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Former Dallas great Novacek talks Cowboys and football

July 26, 2012 at 2:26 a.m.
Updated July 27, 2012 at 2:27 a.m.

Former Dallas Cowboys' tight end Jay Novacek signs autographs at Club Westerner after talking to fans on Thursday night.

The cowboy hat he wore Thursday night was not to maintain appearances.

Jay Novacek is certainly a cowboy. He's also charitable.

Nearly 500 people piled into Club Westerner to listen to the former Dallas Cowboy talk football. Novacek's appearance was part of a fundraiser for Mid-Coast Family Services and the Challenged Athletes Dream Complex.

Thursday night Novacek and Dallas-based marketing executive Kris Cumnock recalled the dynasty the Cowboys had in the '90s, and other anecdotes from that era.

When he joined the Cowboys in 1990 they were the worst team in the National Football League, but the confidence of those in the locker room led him to believe things would turn around. Novacek recalled speaking with Barry Switzer more on his first day as head coach - because the two shared a passion for the outdoors - than he had with Jimmy Johnson in the four years he played for him.

The former All-Pro said the 1994 Cowboys were better than the three teams that wound up winning Super Bowls, but mistakes cost them in a to to San Francisco.

Despite spending Thursday reminiscing about the days when the Cowboys were genuinely Super Bowl contenders, Novacek has moved on from the gridiron.

"There is not one memory that I think of every day," Novacek said. "I have my own life. I had my life prior to football. I enjoy the outdoors, I enjoy my horses and I enjoy my family. My wife goes along with me everywhere. I think that's what gets people in trouble when they quit playing. They keep putting themselves back in those situations. Months go by when I don't think about (my playing career.)"

The former Cowboys tight end is the son of a coach. He grew up dreaming of becoming a professional athlete, and was able to live that dream for 11 years.

Since leaving the Cowboys in 1996 Novacek and wife Amy have yet to find one specific cause to support, but the family loves children and they love animals. Coming to Victoria combined the two, as Mid-Coast Family Services will also host the Victoria Open Pro Rodeo this weekend.

"That's the thing with all of us. We all have those dreams, those goals, those situations that we want to better ourselves in," Novacek said about assisting the Challenged Athletes Dream Complex. "It doesn't matter if its football, basketball, track and field or the Olympics coming up. It's a matter of an individual doing better than he did earlier in his life."

The family lives on a 70-acre property just south of Fort Worth. They own horses and other ranch animals. Novacek has competed in Cutting Horse competitions during his football and post-football career.

"He's just a down to earth," said Ginny Stafford, chief executive of Mid-Coast Family Services. "You would never know he was a super athlete by talking to him. He's just a regular old guy."

After Stafford's organization successfully hosted the Victoria Open Pro Rodeo last summer, Robby Burdge told her they should try to make the 2012 event bigger. Their idea: bring in a Cowboy to talk football before the rodeo. Considering Novacek's cowboy background, they felt he would be a good fit.

Stafford said Mid-Coast Family Services, an organization that helps victims of family violence as well as homeless women and their children, is one she hopes people do not have to use, but is available for those who need them.

"We still need the community to support us," Stafford said. "Sometimes it takes a big personality, like Jay, to channel our message through him and to get people's attention."

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