HOUSTON (AP) — Jack Pardee, one of Bear Bryant’s “Junction Boys” who went on to become an All-Pro linebacker and an NFL coach, has been diagnosed with gall bladder cancer and has six to nine months to live, his family said Tuesday.
The cancer has spread to other organs and that her 76-year-old father plans to move to a Denver hospice where the College Football Hall of Fame inductee’s wife, Phyllis, has been receiving care since having a stroke, daughter Anne Pardee confirmed to The Associated Press.
Anne Pardee said her father was in good spirits despite the diagnosis.
Jack Pardee survived a bout with melanoma when he was 28 and in the middle of his 15-year NFL playing career.
He played only six-man football at Christoval High School in west-central Texas, near San Angelo, before moving on to Texas A&M. Bryant became the Aggies’ coach in 1954 and moved their preseason camp to desolate Junction, about 100 miles northwest of San Antonio.
The state endured a severe drought and historic heat wave that year, but Bryant worked his team through the brutal conditions and refused to allow water breaks in an effort to toughest players. Pardee was one of 35 players who made it through to the end of the 10-day camp without quitting.
Pardee played three seasons at Texas A&M and was drafted by Los Angeles in 1957. He played for the Rams from 1957-64, sat out a year to cope with his melanoma, then played seven more seasons. He finished his playing career with the Washington Redskins in 1973.
Pardee stuck with the NFL and was the Chicago Bears’ head coach from 1975-77. He coached the Redskins from 1978-80 and was fired after Washington went 6-10. He served as San Diego’s defensive coordinator for one season, then returned to Texas to coach the USFL’s Houston Gamblers.
Pardee was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986. When the USFL disbanded in 1987, Pardee became the coach at the University of Houston and brought along the fast-paced “Run-and-Shoot” offense that worked well with the Gamblers.
The NCAA levied severe sanctions on the program in 1988, the result of violations committed under previous coach Bill Yeoman. Houston was banned from playing in a bowl game for two years and banned from playing on television in the 1989 season.
But the Cougars led the nation in total offense (624.9 yards per game) and passing offense (511 yards per game) in 1989, and quarterback Andre Ware won the Heisman Trophy. Houston finished 9-2 and ranked No. 14 in the nation.
Pardee became the coach of the NFL’s Houston Oilers in 1990, and led the team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons. Oilers owner Bud Adams traded star quarterback Warren Moon to Minnesota before the 1994 season, and Pardee resigned after a 1-9 start that year.
His name emerged 13 years later for the Houston job, but the school hired Kevin Sumlin instead. Pardee’s son, Ted, is currently the color analyst for Houston football radio broadcasts.
Pardee’s illness was first reported Tuesday by KTRK-TV of Houston.a