/Click here to view the Ultimate 53-man depth chart.
The most important part of each season may be the daily practice grind in July and August, when a team is truly built. As a countdown to this year's training camp, we celebrate the 53rd year of Cowboys football by constructing the team's all-time 53-man roster, picking one player for each season.
Not selecting the 53 best players in club history, DallasCowboys.com has constructed the ultimate team, filling out the depth chart and making room for contributors at every position, including special teams, while at the same time looking ahead to how this year's 53-man roster might shake out.
The series continues today with 1961 and linebacker Chuck Howley
Name: Chuck Howley
College: West Virginia
Cowboys Tenure: 1961-73
Why Him? For 13 seasons, there weren't many players on the Cowboys' roster or any team in the league who produced to the level of Howley, who was not only a great tackler, but had a nose for the football. Even from his linebacker position, Howley recorded 24 interceptions, which stands for 10th on the Cowboys' all-time list. To this day, he is the only player in Super Bowl history to win MVP honors from a losing team. Howley intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble despite the Cowboys' 16-13 loss to Baltimore in Super Bowl V. Still, he anchored a defense alongside Bob Lilly that got the Cowboys back to the Super Bowl the next year and shut down a Miami offense to give the franchise its first-ever championships. Howley made six Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro five times.
The Role: While the Cowboys played a different defense back in the early 1960s, Howley was one of the more instinctive players in franchise history, especially at linebacker. On this 53-man roster, he will play at /inside linebacker as one of the starters. His ability to read quarterbacks and make plays in the middle of the field is vital at the inside position. There will be some other linebackers on this squad, but Howley is certainly a player that can provide leadership and stability in the middle of the field.
Back To The Future: For the 2012 season, the Cowboys have a pair of linebackers who have similar qualities to Howley, who actually started his career in Chicago for two seasons before moving over to Dallas in 1961, where he finally blossomed into a star. The Cowboys would love for Dan Connor to take his game to the next level after spending four seasons with the Panthers. His role is somewhat undefined as he joins a linebacker corps that includes Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. As for Lee, his game is similar to Howley in that he also has a nose for the ball. Last year, Lee tied for the team lead with four interceptions and picked off two passes as a rookie – both against future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.