MORE

Six Pac

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is banking that Pacman will use his superior speed and athleticism to run from opponents and not the law.
James D. Smith/Icon SMI

Father murdered. Mother imprisoned. Drugs. Fights. Guns. Lies. Suspensions. Handcuffs. Electronic monitoring devices. Irrepressible urges. Intuitive receivers. Irrational media.

The works.

Adam "Pacman" Jones has been in his share of pickles during his exigent 24 years. But this predicament in Oxnard, California, is one he welcomes. One he can handle all by himself.

While his Dallas Cowboys teammates meander onto the training camp practice fields at the Marriott Residence Inn River Ridge Complex, Pacman shows off his favorite parlor trick. One of the NFL's best cornerbacks and kick returners—not to mention one of its most egregious outlaws—is going to win friends and impress enemies by catching six punts without ever dropping, or as much as putting down, a ball.

As punter Mat McBriar launches the first ball into a late July morning cooled by a Pacific Ocean breeze, Pacman effortlessly glides under it. His white gloves cradle the ball between the 2 and the 1 on his blue jersey, making no more sound than two butterflies playing charades in a cotton field.

"OK," Pacman says to no one in particular, tucking the ball into his right armpit and signaling for the next punt. "Let's do this."

That's one.

Hardly anyone notices. But they will. Adore him or abhor him, it's impossible to ignore him.

Especially this season, when Pacman—acquired in a trade by the Cowboys April 23 and reinstated after a one-year suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell August 28—will be subjected to unprecedented scrutiny. Depending on what color you paint your face, he's either a despicable villain destined to break the law and stomp the hearts of a Cowboys franchise attempting yet again to pawn its DNA to Beelzebub in pursuit of overdue playoff success, or he's one of sports' most unconventional saviors, pre-ordained to hop off the dunce chair just in time to be the final piece in the Cowboys' record sixth Super Bowl.

Owner Jerry Jones, the old oil wildcatter embarking on his 20th Cowboys season, loves the tangible buzz and potential boon that accompanies Pacman. Truth be told, he also relishes the high-profile gamble of it all. To him the risk-reward scales are tilted in his favor. If Pacman gets suspended again, the Cowboys are out only a fourth-round draft pick to the Tennessee Titans. With his reinstatement, they lost an additional sixth-round pick in '09, but added one of the most exciting and talented football players to a team that last year boasted 13 wins and 13 Pro Bowlers and this year is the sexy pick to play in the Super Bowl.

It's a strategy Jerry Jones married back in '98, after he painstakingly passed on drafting a talented-yet-troubled receiver named Randy Moss. Since then, blasphemy be damned, he's turned Tom Landry's cathedral—otherwise known as Texas Stadium—into a halfway house inhabited by shady stars, most recently Terrell Owens, Tank Johnson and, now, Pacman.

Jerry's "Super Bowl or bust" comes with a caveat: If winning in Tampa means burning in hell, so be it. If it would guarantee the Cowboys a Super Bowl spot on February 1, the owner would suit up Bigfoot in a rubber costume and change the franchise's name to César Chávez.

"I wouldn't be sitting in this chair if I used a criterion of not having people that have made mistakes," Jerry Jones says during camp's first week. "Saying I don't mind criminal backgrounds is going a little far, but frankly, you look at the upside of guys like Pacman. We've seen people in his situation use sports as a positive platform to really turn their lives around. It's happened with the Cowboys."

Entering Sunday's opener with the Cleveland Browns, the Cowboys are again America's Team. If not still Next Year's Champions.

In 1971 the team moved into Texas Stadium from the Cotton Bowl on the heels of multiple heart-breaking losses to the world champion Green Bay Packers and Baltimore Colts. Led by Landry's calming Christianity and the choirboy cool of quarterback Roger Staubach, Dallas won its first Super Bowl. This year—using a slightly more colorful cast of characters—they plan to abandon the old joint (they move into the $1 billion Jonestown Coliseum in Arlington next year) while erasing consecutive demoralizing playoff losses and becoming the first NFL team to win a sixth Super Bowl.

The juxtaposition of Pacman redeeming the righteous legacy founded by Landry is bizarre yet intoxicating. Everyone, it seems, wants a peek at Pacman. For a team that hasn't won a playoff game in 12 years, there might as well be a red carpet for the arrival at training camp of star-studded visitors such as Jessica Simpson, Ivan Reitman, Jamie Foxx, Dennis Miller, Rob Lowe and Magic Johnson.

