An Emotional Jerry Jones Talks Family, Football in Rare Interview

For many Americans, the most important turkey day ingredient isn't on your plate, but on your television screen.

We're talking about the Dallas Cowboys game.

It's a family tradition. And for the family at the heart of the Cowboys, in many ways, it's the game of the year.

"The only team that would play their game on Thanksgiving was the Cowboys," said Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones.

The Joneses didn't invent football on Thanksgiving Day. They just re-invented it.

Twenty-two years ago, Jones and his only daughter, Charlotte Jones Anderson, teamed up with the Salvation Army and turned the Thanksgiving game into a yearly launching pad for the organization's Red Kettle Campaign.[[500933801,C]]

Together, this father-daughter duo have created a half-time event that draws talent like Kelly Clarkson and Beyoncé and reminds an audience of 60 to 70 million Americans that it's time to empty their pockets and drop money into the red kettles.

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The Jones partnership with the Salvation Army has yielded more than $2 billion for the charity in two decades.

"With the Salvation Army - here we are in our 22nd year and it has truly become part of the ethos of the Cowboys," Anderson said. "Not just for us and our family, but for all of our players and all of the people that work at the Cowboys."

Jerry Jones and Charlotte Jones Anderson sat down for an emotional interview with NBC 5's Meredith Land. After the interview, Land and NBC 5 Sports Director Newy Scruggs discussed the side of Jerry Jones the public doesn't often see, the Cowboys owner's legacy and how the interview came together.

"Our proudest moment has been our relationship with the Salvation Army and living through our visibility and interest in sports, interested in the NFL, interested in the Cowboys and let that connect to and help people that can't run with the ball themselves. It's a big deal," said Jones.

A deal that his daughter made during a meeting with former NBC Sports executive Dick Ebersol. They needed him to air the half-time show.

"I looked over there and Dick had kind of quit smiling and listening and you could see that this was no time for 'ol Jerry, the Daddy, to butt in," said Jones. "This thing was going strong and going the right way. And so I literally finally just settled back in my seat and just sat there and listened to Charlotte make the biggest sale we've probably ever made since having the Dallas Cowboys."

NBC 5 News
Charlotte Jones Anderson and her father, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The biggest sale didn't happen overnight. Anderson, now a mother of three, was just 26 then. She had already graduated from Stanford University and worked in Washington, D.C. as chief of staff for a congressman.

The lessons in the Jones family began very early.

"There were two boys, myself, and my dad and my mom at the table and my dad always treated me the same way with the same level of expectation and hope as he did my brothers. And every step of the way, he was always my biggest cheerleader," Anderson said. "I have always said that he has had more confidence in me than I've ever had in myself."

When describing her dad, Anderson said he's "passionate, supportive and loving."

And Jones said his daughter is tough.

"I will say this of our family, inclusive of our immediate family, me, Gene and her brothers. Charlotte's had the biggest bumps and the hardest trail," Jones said emotionally, fighting back tears. "You know the one that's getting bumped around the most is usually the one you got the most sensitivity about. She's a girl, but she wasn't bashful about getting exposed and getting bumped around."

NBC 5 News
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gets emotional when talking about his family.

The Jones family knows there will always be bumps on and off the field. But for them, the Thanksgiving Day game is always special because of the Red Kettle Campaign.

"When you have new players enter your organization, you hope that they understand the platform that they've been given but also the purpose that they can accomplish and what they can actually do that is significant beyond what they do on the field and that day at that game," Jones said.

The NFL has tried to pass the Thanksgiving Day game around to other teams, but it always ends up back with the Dallas Cowboys.

NBC 5's Holley Ford contributed to this report.

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