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Memory Lane: Dallas Cowboys trade for linebacker Chuck Howley in 1961

Back on June 14, 1961, the young Dallas Cowboys traded for one of their first stars when they landed Chuck Howley from the Chicago Bears.
Credit: AP
Chuck Howley, 15-year veteran of the NFL wars, once again reports for practice with the Dallas Cowboys, Sept. 19, 1973. He retired at the end of the 1972 season but has been pressed back into service by the Cowboys due to their lack of depth in the linebacker corps. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman)

DALLAS — The expansion Dallas Cowboys wanted to do more than tie in their second season of existence, and sought to beef up their linebacking corps by trading for Chuck Howley.

The Cowboys acquired the former 1958 first round pick on June 14, 1961 by dealing a 1963 second-rounder and a 1963 ninth-rounder to the Chicago Bears for the 6-3, 228-pound linebacker.

Chicago was willing to part with Howley. Injuries plagued his tenure with the Bears, and the former West Virginia Mountaineer missed all of 1960. With just 15 games under his belt, the loss of Howley wasn't that impactful since the Monsters of the Midway still had future Hall-of-Famer Bill George, Pro Bowler Joe Fortunato, and Larry Morris in their linebacking corps.

Howley bounced back with Dallas and started in the 13 games he played in 1961, the most of his career to that point. Defensive stats weren't as well kept as they are in today's NFL, but Howley's presence in the front seven is evident by his streak of seasons with at least an interception from 1961-64.

1965 is the season the Cowboys started to turn the corner, and it is reflected in Howley earning his first career Pro Bowl. At this point of his career Howley was playing in all 14 games a season, a streak that would not be broken until 1972 when he played in 13.

From 1965-71, Howley earned six Pro Bowl selections and five All-Pro honors. In 1968, Howley grabbed six interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. The linebacker was one of the playmakers for Tom Landry's flex 4-3 defense, and he was also part of the "bridesmaids of the NFL," as the Cowboys were dubbed following their string of championship failures from 1966-70.

In Super Bowl V, Howley earned the distinction for being one of the only players in NFL history to win Super Bowl MVP while playing for the losing team. In the 16-13 disaster against the Baltimore Colts in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Howley intercepted two passes and recorded two tackles. The linebacker's efforts were only keeping Dallas in the mire with the Colts, not elevating them to victory.

Howley and the Cowboys would return to the Super Bowl the following season. Though Howley did not win MVP, even though he intercepted Miami Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese and recovered a fumble, he was a part of a defense that held the opposition to just three points, a Super Bowl record that still stands to this day.

Injuries in the 1972 season curtailed Howley's play. In his final year of 1973, the former Super Bowl MVP appeared in just one game.

"The Bears weren't that high on him, and we traded a song for him, and he turned out to be one of our greatest players," former Cowboys president and general manager said in Peter Golenbock's Landry's Boys.

Howley was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 1977. However, he has failed to make it out of the finalist stage to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With the Hall of Fame clearing its backlog of senior candidates due to its centennial class of 2020, Howley's chances to finally be inducted should only improve.

What are your grandparent’s favorite memories from Chuck Howley’s time with the Cowboys? Share ‘em with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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