Initially, there was some spewing of righteous indignation when the Cowboys acquired Pacman, whose professional résumé includes more arrests (six) than interceptions (four). Some were downright disgusted by the Cowboys' erosion of class in pursuit of a championship.

 

"If character really doesn't matter, why don't they sign Osama bin Laden to play wide receiver?" WFAA-Channel 8 sports anchor Dale Hansen quipped back in April. "They need one, he's 6-foot-4 and we know nobody can catch him."

But Pacman, who arrived via the NFL's first trade involving a suspended player, can change his image by changing the scoreboard, and he knows clemency is only a high-stepping touchdown away. Besides, these days he's born again."I thank God for putting me in this situation where I can be with the Cowboys," Pacman says after an afternoon practice in camp. "It's wonderful. I've got a great, great, great relationship with God, and I always knew that I would put on a uniform again."

Don't listen too closely, lest he not sound that different from the former coach in the funny hat and the bottomless faith. Said former Cowboy-turned-Pacman mentor Deion Sanders after a May practice at Valley Ranch, "God brought him here."

Sure enough, that's why there's a hole in the roof. So the Big Fan upstairs can watch the iconic old theater's final act. 

————

"Hey, look at Pac," says Jerry Jones, nudging son and team vice president, Stephen. "What do we got going on over here?"

The second punt soars downfield, and Pacman, first ball secured under his arm, smoothly drifts into position.

"A big part of it is the decision of which ones to go after," Pacman says later. "Not all of them are good ones to catch. You go after the wrong one, and it'll mess you all up."

Two. 

Pacman Jones, meet Charles Haley. Yes, it's that bad. And potentially that good.

Like Pacman, Haley had a nefarious reputation with the San Francisco 49ers in the early '90s. No arrests, but little hiccups like peeing on the team president's office floor, trying to strangle head coach George Seifert during a meeting and shaking his manhood at anyone who dared enter the team's locker room without his approval.

The Cowboys—desperate for playmaking pizzazz on their defensive line—traded for Haley in '92. They absorbed his antics, utilized his innate pass-rushing skills and—presto—won three Super Bowls over the next four years.

Like Haley—minus the urinating, the choking and the flaunting—Pacman has the talent to be this era's missing link.

"Definitely, Pac can have the same sort of impact," says former Cowboy Michael Irvin, who played with Haley and—based on his experiences of a Hall-of-Fame career littered with transgressions—has counseled Pacman about the gift of second chances. "I think he's going to make a lot of folks very happy with not only his play, but also his behavior."

A month before Dallas traded for him, he went on Irvin's ESPN 103.3 FM radio show and tooted his own trombone. "I can help them win, no doubt," Pacman said. "I'm good for two games a season by myself. I'm the best cornerback in the NFL. I've got the whole package."

Truth is, Dallas' secondary, despite Pro Bowlers Terence Newman and Roy Williams, was mediocre last season, and besides, who couldn't use a shut-down corner with the raw ability to turn every opponent's pass into a defensive touchdown?

"He's one of the most talented athletes in the world, much less the NFL," Jerry Jones gushes at camp. "He's going to step out there and make a lot of plays for us."

Only 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Pacman is much shorter than you envision, but on a team boasting rookie Arkansas speedster Felix Jones, Newman and Owens, his athleticism is unmatched.

At West Virginia's Westlake High School, Pacman led his basketball team to consecutive state championships and a 33-0 senior season. On the football team he rushed for 1,850 yards and intercepted six passes. Leaving West Virginia University after his junior season, he was drafted sixth overall by Tennessee in 2005.

"The guy is super-talented," says Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips. "You get a real appreciation of that seeing him in person day after day. He's a difference-maker."

At training camp, Pacman was usually one of the first players on the field. He wore bandannas and baggy shorts that hung around mid-calf, playfully fielded kickoffs with one hand behind his back, and one day autographed "Pacman" on a baby's diaper.Whenever he got the chance, he lined up against Owens.

The Pro Bowl receiver embarrassed him early in camp with a double move for a touchdown, but as the rust fell off, Pacman caught up. He doesn't have the best footwork or technique, and he's been slow to adjust from Tennessee's man-to-man schemes to Dallas' zone principles, but his uncanny instincts and superior agility often mask his deficiencies.

In his Cowboys exhibition debut, he was admittedly awful, missing two tackles and getting flagged for pass interference even though he only played in nine downs against the San Diego Chargers. He was better in the second preseason game against the Denver Broncos, returning a punt 24 yards and deflecting two passes, one of which he almost intercepted for a touchdown. His improvement warranted a starting job, and two weeks ago against the Houston Texans, he had another near-interception and an 18-yard punt runback.

