FRISCO, Texas – Time to write your congressman. Or Men.
This just hot off the presses:
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Seniors Committee just announced this year's 25 semifinalists for the Class of 2023. There will be a cut to 12 by the committee on July 27 and then to three when meeting again on Aug. 16, with all three eligible to be voted in this year instead of just the previous two. Time to catch up.
And guess what? When you have just turned 86 and you've been eligible for enshrinement for the past 43 years, half your lifetime, that must feel like forever. Just ask Chuck Howley.
Come on, you guys know who he is even if you're not a card-carrying Cowboys fan. Heck, even if you haven't been to Texas Stadium or AT&T Stadium, surely you have a TV, and at some point during all these years of game broadcasts, someone must have focused on the Cowboys famed Ring of Honor. You just had to see his name up there among the Staubachs and Aikmans and Landrys and Jordans and … need I go on since it's been sitting up there now going on 45 years?
Chuck Howley, 54.
By the way, the first 54 in the Ring (sorry Randy White) and fourth to be named overall behind just Bob Lilly (1975), followed by Don Meredith and Don Perkins the year after that. Pretty high company when you were next in 1977.
And remember this, the godfather of the Ring, Tex Schramm, was not a frivolous judge of just who belonged up there. The original Cowboys president, a better judge than most, thought this linebacker Howley was a keystone to building the expansion franchise into what it became, and that he was one of the very best players, not just for the Cowboys but in the entire NFL.
Ah, wait, don't bother writing your congressman, you know, that old saying, seemingly tone-deaf as they are. These days truly seems a waste of time.
Better yet, write, er text, er Tweet, Instagram one of the 48 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee (there is one at-large position open). Their names are listed on the PFHOF website. I'm sure you guys are more resourceful navigating than I to track these folks down. No longer should one Chuck Howley be on, as one website decided, the All-Snub Team.
And this should become a two-man campaign. Because back in the now 25-man discussion is Cowboys cornerback Everson Walls as well. And don't get me started on this one after the committee threw up a big fat Heisman in Walls' face back in 2018 when he had advanced into the modern era finals in his last year of eligibility.
And look, I'll admit that I'm biased on this one. Have known "Cubby" now for, oh, like 38 years. First as a Cowboys player. Then as the kidney-donating teammate of Ron Springs. And now on our _Mick Shots_ podcast here on DallasCowboys.com, along with being my co-host for the Star Sports Tours meet and greet the day before Cowboys home games.
OK, we don't exactly go out to dinner together, but we are close enough to debate Cowboys from opposite sides of the fence without a feeling being hurt. That's close to me.
Walls, upon learning this latest Hall of Fame news, says, hiding his previous disappointment with his unique gift to gab, "Maybe the second time is a charm. I couldn't outrun the Modern Day youngsters. Maybe I could outrun these old Senior farts."
But again, don't take my word for any of this stuff. Look it up, and while doing so, remind yourself of the Hall of Fame's mission, which to me, that's to preserve the history of pro football. The stories. The characters. And the selection committee rightfully does so by placing the worthy busts in the Canton, Ohio, rotunda so they live into perpetuity. You've heard this reminder from me until I'm blue in the face.
Take Howley. Most remember him while playing for the Cowboys from 1961-73. Thirteen years. The 1958 first-round pick of the Chicago Bears, seventh overall out of West Virginia, played parts of two seasons for the Bears, a serious knee injury in 1959 limiting him to just three games at the end of the season. The knee seemed so bad, Howley prematurely decided that's it, time to retire. Went back to his Wheeling, West Virginia, hometown to run a filling station as they were called back then. A damn gas station.
But after playing in his West Virginia alumni game in the spring of 1961, he decided to unretire, and the Cowboys that year, Johnny on the spot, used their 1963 first- and ninth-round picks to trade for his rights. Come on, you can't make this stuff up. And the rest is history.
Five-time first-team All-Pro.
Six-time Pro Bowl linebacker.
