STAR CROSSED MEMORIES STAR CROSSED MEMORIES
One Cowboys linebacker found unlikely ways
to stake his claim to Super Bowl fame.
by Chuck Howley
f all the individual records in Super
Bowl history, I hold one that may
never be matched. I’m the only Most
Valuable Player from the losing team.
I also may hold an unofficial Super Bowl
record for most yards gained on an interception
before tripping myself on the way to what
should have been an easy touchdown.
The irony of those feats is that I won the
highest individual honor in defeat and produced
my most embarrassing memory in victory.
Super Bowl V matched my team, the Dallas
Cowboys, against the Baltimore Colts. It was a
crazy, mixed-up game. We forced seven of the
game’s 11 turnovers…and still lost. I was in the
right place at the right time often enough to
recover a fumble and intercept two passes, one
of them in the end zone that stopped a scoring drive. But nothing any of
us did prevented Jim O’Brien from kicking a 32-yard field goal with five
seconds remaining to win the game for the Colts, 16-13.
In the locker room afterward, teammates were saying, “Hey Chuck,
you got the MVP.” It was true, but how do you react to a personal award
after losing a game of that magnitude? It was the biggest game of my
So it was difficult to enjoy being MVP. How do you celebrate that?
I remember some of the guys telling me, “Chuck, that’s fantastic.” But I
couldn’t be enthusiastic. I felt that we left some unfinished business out
on the field.
A month or so later, I realized that being the MVP was special
because I was able to accomplish something that had never been done
before. But as far as celebrating right there, no, it was too difficult. The
honor means even more to me today because people still remember it all
these years later. In that respect, if I wasn’t MVP, I don’t think they’d
recall who I was or anything else I did during my 13-year NFL career.
Losing in the Super Bowl was bad enough. What happened later
added more frustration. Our team became tagged with a mocking nickname because we’d been beaten in five straight playoffs. We lost to
Green Bay for the NFL title in 1966 and 1967 (we were stopped at the
Packers’ goal line in the first one and were beaten in the infamous Ice
Bowl the following year), then came consecutive upsets to Cleveland
in the first round of the playoffs, and now the loss to the Colts.
The Cowboys became known as “Next Year’s Champions.” Nobody
likes to be called that. It’s an earmark to emphasize you’ve lost great
opportunities. We didn’t want any more of
Our guys knew we were going to win
Super Bowl VI against a young, maturing
Miami team that a year later posted the NFL’s
only undefeated season. We’d embarrassed
ourselves by losing the previous Super Bowl.
This one was different.
We were dominant, winning 24-3. There
weren’t any nerves or jitters like the first time.
We’d been there and done that. There was
only one thing to do this time…and that was to
win, which we did, and I helped with a fumble
recovery and an interception.
Fortunately, the play where I had my pratfall didn’t influence the outcome. We were
already ahead, 17-3, and ended up scoring
three plays later. Still, the only way I can explain what happened is to say
my body went faster than my feet. That’s how I tripped in open field on
my way to a trot-in touchdown.
It started when Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese faded back to pass.
As he did, I made my drop, got my feet tangled and fell down. How’s
that for coincidence? I began and ended the play by losing my balance.
During the instant I lay flat, Griese lost sight of me and threw a pass
intended for Jim Kiick, who was open behind me. I got to my feet in a
direct line with the ball, caught it, and took off the other way. I ran 41
yards to the Miami 9-yard line with no opposing player between me and
the end zone. That’s where I went down again, highly embarrassed. I’ve
relived that scenario a few times. My disappointment faded, though,
because when the final whistle sounded, the Cowboys had won their
first Super Bowl championship.
Those Super Bowls were played some 40 years ago, yet I still get fan
mail daily. To my surprise, a few come from overseas. I gather the mail
and reply at the end of each month, except for those from out of the
country. I answer those letters on the day they arrive. How did they get
to be Super Bowl fans? You wonder how they’re even aware of you.
Like I said, I don’t think I’d be remembered if not for that MVP
award. And I’ll always treasure it and what it means. Even more, I know
that losing that game was what motivated me—and my teammates—
to the ultimate triumph one year later. q
Chuck Howley retired from football in 1973. He lives in Dallas with his wife,
Nancy, and owns Uniforms Inc., a uniform rental company he founded in the 1960s.
264 SUPER BOWL XLV