 

Though he hasn't played in an NFL regular-season game since December 31, 2006, the Cowboys are counting on Pacman to create havoc all over the field. Just like Sanders, who led Dallas to Super Bowl XXX, he wears No. 21.

"I want to be the Prime Time of my era," he says.

"I don't know if he's in Deion's class yet, but he's loaded with talent," secondary coach Dave Campo says. "The thing I like about him most is his coachability and his competitive fire."

Says Pacman, "If I'm in a spitting contest, I want to be the best spitter." (Make a mental note.)

On defense, he can play either cornerback position or the inside slots when offenses threaten Dallas with three- or four-receiver sets. The Cowboys have hinted that Pacman might also line up at receiver, an option that gained credence when former Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow showed up at camp. (Chow, now the offensive coordinator at UCLA, said he had six plays in Tennessee specifically designed for Pacman.) But he might be most dangerous as a kick returner, where as a Titan in '06, he authored three punt-returns touchdowns. The Cowboys have only four this millennium.

"Any time I get my hands on the ball I'll make at least one tackler miss," Pacman says. "I can get pretty creative."

While Pacman's critics debunk the notion as preposterous that he will remain a good player while magically morphing into a good person, the controversial Cowboy has shown remorse and done nothing more unlawful than "pants" Campo for HBO's Hard Knocks' cameras and playfully dump a bucket of water on Felix Jones.

As T.O. is to Terrell, the Cowboys are banking on a distinct disconnect between Pacman and Adam.

That's why at training camp, they watch his every move and monitor his every word. They realize one misstep—or misspeak—and Goodell won't be inclined to reinstate Pacman, which will crater Dallas' grand plan and effectively end his NFL career.

That's why longtime public relations director Rich Dalrymple becomes nervous when he notices Pacman slipping on a pair of headphones under Irvin's ESPN tent. To shield Pacman from potentially getting talked into a corner, the Cowboys have strictly prohibited one-on-one interviews.

"Life is beyootiful!" Pacman yells at Irvin as he wraps a post-practice T-shirt on his head like some sort of speedy sheikh. "I'm out here playing football, man. I feel like I'm free again."

A pensive Dalrymple observes from afar, wincing at the risk.

"We're telling Pacman that playing for the Dallas Cowboys is a great way to create or repair a reputation," he says later. "If he's on his best behavior, word will certainly get out through the local media and into the national media. But if he screws up, everyone will know about it in vivid detail."

————

A ball under each arm, Pacman eyes the third punt and drifts back four steps to nestle it.

"It's growing, one ball at a time," announces receiver and co-punt returner Patrick Crayton. "Like some sort of mythical legend."

Three. 

This, according to Jerry Jones, is grabbin' time.

Despite all the promising preseason prognostications, at camp the Cowboys rarely refer to the Super Bowl. Still, you have to believe before you achieve.

"George Foreman once told me about stepping in the ring against Michael Moorer, who was twice as good and half his age," Jerry Jones recalls after an afternoon practice. "He figured he'd lose. But when George looked into his eyes he could tell Moorer didn't believe. He hadn't grabbed the vision of himself winning the fight and lifting the belt. It's gotta happen during your preparation, during your journey. You don't just hear the bell and all the sudden convince yourself that you're a champion. For us, here at camp, this is our grabbin' time."

Talk to enough experts (Sporting News last week picked Dallas to be this year's champ), and it seems the Cowboys should not only get to the Super Bowl, but win the damn game by three touchdowns. At camp, Jerry Jones claimed this year's team has the best coaching staff, best kicking game and best depth since the '90s dynasty.

It's all heady stuff for a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game since December 28, 1996. With losses to the Seattle Seahawks two years ago (in which quarterback Tony Romo bungled a field-goal snap) and last January to the eventual champion New York Giants (in which Romo was intercepted in the end zone in the final minute), it's the longest post-season victory drought in team history.

 

But with their two chief competitors in the NFC weakened in the off-season (the Packers lost quarterback Brett Favre, and the Giants lost star defenders Michael Strahan to retirement and Osi Umenyiora to injury), the Cowboys are clearly a better team than the one that trudged off the field after that shocking 21-17 home field loss to the Giants on January 13.

