DALLAS — When the Dallas Cowboys returned to Green Bay for a playoff game Sunday for the first time since the classic 1967 Ice Bowl, Andrew Jackson, Jr. couldn’t help but think of his longtime friend, Jethro Pugh.
“Every month, we had a dinner together at the airport,” said Jackson, referring to his tenure as a Delta Airlines employee at Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport in the late 1980s. “I would always see Jethro and we would interact. He was a big guy, a tall guy already. Jethro was one of the most humble men you’d want to meet.”
A former All-Pro defensive tackle and two-time Super Bowl champion who played 14 seasons for the Cowboys from 1965-78, Pugh died January 7 in Dallas. He was 70.
According to team officials, Pugh died of natural causes. A public viewing will be held from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at Restland Funeral Home located at 9220 Restland Road in Dallas. A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship located at 1808 West Camp Wisdom Road.
A native of Windsor, North Carolina, although Pugh was offered a contract to play for the AFL’s Oakland Raiders, he spent his entire professional career with Dallas, where he was the catalyst of a stifling defensive unit that was dubbed the “Doomsday Defense.”
A former Elizabeth City State All-American, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Pugh enjoyed a stellar NFL career with the Cowboys. While quarterback sacks weren’t an official NFL statistic during Pugh’s tenure, he is unofficially credited with a career total of 95 1/2. To his credit, he led the team with 12 ½ sacks for five consecutive seasons from 1968-1972.
Pugh’s 14 seasons in Dallas is the fourth-longest in franchise history.
“He was a tough player for the Cowboys,” Jackson said. “A lot of the older players remember him. If there was a (defensive) play to be made for the Cowboys, he was the player who would make it.”
A second-team All-Pro selection in his third professional season, Pugh appeared in five NFC Championship games, two Super Bowls, and appeared in 23 playoffs games in 12 of his 14 seasons. He was mostly remembered for having played in the original Ice Bowl, or the 1967 NFL Championship.
Pugh was blocked by Green Bay’s Jerry Kramer on the Packers’ final play of that game, one that cleared the way for Bart Starr to score on a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 16 seconds remaining that lifted the Packers to a 21-17 victory in minus-15 degree weather at the historic Lambeau Field.
Besides leading the Cowboys in sacks, Pugh appeared in 183 games, having amassed 14 fumbles, two safeties, and one interception before retiring in January 1979.
Since calling it a career, Pugh was a fixture in the Dallas community. He owned a number of western-themed gift shops at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Texas and hosted the annual Jethro Pugh Celebrity Golf Tournament in Dallas to raise funds for the United Negro College Fund. Also, he served as an advisory board member of the DFW Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy for which Jackson is a current member and assumes the role as an associate chaplain.
Jackson, who moved from Memphis to Dallas in 1986 to assume the pastoral duties at West Irving Church of God in Christ, said Pugh left behind an awe-inspiring legacy.
“I thought about Jethro, especially Sunday with him passing right before the game,” said Jackson who, on Sunday, shared memories of Pugh and held a moment of silence in his honor with his congregation. “And that was kind of eerie with him playing (in the Ice Bowl) so it was kind of emotional because I had known him personally and know his family.”
Andre Johnson covers the NFL for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to email@example.com. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.