Charles Louis "Chuck" Howley (born June 28, 1936,
in Wheeling, West Virginia) is a former football linebacker in the
National Football League. He spent his career with the Chicago Bears
and Dallas Cowboys.
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 was the
Southern Conference Player of the Year in 1957. Howley not only
lettered in football, but also in track, diving, gymnastics, and
He won a Southern Conference one-meter diving
Although he was a incredible athlete who could
play any position on the football field, Howley played guard and
center during his three years at varsity, and 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 was
All-Southern Conference for three years and was named Southern
Conference Athlete of the Year his junior year.
He played in three college all-star games—the
East-West Shrine Game, the College Football All-Star Game and the
Senior Bowl, which gained notice by the Chicago Bears.
Howley is a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.
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
Cowboys, made the gamble to try to perfect his 'Doomsday Defense'.
The gamble paid off, 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.
He teamed up with Edwards and Lee Roy Jordan to
form one of the greatest linebacking corps in NFL history.
Howley played with the Cowboys for 165 games over
thirteen seasons, playing in two NFL Championships and helping the
Cowboys to 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 that a defensive
player received the honor; to this day, it is 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 great performance was under
MVP-consideration, but his teammate Roger Staubach won the MVP
honor. He always maintained a reputation for playing well in the big
games. He also had a reputation as a big-play producer and studied
game films looking for opportunities to produce a "turn around"
During his career, Howley intercepted 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 5˝ 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.
However, he has not yet been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of
Fame, though he has been inducted into the West Virginia Athletics
Hall of Fame.
Howley is still arguably the greatest linebacker
in the history of the Dallas Cowboys. When he retired, Tom Landry
said "I don’t know that I’ve seen anybody better at linebacker than
Post NFL activities
Following retirement, Howley ran a successful
uniform rental business in Dallas and is now involved in a
foundation dedicated to breeding quarter horses at Happy Hollow,
located in Wills Point, Texas. His broodmare herd consists of more
than 50 mares.
Howley lives in the Preston Hollow neighborhood
of north Dallas.