Sensing urgency and opportunity, Jerry Jones shelled out more than $70 million in guaranteed salaries to add Zach Thomas, acquire Pacman and retain running back Marion Barber, offensive lineman Flozell Adams and safety Ken Hamlin as well as Owens and Newman. That doesn't include first-round draft choices Felix Jones and cornerback Mike Jenkins or the sweetened deal that kept in place highly coveted offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

From last year's 13-3 team, the Cowboys lost only role players Julius Jones, Jacques Reeves, Anthony Fasano and Akin Ayodele. During camp and preseason, the team suffered only minor injuries to players who should all be back on the field by October.

Of course, the Cowboys may be setting themselves up for one of their biggest pratfalls ever.

"Saying you're going to win 10 Super Bowls in a row is probably shooting a little high, but [winning a Super Bowl] is the goal every year, right?" Romo says. "But at this point it's just talk. It's all premature."

All these players are promised entering Week 1 is the pressure of being favored to win when, in fact, they've never won. Still, it was difficult in camp to find a voice who didn't expect the Cowboys to break their tie with the 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers as the NFL's first team with six titles.

"To me, the Cowboys should be the favorite in the NFC," says former Cowboys quarterback and now Fox lead analyst Troy Aikman. "They're definitely the most talented team."

Fair or not, these lofty expectations shove Phillips onto the hot seat. Though Jerry Jones promises his second-year coach doesn't have to win the Super Bowl to keep his job, it's assumed that Garrett is the Cowboys' heir apparent.

So how does the avuncular, 61-year-old Phillips respond to the increased pressure? By running a ship so loose and drama-free that—sorry, HBO—the newsiest event comes in the form of a 5.4 earthquake. By extending visitation rights to old-timers such as Irvin, Sanders, Keyshawn Johnson, Erik Williams, Nate Newton and even '71 Super Bowl hero Duane Thomas. And by again fostering a country-club culture in which there is no tackling, veterans are awarded days off and Owens is allowed to shield himself from the afternoon sun with an umbrella borrowed from a fan.

"To have all of our Pro Bowlers back and to have our systems in place," Phillips says, "is very comforting."

The confidence starts under center, where for the first time since Aikman in '96 the Cowboys have the luxury of a Pro Bowl starting quarterback. Yet Romo's popularity—his jersey is the NFL's No. 2 seller behind Favre—greatly exceeds his accomplishments. Despite an '07 season in which he set franchise passing records for completions (335), yards (4,211), 300-yard games (seven) and touchdowns (36), his next playoff victory will be his first.

"That stuff's for you guys," Romo says, all humble. "I'm just hoping to improve to the point where we can win a preseason game."

Romo's offensive line, led by Pro Bowl left tackle Adams, returns intact, and he'll again have elite weapons in Owens and tight end Jason Witten. The major offensive change comes at running back where the rugged Marion Barber takes over for the underwhelming and departed Julius Jones (Seattle Seahawks) as the full-time starter, backed up by Felix Jones.

Barring injury, Dallas' franchise record of 479 points is in jeopardy.

"I don't see us doing anything drastically different," says Garrett after running a couple of post-practice wind sprints. "Our standards for execution just have to rise a little. Let's do what we do, but do it a little bit better."

A defense that includes five first-round picks will be bolstered by the arrival of Zach Thomas, a feisty inside linebacker who made seven Pro Bowls with the Miami Dolphins. A secondary featuring Pacman, Newman, Anthony Henry and a rejuvenated Williams (changing his number from 31 to his old college 38) should be among the league's best. Pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware should again post double-digit sacks.

Says Phillips, "[Ware] is dominant. He can compete for Defensive Player of the Year."

Dallas' special teams, highlighted by punter Mat McBriar, Pro Bowl kicker Nick Folk and a stable of speedy returners led by Pacman, Newman and Felix Jones, should also produce a surplus of positive plays.

 

There are hangnail concerns: Brad Johnson, who turns 40 next week, is a wobbly backup quarterback. The No. 3 receiver (whether Miles Austin or Sam Hurd) is inexperienced. Second-round draft choice Martellus Bennett is at times aloof and indifferent as a backup tight end. The buxom blonde with the attention-junkie father could always kidnap Romo for an ill-timed Simpson weekend in Cabo. And the Cowboys must find a way to stop petering out in December.

But if the whole shebang seems the least bit tenuous, it's because of its reliance, its confidence, its faith—in Pacman. 

————

As he wedges the next punt between the existing three balls, the curiosity in Pacman grows.

"Are you kidding me?" says an astounded Garrett. "He's gonna do what?"

Four. 

