Cowboys Legend Jay Novacek's Wife Is Found Dead, And Laughter Turns To Prayers
by Mike Fisher    Tue, Feb 2, 2010, 03:04 PM

                                                                      novacek fish.jpg     

My willingness to play along (and pretend to understand) Jay Novacek’s offbeat sense of humor is probably one of the reasons we’ve had a friendly relationship for almost 20 years.

   A decade ago, I cleverly arranged for him get a free John Deere riding lawn mower because the notion of it was so funny to me. A month ago, he devilishly arranged to reintroduce me to Charles Haley because the notion of it was so funny to him.

   He is an idiosyncratic guy, this Dallas Cowboys legend, and his willingness to laugh his way through almost anything is among his strengths. But there is no laughing today. Jay’s wife, LeAnne, is dead.


     During my time covering the Cowboys for the newspaper and on the radio, Cowboys All-Pro tight end Jay Novacek met league requirements with reporters with whom he wasn’t comfortable; he’d stand at his locker and purposely say the most boring things he could conjure up, and eventually, media visitors to his locker dried up. One year he placed a Dixie Cup in his locker alongside a little sign reading “Interviews 25 Cents.’’ Obligingly, local reporter Suzie Woodhams regularly put her quarter in the cup. … at which time Jay would give her even more boring answers than usual.

    Novacek played favorites with the media. I didn’t mind. I never had to pay the 25 cents.   

   He is as unusual a person as he was a player. For most of the years I’ve known him, his idea of a vacation has been a pickup-truck drive from his North Texas ranch to his farm back home in Nebraska.

    “What music are you listening to during the drive?’’ I once asked him over his cellphone while he was on just such a trip and while we were live on the radio.

   “I don’t listen to music,’’ Jay said. “I don’t listen to anything. Hell, right now, I’m not even listening to you.’’

    And then … he hung up.

   I arranged for him to do a weekly show with me on 570 KLIF, and he was unfailingly dependable … and quirky. He insisted that the entire 15-show be about hunting and fishing and such. I insisted I ask him questions about the upcoming opponent and such.

    So that’s the way it went. For 15 minutes every Friday. I’d ask him about the Redskins and the Giants, and he’d answer about deer and ducks.

    Oh, and the compensation for “The Jay Novacek Show’’? He wanted a John Deere riding lawn mower. So that’s what I got him.

    Dependability? Jay was a high-school star in Nebraska, one of the most promising track athletes in the country and an option QB who dreamed of playing for Oklahoma and Barry Switzer. The offer from OU didn’t come … so Novacek committed to Wyoming. Later, a scholarship at Oklahoma opened up. Switzer’s staff called Jay and invited him.

    Novacek declined. He’d already promised Wyoming.

    Later in his life, of course, Switzer would come to coach the Cowboys. And – maybe because Barry is as much of a goofball as Jay is – Novacek loved the experience almost as much as pal Troy Aikman hated it.

    Aikman once said, “If I ever have a son, I want him to grow up to be like Jay Novacek.’’ That speaks serious-toned volumes about the man. … but as I reflect today on his family’s loss, I can’t escape thoughts that make me smile.

    At the recent “Glory Days’’ TV show taping in downtown Dallas on Jan. 5, Novacek and I spotted each other from across the cocktail-party room. We talked about his marriage to LeAnne and he beamed … especially when the subject turned to his young daughter. He and his family were into cutting-horse competition and into competitive outdoor volleyball – Novacek, naturally, is a near-championship-level competition at both – and his business interests and his charity work with the Children's Advocacy Center. It was a semi-formal event, but of course, Novacek was positioned underneath his gigantic and ever-present cowboy hat.

    I then mentioned to Novacek that the only reason I approached him was to escape Charles Haley. Charles was at the party and I had no desire to interact. Haley and I go way back. And the memories are not pleasant. When I shared that fact with Novacek, his face lit up in a smile.

    “Hey, Charles!’’ Novacek bellowed across the room. “C’mere! Look who’s here! It’s your old friend Fish!’’

    Haley and I spoke without incident. … maybe because Novacek’s grin made everything seem OK.

    But today, everything is not OK. LeAnne is dead. It’s an apparent suicide. LeAnne was found at her mother's home in Burleson on Monday with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

    Jay Novacek has given Cowboys fans endless thrills. He’s given me endless laughs. And now, at this moment, he and his family need your endless prayers.

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Comments (7)add comment
written by Tom McGregor , February 03, 2010

It's always a shock to hear about a suicide. Life is often difficult and we're frequently confronted by conflict. As someone who understands depression because, I deal with it on a daily basis, I've discovered that we all need to utilize coping mechanisms. Having a sense of humor is necessary and sometimes we have to have "HOPE," even if it's blind hope. I'll use myself as an example. I naively assume that someday an editor from a major media outlet will one day read the Dallas Blog and then e-mail to say that they want to hire me. Of course, this is pure fantasy, but without 'hope' I would have absolutely no desire to wake up every morning an write my articles for the Dallas Blog. Fo anyone thinking about suicide, I suggest you keep holding on to your dreams, because sometimes your dreams is the only thing you got.

written by Byron George , February 03, 2010

May GOD Bless the Novacek Family.

written by Brian Martin , February 03, 2010

Wow...Jay has always been a much admired friend of Dallas, as well as NFL fans all over the world. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.
If you have ever experienced such a family tragedy, then you know how important it is to make the most of each day and make sure and "tell" as well as "show" the people in your life how much they mean to you.

written by angel carter , February 04, 2010

My heart goes out to Jay and his family. The death of a loved one is always difficult. I hope that they can find some peace one day and forgive her if she did indeed commit suicide.

written by Susan Brown , February 04, 2010

2010 has not started out well. The same day that Jay's wife committed suicide, my co-worker did the same. I hung up the phone that evening from receiving the news from my boss and literally immediately heard the news of Jay's wife on the news. It was bizarre. Less than 2 weeks prior to this, another dear co-worker's husband jumped to his death in Downtown Dallas. I don't know what is in the water...what is going on...but we need to "Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle." The world is hurting right now and I know that Jay and his family are, too. I cry for the daughter left without her mom...I know that LeAnne must have been in unbearable pain to leave her child like that.

written by Tom McGregor , February 04, 2010

Susan Brown: I think you may be on to something about Dallas. I always get a sense from Dallas that this city is too highly-corporatized and the residents suffer from a vanity-complex. Here, image is everything, and if you don't act and talk the same then you'll be ostracized. Dallas people are polite but I often sense a cold attitude that lies behind their masks. I've experienced these problems first-hand ever since I attended elementary schools here. For independent-personalities, Dallas often feels like an oppressive atmosphere. I visited San Antonio last weekend, and it was nice actually meeting people who were not so trapped by this corporatized vanity complex.

written by Susan Brown , February 15, 2010

Hi Tom, Just remembered tonight that I had never checked back on this post. Funny you should say this, since I was just talking about this to my Mom and my brother this very weekend. We are somewhat of a pretentious city...we have a reputation for that...I have probably been guilty of some of that behavior myself (although life usually knocks me back to my high horse...pretty quickly!). I have lived in both Dallas and Houston and people in Houston are generally more down to earth. Hopefully, people will start being kinder to one another...even if just a couple of us start the trend maybe the act of "paying it forward" will become contagious!

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