The Passing of Jethro Pugh
I’m not a big fan of funerals, but then again, who is? I’ve been to just a few in my life and with the exception of my dad’s, they all seem a bit trite. It goes without saying that they tend to be depressing, but everyone tries so hard to say only nice things and have a certain, sympathetic look on their faces. They hit me as phony; few people really saying what they feel but just what they think everyone else wants to hear. At mine, I hope just one person says, “Timm sure could be an ass at times.” I say I hope just one person says that because I fear fifty could say it. At least it will ring true and I’ll be smiling from above.
Former Cowboys defensive tackle Jethro Pugh died on Wednesday and it hit me that I’m getting to the point in my life where funerals are going to be a more common occurrence. I wasn’t close to Jethro, just a professional relationship. He played for 14 seasons for the Cowboys, the final year was 1978. When I got to the market in the early 80’s he was just out of the game a few years so still relevant and a guy who I’d run into at golf tournaments, team functions etc. I interviewed him a number of times and he was always kind and willing. Players always are after they’re out of the game – their guard is down, the hot lights aren’t on them any more so the attention is almost welcomed. Randy White was the star defensive tackle right after Pugh and Bob Lilly was the star during Pugh’s career, but Jethro played for the Cowboys and that alone made him special in the NFL. I’ve known some of his teammates a lot better, Roger Staubach, Cliff Harris, Tony Hill, Charlie Waters, Drew Pearson, Preston Pearson, Randy White…and it hit me that one day it may be their name I read in the obituary. I might be hearing about their career and sudden death on SportsCenter.
I went to Tom Landry’s funeral years ago and while it was sad, it wasn’t the tremendous loss for me that it was for his former players that I saw there. Maybe that’s what’s hard about funerals, seeing how hurt some people are even if I’m not. Robert Newhouse and offensive line coach Jim Myer both died recently. I didn’t go to the funerals, in part because I knew I would see the sad faces of their former players and teammates. The day is coming when I will go to these funerals, for the players I knew better, and I will be wearing a sad face. It’s a part of life and a part of getting older. Maybe it’s tougher when it’s a player, they all seemed so strong and invincible when you’re around them in the locker room or at training camp.
Jethro Pugh may be best remembered as the player who Jerry Kramer blocked on that famous Bart Starr quarterback sneak in the 1967 Ice Bowl. Bob Lilly has pointed out numerous times that it could have just as easily been him if they went in the opposite direction since they were playing on a sheet of ice. Pugh’s career was much more than one play at Lambeau Field. He died too young (70) but the reality is his teammates will follow him in the coming years. We all have to accept that.