Bob Breunig was disappointed when he wasn’t drafted until the third round of the 1975 NFL Draft. After all, the First Team All-American named Arizona State’s MVP and team captain of back-to-back Fiesta Bowl winners had been assured by scouts and coaches he’d be scooped up quickly by a pro team. Looking back, though, he’s grateful for the youthful arrogance he lost and the blessings he won in the wait.
“It allowed me to be selected by the Dallas Cowboys,” Breunig remembers. “It’s interesting how disappointments in life have a way of showing something better God has in mind for us. Developing character is a bonus.”
Breunig was the keynote speaker at the Lake Highlands Family YMCA’s Inaugural Prayer Breakfast Tuesday. Like many former Cowboys, he moved to LH to be near the team’s practice facility, located then on Forest Lane near Abrams Road, and he spent 47 happy years living in the neighborhood with wife Mary and raising their four children.
“This is the place where we sunk our roots, shopped at Tom Thumb, attended church, sent our kids to school and opened our [real estate] office,” he said.
The Breunigs now live in Lakewood.
Breunig spoke about legacy – the legacy of the Y, the Cowboys and a certain coach known for wearing a fedora on the sidelines.
“When I attended my first meeting at the Cowboys facility up the street here, it was a scene I’ll never forget. Coach Landry was confident, direct and tough-minded,” said Breunig, recalling Landry’s 30 combat missions in World War II and crash-landing survival. “At our first rookie training session, he said, ‘Gentlemen, we have three priorities,’” listing faith, family and football on a white board, in that order. “I can teach you how to be a successful athlete, how to work hard and study game plans, but if the first priorities are out of balance, I believe it will affect your ability to succeed, not just on the football field but anywhere in life.”
Breunig was part of the “Dirty Dozen,” the rookie class many still call the best to ever take the field. His “Doomsday Defense” remains the stuff of legends. He played in three Super Bowls, earned a Super Bowl championship and was selected for three Pro Bowls, among a host of other honors.
Of course, Breunig played in a far different era from today’s big shot players with even bigger contracts.
“Most players had to work another job in the off season because we understood that we were one injury away from being unemployed and broke. We had mouths to feed.”
The training facility back then was nothing fancy – just corrugated metal with a short fence which neighborhood fans – and NFL scouts – would peek over as they stood on ladders or trash cans. There was no marquee sign with the magical blue star and no assigned parking for big name players. Only Coach Landry had his own space.
“I do remember once when Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson was running late, and he didn’t want to get the $50 late fine, so he pulled into Coach Landry’s spot. Coach Landry was a pretty poised guy and he never used foul language, but he might have sworn that day,” Breunig laughed.
Landry often told players, “Don’t be afraid to lose,” and Breunig took that to heart.
“Give it all you’ve got, all the time. Don’t hold back,” said Breunig. “You won’t make the play or win the game unless you leave it all on the field.”
The LH YMCA is currently fundraising for their expansion project. You may learn more and donate here.