Howley with the Dallas Cowboys.
|Date of birth:||June 28, 1936|
|Place of birth:||Wheeling, West Virginia, U.S.|
|NFL draft:||1958 / Round: 1 / Pick: 7|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Howley was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, and attended Warwood High School. He lettered in football, basketball and baseball. In football he was first team all-West Virginia and all-OVAC as a senior. As a teenager he competed in gymnastics. While attending West Virginia University, Howley played college football for the West Virginia Mountaineers, where he was a three-time All-Southern Conference selection and the Southern Conference Player of the Year in 1957.
Howley played guard and center during his three years at varsity, in which the Mountaineers compiled a 21-8-1 mark during his tenure, including a 21-7 victory over Penn State which would be the last until 1984. He played in three college all-star games—the East-West Shrine Game, the College Football All-Star Game and the Senior Bowl, which helped him get noticed by the Chicago Bears.
He is the only athlete in West Virginia University history to letter in five sports - football, track, wrestling, gymnastics and swimming (He won the Southern Conference one-meter diving championship).
Howley was inducted into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the West Virginia University Athletics Hall of Fame, the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame, and the West Virginia University Academy of Distinguished Alumni.
Drafted out of West Virginia University by the Chicago Bears in the first round of the 1958 NFL Draft, Howley played for the Bears for two seasons before retiring after what appeared to be a career-ending knee injury he sustained during the 1959 training camp in Rensselaer, Indiana. When he decided to make a comeback in 1961 following a West Virginia alumni game, the Bears traded his rights to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2nd-round, along with 9th-round draft choice in the 1963 NFL Draft.
Tom Landry, the head coach of the newly formed Dallas Cowboys, made the gamble to trade for him, looking to perfect his 'Doomsday Defense'. The gamble paid off and Howley remained a phenomenal athlete, even after the knee injury. Perhaps his most noteworthy physical attribute was his speed. Landry once said that Howley might have made it in the NFL as a running back if he hadn't been too valuable to move from linebacker.
Although he started in 1961 and 1962 as a strongside linebacker, in 1963 he embraced the switch to weakside linebacker, when it was decided that Dave Edwards had more upper-body strength. The move paid off as, at the conclusion of that season, Howley was named to The Sporting News All-East NFL team for the first time. Howley holds the record for most interceptions by a linebacker in a season with five, which he accomplished in 1968.
Howley played with the Cowboys for 165 games over thirteen seasons, playing in two NFL Championships and helping the Cowboys reach two Super Bowls. The Cowboys finished in the top seven in the NFL in scoring defense and yards allowed in 10 of Howley’s 13 seasons with the team. He was also named Super Bowl MVP for Super Bowl V, intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble in the Cowboys 16-13 loss to the Colts.
It was the first time a defensive player received the honor; to this day, it is also the only time a player from the losing team has ever won the award. The following season, Dallas made it back to the Super Bowl, and again Howley had a great performance, recording a fumble recovery and a 41-yard interception in the Cowboys 24-3 win over the Miami Dolphins. His performance was under MVP-consideration, but his teammate Roger Staubach won the MVP honor.
During his career, Howley's athletic ability made him one of the greatest coverage linebackers of all time, intercepting 25 passes, returning them for 399 yards and two touchdowns. He finished with more than 100 yards in interception returns for both the 1968 and 1971 seasons. He also recovered 18 fumbles, returning them for 191 yards and one touchdown. He is second in Cowboys' history with his 17 fumbles recovered. His 97-yard return of a fumble during a game against the Atlanta Falcons on October 2, 1966 is still the second longest in Cowboys history. He also had a large number of tackles and quarterback sacks, but these statistics were not compiled until after Howley's career ended so his unofficial sack total is 26.5 according to the Dallas Cowboys with a career high of 5½ sacks in 1965. Howley was named first-team All-Pro five times in his career, was a six-time Pro Bowler and was named to the All-Eastern Conference team in 1963.
Howley retired after the 1973 season. His thirteen seasons for the Cowboys ties him for the second longest tenure in franchise history. In 1977, Howley was inducted into the Ring of Honor at Texas Stadium, the fourth player to receive that honor. He also was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. In 2007 he was among the 17 finalists to be seniors candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Post NFL activities
Following retirement, Howley ran a successful uniform rental business in Dallas and is now involved in a foundation dedicated to breeding quarterhorses at Happy Hollow—located in Wills Point, Texas. His broodmare herd consists of more than 50 mares. He lives in Dallas.
- Mayer, Larry (25 April 2013). "These Bears draft picks gained fame in other areas". Chicago Bears. Retrieved 25 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- "Mind-blowing stats for Week 5 of the 2013 NFL season". National Football League. 2 October 2013. Retrieved 3 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Texas Sports Hall of Fame website