pinch yourself.”
Operating the Cowboys is not Jones’ first stint in football. His busy college career included playing for the Arkansas Razorbacks (1984-1988) studying chemical engineering and Phi Delta Theta.
“My college days were football, class and Phi Delt,” Jones says. “I have so many great memories of being a Phi and there’s a long list of guys that I’m friends with to this day. I catch up with them whenever I can.”
In addition to the lifelong friendships, Jones says being a Phi helped him develop the leadership and interpersonal skills he uses every day. “It was a great complement to what I was doing on the football field. You learned how to get along with those guys,” Jones said. “You learned how to socialize and be part of a larger organization. It made me a better person at the end of the day.”
From oil field to football field
Jones studies chemical engineering with an eye on using his education to work with his father, who was in the oil industry.
“He wanted me to work with him, and wanted me to study something challenging. I’ve never regretted it,” Jones says.
Jones worked in the oil business for a few years before his father bought the Cowboys, and says the problem-solving skills of an engineer often come in handy when dealing with player contracts and other aspects of his job.
Inside the lines
One thrill of working for the Cowboys is the chance to rub elbows with legends of the sporting world, including his father, Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones.
“I think he’s changed the landscape of what people think of pro sports in general, Jones says. “He has a saying ‘You’re either getting better or going backwards.’ That means you can’t just keep a steady state. We’re always out there looking for the next big deal.”
One of the perks of his job is working with athletes. “You pinch yourself…to get involved with such great people like Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. You get to rub elbows with a lot of really smart owners, and get to meet very interesting really successful people in the course of your business.”
He mentioned Michael Irvin as one of his favorite former players.
“He challenged everyone to be great,” Jones says. “He was just a unique guy in terms of his zest for competition and his zest to win. You never see him without a smile you never see him not competing.”
Jones said he, and the Cowboys, will continue to evolve as the game changes, but the thrill of the job hasn’t diminished.
“It’s certainly exhilarating,” Jones says. “It never gets old, even after doing it 24 years. The exhilaration never changes.”
Note: Another Phi within the Dallas Cowboys organization is William H. “Bill” Priakos, Jr., University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, ’87, VP Merchandising.