Former Dallas Cowboy Daryl Johnston Kicks Off GovSec West Day Two

 GRAPEVINE, Texas—One does not necessarily think “security” at the mention of former Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl “Moose” Johnston’s name (unless, of course, it’s the special type of security he provided by blocking for Emmitt Smith during the mid-1990s when the team won three Super Bowls in four seasons and Smith was on his way to becoming the all-time NFL rushing leader), but the insights on leadership and team building the former No. 48 imparted Wednesday to an audience of security professionals attending the morning keynote reception for day two of GovSec West 2012 were right on target in keeping with the convention’s theme of “Teamwork.”

Johnston, currently an NFL color analyst and someone who clearly loves discussing the sport, shared his experiences not only as a Dallas Cowboy from 1989 to 1999 but also as a college player on an undefeated Syracuse University team; being part of those winning teams changed his life, he said, and left him with lessons learned that should be applicable to any organization.

For example, “It’s not having the will to win that’s important,” he said; “it’s having the will to prepare to win that leads to success. You must have a tremendous work ethic to get there. People watch football on Sunday and think it’s all about that day, but games are not won on Sunday—games are won on the Wednesday through Saturday prior to that Sunday. It all comes from hard work. With our team in the 90s, it was not ‘Practice until you get it right’ but ‘Practice until you can’t get it wrong.’ It was the repetition of doing it over and over and over again.”

In extolling the virtues—and necessity—of having a passion for what you do and the desire (not just the ambition) to get done what needs to be done, Johnston referred regularly to his former Cowboys teammates—especially to Smith, Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman, a group many still refer to as “The Triplets” because they were the offensive front and center of those championship Cowboys teams in the ‘90s—to illustrate his points.

“Each one of those three became one of the best of all time in their positions,” Johnston noted. “Part of having a great team is being a great teammate. . . You can be good with a bunch of lunch pail guys, but you can’t be great. Michael, who joined the team in ’88, achieved success through hard work and character. Emmitt walked into the Cowboys camp in 1990 with a goal of wanting to be the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. But it was Troy, who in my opinion does not get enough credit, who was key to The Triplets’ success. It was his desire to win games with no regard for the statistics along the way that was the reason that group functioned as well as it did. He led the team to three Super Bowl victories in four years—something that had never been done before. He provided leadership from within. It takes individuals like that with high character and a good work ethic, but it also takes knowing your role—not just accepting your role but embracing it and wanting to be the best you can be.”

Equally important to having leadership within a team is having leadership and vision from the top of the organization, and Johnston said Jimmy Johnson, head Cowboys coach from ’89 to ’93, provided those attributes.

“Jimmy saw potential in that group long before anyone else did,” Johnston said. “One of the things Jimmy never gets enough credit for is that he was an incredible talent gatherer; he had an incredible knack for finding great football players. Another thing, though, is he treated everyone as an individual. He has a background in psychology and knows that everyone has different buttons to push and different motivations. Jimmy’s great skill is how he managed the personalities on that team.  .  .  . Part of great leadership from the top is knowing each and every single player—how to motivate them and how to protect them.”

Johnston said former Syracuse running back coach Jim Hofher displayed the same skills and had a tremendous influence on his life when Johnston was a sophomore fullback at the school and thinking of quitting the game.

“If you messed up, Jim would always say something positive first and then ask, ‘What were you thinking here?’” Johnston recalled. “His ability to create a conversation when there were corrections that needed to be made was instrumental to me. He has this unbelievable gift of creating motivation through respect. It is a gift. He inspired you to be better than you thought you could be.”

According to Johnston, compared to the security profession, the game of football is easy. Addressing the GovSec audience, he said, “I can only imagine the challenges you have, with all the different parts in your industry. For us, it was easy; we knew our goal was to win a championship. . . . A football team has three parts to deal with: the offense, the defense and special teams. Your group has many more parts. In football, all the time, you have 11 guys passing each other, going on or coming off the field. If it’s the offense coming off, we didn’t get it done, and as we pass the guys coming on we’re essentially telling them that, saying, ‘We are trusting you; we are turning the game over to you.’ It’s about being accountable to everyone on your team.”

Prior to Johnston’s speech, Security Products Editor-in-Chief Ralph Jensen announced GovSec had chosen to support a grassroots initiative called the Boot Campaign, and he introduced former Navy Seal Andrew Paul to tell those in the audience what the initiative is all about.

“Serving in the military goes to the heart of our country,” Paul said, after asking for a show of hands of anyone who was related to or knew of a current or former member of the service and then observing that every arm in the room was raised. “Part of the Navy Seal ethos is knowing that brave men have fought and died and not forgetting it. . . . I’m committed to helping my brothers returning from active duty, and the boot campaign leads the way in getting that done.”

With the slogan, “Wear the boots, support the troops,” the campaign is conceived as an easy and tangible way for people to show appreciation for past and present military members and to cultivate an awareness of the challenges they face upon returning from duty. Funds raised through selling combat boots are given to military programs designed to meet the physical and emotional needs service members face.

On the campaign’s website, the five Texas women who started the initiative say, “Flags and ribbons decorate houses and cars, but boots go where you go and tell the story of thankful Americans wearing their gratitude for the guardians of our freedom.” For more information, visit

For his part, Johnston prefaced his keynote by saying, “There is no greater example of a team than the individual elements of our military.”

About the Author

Ronnie Rittenberry is print managing editor for Security Products and Occupational Health and Safety magazines.

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