"Adam Jones," said Pacman at a Mavericks game in American Airlines Center last April, offering a firm handshake and steady look into the eyes. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Whitt."

Silly me. He wasn't, after all, gangsta, rude, raining dollar bills, tailed by the police or shadowed by the number 666.

Before Jerry Jones made his bold, potentially brilliant acquisition of a player with an extensive police record, the Cowboys did their due diligence. The owner cherishes talented players down to their last chips, as long as the root of their problems has been bad decisions rather than substance abuse. As with Tank Johnson and Owens, the Cowboys player development staff conducted extensive background checks, interviews and psychological evaluations and determined that Pacman, too, was a low-risk, high-yield investment.

"Pac is a very smart guy," says former Cowboys running back Calvin Hill, now the team's player development consultant. "He knows where he's at in life and what he needs to do...We've had some guys come in here with a cloud over their head, and now the sun is shining on them."

The Cowboys, turns out, were Pacman's only suitor. Because, unlike most teams that have skittish general managers accountable to image-conscious owners, the Cowboys' authority wears both 10-gallon hats. Jerry the GM has no problem answering to Jerry the big cheese.

Dallas' research, according to Hill, revealed that Pacman's problems arose only when he was away from the football environment. At training camp his lifelong crew of enablers was left behind, and a member of the team's security staff was usually lurking in his shadow.

Voilà! Pacman climbed the depth chart and avoided the police blotter.

"We've put him in a position and given him the resources to be successful," Hill says. "Ultimately his actions and decisions are his, but so far so good."

Adds Sanders, "Moving somebody to the right atmosphere negates a large part of the risk. This is the right place for him."

As opposed to the doomed environment in which Pacman grew up.

Adam Bernard Jones (the nickname, Pacman, came from his mother, who, while pregnant, incessantly played the video arcade game) was born into a dysfunctional family on the wrong side of the tracks in southwest Atlanta. With dad dead and mom in prison, their only child was raised by his grandmother in a dodgy housing project. By age 10 he was caring for himself on an allowance from his grandmother of $300 per month. He flunked out of two middle schools, but somehow became the first male of his generation on his father's side to survive to 21.

A hard-nosed hellion who consistently bailed himself out of trouble via sports, Pacman had only one legal blemish when the Titans drafted him in '05: Probation from a fight in college when he hit another student with a pool cue. Tennessee, like Dallas, investigated Pacman's mental make-up and found nothing Dr. Phil couldn't rectify.

"We do not feel like character is an issue here," Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said during Tennessee's '05 post-draft press conference.

Since that day Pacman has been arrested six times, twice he reportedly spit on women (recall mental note) and has been involved in 12 incidents that required police intervention. Included among the dozen episodes are assault, disorderly conduct, probation violation, obstructing police, vandalism, public intoxication and possession of marijuana.

Most notably, he pleaded "no contest" to the misdemeanor charge of conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct in conjunction with the February '07 shootout at the Minxx Gentlemen's Club in Las Vegas in which three people were wounded, one of whom was paralyzed. Alleged to have showered strippers with "make it rain" cash, he was initially identified as the "inciter" of the incident. Pacman, who allegedly threatened to kill one club employee and bit another, was charged with two counts of coercion before pleading to the lesser misdemeanor.

Asked by Irvin if he was swearing off topless joints, Pacman responded, "I can't say I'll never ever go in one. But not in the next couple years."

 

While "make it rain" oozed into our pop lexicon and even onto an episode of CSI: Miami, Goodell was none too impressed. As the NFL's new sheriff hell-bent on a stricter code of conduct, the commissioner made Pacman his poster boy. The player proved an easy mark.

In April '07, Pacman went to New York to meet with Goodell about his antics. But the night before— in perhaps the worst-ever appeal strategy—he dined at a topless bar. In separate incidents he was later cited for speeding at 12:45 a.m. after pledging to Goodell to have a self-imposed midnight curfew, missed a league-mandated counseling session and walked a $20,000 gambling tab at Caesars Palace.

Shortly after his May '07 NFL suspension, Pacman briefly became a professional wrestler, accepting a persona that (prepare to cringe) distracted foolish referees by "making it rain" in the ring.

"The past is the past," he says to a group of reporters in Oxnard, grudgingly addressing his transgressions. "I made some bad decisions, and I owned up to all of them. I handle things differently now. Just picking and choosing my places, my friends, knowing what to do, when to do it and what not to do. I've learned the hard way."