Super Bowl MVP, the only man to win that award playing for the losing team, the Cowboys in Super Bowl V, 16-13, to the Baltimore Colts. Voters could not overlook his dominating performance in a turnover-riddled game, Howley with two interceptions, a couple of tackles and a forced fumble. Howley's first interception set up a Cowboys field goal. His forced fumble set up their only touchdown.
Worth remembering, right?
Howley finished his career with 25 interceptions, along with 399 return yards. That's 16 yards a pick. Two returned for touchdowns. Finished with four playoff picks. For a linebacker now, not just any ol' linebacker for sure.
And speaking of picks.
That brings us to Walls. Come on now. Time to right that wrong from 2018 when the selection committee crushed the former Cowboys cornerback after advancing to the finals, Walls awaiting word in his Atlanta hotel room, never getting that knock he anticipated.
Here is all I've got to say about this. Walls is the only NFL player to lead the league in interceptions three times. Only. He is the only NFL rookie in the Super Bowl era to lead the league with the 11 interceptions he grabbed in 1981, to this day a Cowboys rookie record. Only.
And … and … no NFL player – pick your Hall of Fame cornerback of choice – has intercepted more passes in a single season since his 11 in 1981. Let me do that math. That is 40 years of NFL football and encompasses the careers of such Hall of Fame defensive backs as Deion Sanders, Champ Bailey, Darrell Green, Rod Woodson, Charles Woodson, Aeneas Williams, Ty Law and Ronnie Lott.
And this stood as another "only" until a Cowboys second-year corner named Trevon Diggs this past season matched those 11 interceptions, Walls cheering him on every pick of the way.
Come on now.
Oh, and let's mention that Walls, the kid from Richardson, Texas, who had to walk on at Grambling State to eventually become but an undrafted rookie in that '81 season, also added a Super Bowl ring to his Hall-worthy résumé while playing for the New York Giants in the 1990 season. Plus, Walls' five seasons leading the Cowboys in interceptions is "only" matched by Terence Newman. And his 44 regular season interceptions rank second in franchise history to only Hall of Famer Mel Renfro (52). Plus, add in four more playoff interceptions, two of those forgotten ones in that memorable "Catch" game the Cowboys lost to San Francisco in his rookie season.
And get this. Walls' career encompasses two NFL strike seasons, logging seven picks in just the nine-game 1982 season and five in the 12-games he played in a 1987 season that featured three replacement player games. No telling how many more picks he would have had if playing those 11 missing games.
Don't tell me he is not worthy.
And just to prove there is a backlog of guys associated with the Cowboys worthy of further Hall of Fame consideration, the Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and contributor committee also announced their 29 semifinal candidates for 2023, eventually trimming this group to 12 and then one. So, like what about Cowboys founder, original owner Clint Murchison Jr., now on this semifinalist list for a second time? And here is all I've got to say about that:
If not for the late Murchison, who owned the Cowboys for 23 years (1960-83), there very well might never have been the Dallas Cowboys. Don't you think that, too, is worthy of remembering in the years to come, someone who helped put not only the Cowboys but the city of Dallas on the world map.
And one more: John Wooten, a trailblazer in his own right. Wooten the second Black scholarship athlete at the University of Colorado in 1955 to only former Cowboys wide receiver Frank Clarke. A guard, Wooten was a 1959 fifth-round pick of the original Cleveland Browns, blocking during his career there for the indominable Jimmy Brown as well as eventual Browns Hall of Fame running backs Bobby Mitchell and Leroy Kelly during his nine-year career in Cleveland.
But more than that, John, after a stint as a player agent, became the Cowboys director of pro scouting from 1975 to 1991. He went on to create player development programs for the NFL in 1991, was vice president/player personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1992 and was the assistant director, pro/college scouting for the Baltimore Ravens until his retirement in 2002.
And continuing his trailblazer ways, Wooten in 2003 became chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, ushering in an era of improved coaching and front office interview opportunities for candidates of color, a position he proudly held until 2019.
See what I mean? See what I mean about all these deserving guys?
Their unique and successful stories need to be preserved, frozen in time after those of us who now tell them are long gone. And no better way to get this done than beginning the campaign for their rightful entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Now then, get to writing.