The Sherman Chamber of Commerce kicked off its 100th anniversary year with the annual Awards Luncheon Friday in the Sherman Municipal Ballroom.
Chamber staff and officers recognized the Small and Large Businesses of the Year and gave awards to two Community Leaders before guest speaker Ed “Too Tall” Jones addressed the nearly 250 members in attendance. The Dallas Cowboys retired star spoke for more than 30 minutes about his career, his connection to Sherman and the current Cowboys team.
Chamber President Eddie Brown acted as host for the luncheon and helped introduce many of the guests in attendance.
“This is the 100th year of the Sherman Chamber of Commerce, and we’re excited about that,” Brown said. “We’re going to have a number of things that we’ll be doing throughout the year to highlight our 100 years.”
Brown then brought up the outgoing chair of the Chamber’s Board of Directors, Kelly Ashmore, to present the Small Business of the Year award to Mac’s Shirts and More.
“This business has been committed to helping the Chamber since their opening two years ago,” Ashmore said. “They are always volunteering with the Chamber in the community at large. They are actively involved in Relay for Life, Boys and Girls Club, along with other groups.”
The Large Business of the Year award then went to Tyson Foods, Inc. Ashmore cited the company’s support of the community through sponsorships for non-profits and the volunteer work of Tyson employees.
Incoming Board chair Jason Taylor then took the stage to recognize the two Community Leader award winners.
“The first individual is involved in most all Chamber activities, local service organizations and community events,” Taylor said. “This person helps with event planning and works to make our community a safer and better place to live. For the leadership roles in the Sherman Chamber of Commerce and unending efforts, we are happy to announce Miss Jennifer Davis.”
The second award went to Ron Vardeman, who was recognized for his leadership work with service organizations like Habitat for Humanity and his eagerness to help and greet new members.
The award winners received an acrylic award and a certificate prepared by the office of Sen. Craig Estes.
Once all the awards were handed out, Sherman native Jimmy Jack Beale was brought up to introduce Jones. The stock broker and longtime friend of the Cowboys’ legend talked about Jones’ life and his playing days.
“Ed wound up playing in more Cowboy games than any other Dallas player in history,” Beale said. “He also owns the record of playing in the most playoff games — which under present ownership, probably is safe.”
Jones explained that, at first he was a little surprised by the invitation to speak at the Chamber luncheon.
“I’m very happy to be here,” Jones said. “When I was first asked to come, I said, ‘why Sherman?’ I knew almost everybody there and they’ve heard just about everything I can say. Sherman is like a second home to me, I couldn’t say no.”
Jones talked about starting his career at Tennessee State University under the tutelage of Coach Joe Gilliam, who passed away earlier this year. Gilliam told Jones that knee injuries are usually what end pro football careers.
“At the time, I was 6-7,” the now 6-10 Jones remembered. “He said, ‘You would have to be the most conditioned athlete on the field or they’re going to get your knees.’ So I was always the first player on the field and the last player to leave. I was determined I was going to make it in college football.”
Jones said his dedication and work ethic caught the eye of several of his coaches and fellow players.
“A gentleman from Sherman by the name of Vernon Holland came up to me and said, ‘You know what? I see a lot of potential,’” Jones told the Chamber luncheon. “I’m not going to be the first one on the field with you, but I’ll stay late, as long as you want to stay.”
Holland was a junior All-American offensive tackle at Tennessee State and an eventual first round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I felt if I had the opportunity to work out with him, I’m going up against the best in Division II football,” Jones said. “So to this day, I credit Vernon Holland for really turning my college career around. That’s why after Vernon graduated, we maintained (a) good friendship up until he passed a few years ago.”
The Super Bowl champion also told some stories from his 15 years as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, 14 of which were under legendary coach Tom Landry. Jones said one piece of advice Landry gave him, “any game that’s worth playing is worth winning,” is something he still tries to apply to everything he does.
“If it’s worth doing, why not pay the price to be the best,” Jones asked. “And that’s what’s disappointing me about the current players today. I see a lack of leadership, I don’t see guys giving 110 percent every year when the season starts. When I look at the Dallas Cowboys on paper, I say, if I was coaching, this is one of the top five teams I would want to coach — but I find them to be underachievers.”
After his speech, Jones signed autographs for all the Chamber members who lined up to meet him.