A sad day for Houston sports.
Jack Pardee, a legend of Texas football from the six-man playing fields of Christoval to the barren wasteland of Junction to the Astrodome in Houston, has died of cancer, his family disclosed today.
Pardee, 76, was diagnosed with terminal gall bladder cancer in November.
“My dad was committed to football, but he was always close to his family,” Pardee’s son, Ted Pardee, said. “He had a lot of love to give. He was a sweet guy who was never afraid to give us a hug and kiss. He fought a tough battle, and we’re going to miss him.”
Pardee recently moved to a hospice facility in a Denver suburb, where two of his daughters reside.
Pardee’s family moved to Texas from Iowa in the mid-1940s so his father, Earl, could receive treatment for rheumatoid arthritis in Christoval’s mineral baths. Pardee scored 57 touchdowns for the town’s regional six-man champions in 1952 and then played three seasons for Texas A&M, enduring coach Bear Bryant’s infamous training camp in Junction in 1954 and winning all-Southwest Conference honors in 1956. He then played for the Rams and Redskins, with a two-year break in 1965-66, from 1957 through 1972, winning NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1972.
He went on to coach the World Football League’s Florida Blazers (1974), the Chicago Bears (1975-77) and Redskins (1978-80) and, in 1984-85, the run-and-shoot Houston Gamblers of the United States Football League, winning coach of the year honors in 1984. After the USFL disbanded, he succeeded Bill Yeoman at UH, where quarterback Andre Ware won the 1989 Heisman Trophy, from 1987 through 1989.
In 1990, he returned to the NFL with the Oilers, leading the team to the playoffs in his first four seasons before losing his job following a 1-9 start in 1994. His career NFL coaching record is 87-77.
Pardee’s Oilers were ultimately a frustrating team to watch, and if you were in Houston in January of 1993 you probably still bear the scars of that playoff game, but they sure were fun. Paredee’s teams featured some iconic players from the Oilers’ history, and his run of success came after a multi-year run of futility. He made an indelible mark on football history here in Houston and in Texas, and he will be missed. Rest in peace, Jack Pardee.