By Ross Forman
His legendary NFL career spanned more than 30 years and even now, at age 86, Gil Brandt is still talking football and the contributions he’s made to the game.
Brandt worked for the Los Angeles Rams from 1955-57, then the San Francisco 49ers from 1958-59. He moved to the Dallas Cowboys in 1960, where he stayed through 1989. Brandt was the Cowboys’ chief talent scout from the team’s birth in 1960, and along with Tex Schramm and head coach Tom Landry, they formed the triumvirate which guided the Cowboys for their first 29 years.
It’s no surprise that, last November he was enshrined in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor. And this past February, Brandt learned he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2019, along with Tony Gonzalez, Ed Reed, Champ Bailey, Ty Law, Kevin Mawae, Pat Bowlen and Johnny Robinson.
Brandt’s autograph, as he signed in early-June at the 33rd annual TRISTAR Collectors Show in Houston is now: GIL BRANDT, HOF 2019.
“It was a great pleasure to be here. I’ve never seen a first-class operation like TRISTAR Productions runs,” Brandt said. “Adding HOF ’19 to my signature took a little repetition to get it right.”
Brandt, a Wisconsin native, said the Hall of Fame announcement “hit me more than I ever expected.” He added, “I’m so flattered to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I didn’t realize everything that goes into being inducted.”
During his days in Dallas, Brandt was a part of two Super Bowl championship teams, five NFC Championships and 13 division championships. Plus, the Cowboys had 20 straight winning seasons from 1966-85.
“I thought we had the greatest bunch of people, really high-character guys,” said Brandt, filled with decades of stories about countless past Cowboys.
At the TRISTAR show, Brandt and former Cowboy Cornell Green were signing autographs – and Brandt quickly shared a Green basketball-related story. He also told of how Green played for six weeks with his hip pads on backwards.
“There are so many stories, so many memories. We had smart players, guys with great character,” Brandt said.
Stories included behind-the-scenes reports on the team’s Super Bow VI win over Miami, 24-3, played Jan. 16, 1972 in New Orleans.
He also recalled the Ice Bowl, which officially was the 1967 National Football League Championship Game, played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The Dallas Cowboys (9–5), champions of the Eastern Conference, traveled to meet the Western champion Green Bay Packers (9–4–1) – and the game-time temperature was minus-15 degrees with an average wind-chill around −48.
Lambeau Field’s turf-heating system malfunctioned, and when the tarpaulin was removed from the field before the game, it left moisture on the field. The field began to freeze gradually in the extreme cold, leaving an icy surface that became worse as more and more of the field fell into the shadow of the stadium.
“The Ice Bowl was unbelievable,” Brandt said. “The day before the game, it was about 30 degrees; it was beautiful.
“The next day, it was 15-below-zero.”
The morning of the game, at the team’s hotel in Appleton, Wisconsin, Brandt spoke with some bus drivers, each wearing super-sized boots to stay warm.
Brandt asked where they bought the boots, but was told the store was closed on Sundays.
So he asked if anyone had a size-12. He asked to wear them at the game, and paid $25 for the boots.
“It’s so important that we know the history of the game of football. The history in Canton is so, so great,” he said
To that, a list of the Top 100 NFL Players of All-Time will be announced in the fall, plus the Top 10 Coaches of All-Time.
“When you look at the list, of all considered for both lists, it’s incredible,” Brandt said. “I’ve seen so much growth in the NFL over the years; it’s unbelievable.”
Brandt is best known for the creation of many scouting practices still used today, such as psychology tests, specific scouting and evaluation systems, and so much more.
Brandt also was involved in the creation of the NFL Combine.
He donated 90 pieces from his career to the Hall of Fame this summer, relics dating back to 1960.
“Yeah, I’ve been a collector,” said Brandt, who donated all of the player rankings for various years. “I couldn’t donate an IBM 345 computer; it was too big.”
The souvenirs he’s saved, Brandt said, are now mostly stored in a safety deposit box.
“It’s hard to believe that I’m still recognized,” he said. “I think signing autographs is my way of giving back.”
He appeared at the TRISTAR show wearing his first Super Bowl ring.
“I wear this one because it makes me remember how hard it was to get there. I wear it all the time,” he said.
Brandt now plays golf on occasion and hosts shows on SiriusXM.
Ross Forman is a freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. He can be reached at Rossco814@aol.com.