Other than a "Deborah" tattoo crawling down his lower right leg, the vitriol from Titans fans, and pending civil suits from Minxx's bouncer and paralyzed manager, Pacman is doing his part to look exclusively forward.

To consummate his escape from Tennessee, Pacman agreed not to pursue $1.5 million in incentives he'd already earned and donated $500,000 to a charity of the Titans' choosing. With the Cowboys he signed a relatively modest four-year, $13 million contract with no guaranteed money or signing bonus.

There are other concessions. His dreadlocks are gone. He's urging the media to call him Adam, though the request quickly loses steam when his coaches and teammates call him "Pac" and he signs "Pacman" autographs. His circle of trust has been downsized to his girlfriend, his 2-year-old daughter (Zaniyah), his dogs (Scar and Sassy) and Sanders.

The two worked out together over the summer at Sanders' Prosper spread, went fishing and even taped a TV ad for an auto insurance company. In Pacman, Sanders sees himself. "I have a love for this kid that is insatiable," he says.

Pacman isn't yet a Cow-Boy Scout, but his image is quickly getting patched up. At camp he is charismatic, fun-loving and punctual. After practices he addresses the media honestly, puts his arm around Jerry Jones and signs countless autographs, often tossing his bandanna into the crowd as a sweaty souvenir.

In a town that forgave Owens, Josh Hamilton and Roy Tarpley (more than once), Pacman is on the road to redemption. He will team up with Dallas Maverick Brandon Bass for a celebrity beach volleyball charity event September 13 in Coppell and has already handed out 1,500 backpacks loaded with school supplies to underprivileged Fort Worth students, despite arriving home at 4 a.m. from the Denver game.

"Anything for the kids," he told reporters at the event. "In my past I always gave to the community. I've been blessed a lot. Why not try to bless someone else?"

After sitting out last season, Pacman received Goddell's blessing for partial reinstatement on June 2. In the two months since their first meeting, he had avoided so much as a parking ticket before writing a letter to the commissioner which read, in part, "I feel like I've turned a corner and I can assure you I will not repeat my mistakes."

His reward—full reinstatement—came just hours before Dallas' final preseason game.

"This is another step in the process," Pacman said in a statement released by the team. "I am very grateful for this opportunity, and I understand my responsibilities to the Dallas Cowboys and the National Football League. Right now I just want to keep working hard so I can accomplish the goals that I have set for myself both on and off the field."

This chance, however, is his last. 

————

Two balls on each side secured by arms and elbows—his wrists and hands working like pinball bumpers—Pacman traps the next punt between his right thigh and torso.

"One more, baby!" he says. "One more."

Five. 

As Texas Stadium's curtain is lowered, the Cowboys' 2008 bar is raised back to the stadium's debut height of some 37 years ago, when a team of teasers finally won a championship, thanks in part to their own petulant star named Duane Thomas.

Wouldn't it be symmetrical for the stadium's current tenant to produce a bookend championship? And fitting, in a distorted way, for Duane Thomas to score the first touchdown in Texas Stadium and Pacman the last.

"This seems like one big circus out here," Thomas says between camp practices. "Anything's possible."

 

When the stadium opened in '71 the walls were gray, the static scoreboard alerted fans to information with an annoying "doiiiing!," Tommy Loy routinely trumpeted the national anthem and fans accepted Thomas' peculiar antics—pouting, brooding, year-long boycott of the media—as collateral for glory. Four decades later, the walls are blue and adorned with stars, two large video screens are affixed to the roof, country music mega-stars regularly play halftime shows and fans are prepared to accept Pacman's checkered past as collateral for glory.

Brand loyalty for the Cowboys home and its occupants—evidenced by 25,000 showing up recently for an open practice—is at an all-time high. The last season at Texas Stadium should be one of the best.

————

With three balls pinned to his side by his right arm, two more trapped down the opposite side by his left arm and an incident-free week of training camp under his belt, Pacman carefully runs forward under the final punt.

"Watch this," says Phillips, part of a group of hypnotized players, coaches and fans craning to see the feat's climax. "Son of a bitch is gonna catch 'em all!"

A combination of the bulky Michelin Man and the bouncy Nastia Liukin, Pacman crouches and somehow corrals the kick in his pseudo lap, suggesting that—at least for now—he's totally committed to pouring time and energy into football, instead of his previous off-field activities.

"Not a lot of people have seen six," Jerry Jones gloats of Pacman's exploit and, perhaps, the Cowboys' Super Bowl quest. "Might've seen five, but not six. That's a pretty special deal."

Six. 


Sponsor Content