PHOENIX – He'll probably always be the answer to the trivia question, but now there's a different title to add to his name.
The only player to win Super Bowl MVP honors from a losing team? The updated answer is now, "Hall of Famer Chuck Howley."
One of the first great linebackers in Cowboys history, Howley finally is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after hearing his name announced on Thursday.
As a Seniors candidate for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2023, Howley started as one of 127 former players under consideration whose careers ended prior to the 1998 season. On Aug. 17 of last year, he was then selected as a finalist by the Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee, along with longtime New York Jets defensive lineman Joe Klecko and defensive back Ken Riley, who played his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals. Howley then received the required 80 percent of votes needed from the Hall of Fame's full selection committee yesterday to earn his place in Canton, Ohio.
Howley's road to the Cowboys was a unique one. He remains the only athlete in West Virginia University's history to letter in five sports, doing so in football as an offensive lineman, as well as track, wrestling, gymnastics and swimming/diving. He was then taken in the first round, seventh overall, in the 1958 NFL Draft by Chicago.
But in his second season with the Bears, Howley suffered a severe knee injury that caused him to temporarily retire in 1960 at just 24 years of age. Seemingly giving up on his NFL dreams, he returned to West Virginia where he ran a gas station.
However, after performing well in a Mountaineers' alumni game, he decided to return to the pro ranks, and with Gil Brandt engineering one of the greatest trades in team history – acquiring his rights from the Bears for a pair of draft picks – Howley joined the Cowboys for the 1961 season. He would play the rest of his 15-year career in Dallas, retiring in 1973.
Legendary head coach Tom Landry once said of him, "I don't know that I've seen anybody better at linebacker than Howley."
A cornerstone of the Cowboys' dominating Doomsday defense, Howley earned All-Pro honors in five consecutive seasons from 1966-70, and was also a six-time Pro Bowler. He was named MVP of Super Bowl V despite Dallas' loss to the Baltimore Colts on a last-second field goal. In the game, Howley intercepted two passes and also forced a fumble, but it wasn't enough to propel the Cowboys to victory.
Ironically enough, Howley had another great game the following season in Super Bowl VI, this time in victorious fashion. While he didn't win MVP of the Cowboys' 24-3 triumph over the Miami Dolphins, Howley recovered a fumble in the first quarter, which eventually led to the game's first points, a 9-yard field goal. He then picked off a Bob Griese pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 41 yards to the Miami 9-yard line. Three plays later, Dallas scored its final touchdown.
Howley would finish his career as the only player in Cowboys history, and one of just 34 in NFL annals, to top both 20 sacks and 20 interceptions, totaling 26 and 24, respectively. In addition, he is tied for fifth in franchise history with 17 fumble recoveries, one of which he ran back 97 yards on Oct. 2, 1966, at the Atlanta Falcons for a touchdown, still the second-longest fumble return in franchise record books. He also had a 44-yard fumble returned for a score in the 1968 NFC Divisional Round Game against the Cleveland Browns, the third longest in Dallas' playoff past.
On Oct. 30, 1977, Howley was inducted into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor at halftime of the team's 37-0 trouncing of the Detroit Lions. More than four decades later, he's finally earned his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He and the other newly cemented greats will officially be inducted in a ceremony on Aug. 5.