Stautner was born in Cham, Bavaria, now part of Germany. His family emigrated to the U.S. when he was three. Prior to enrolling in college, he served in the U.S. Marine Corp during WWII for four years.
Though considered undersized, he played DT for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 14 seasons and missed a total of six games despite cracked ribs, broken noses, broken fingers and two broken shoulders. In one particular game he had a compound fracture of the thumb with one thumb bone visibly exposed. He ordered it taped up into a club and continued to play. Stautner was the first Steeler to ever have his jersey retired.
Stautner made 9 Pro Bowls and the equivalent of 1st team All Pro 4 times. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Stautner was one of the main architects in building both the Doomsday and Doomsday II defenses as the Cowboys were a top 7 defense for 14 consecutive seasons. He coached the defense for 23 seasons combined through 18 playoff appearances, 12 Conference championship games and five Super Bowls.
After leaving the Cowboys in 1989, he coached the Arena Football team Dallas Texans to the Arena Bowl and was elected 1990 Arena Football Coach of the Year. He joined fellow Cowboys coach Dan Reeves in Denver from 1991 to 1994 as the D-line Coach. In 1995 to 1997 he returned to Germany to coach the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe where he led the team to two consecutive World Bowl games, winning the championship once.
Ernie Stautner passed away three years later at the age of 80.
This was the grizzled old man you always saw standing next to Tom Landry during Cowboys games.
4 years a college player
14 years an NFL player
33 years a professional football coach