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Chuck Howley


Athlete Charles Louis ‘‘Chuck’’ Howley was born in Wheeling, June 28, 1936. He attended Warwood High School, where he starred in football and basketball, and in 1954 he enrolled at West Virginia University. There he lettered in an unprecedented total of five sports. Between 1955 and 1957, Howley played football and was named to the All Southern Conference team three times. He was also a sprinter, a heavyweight wrestler, a trampolinist, and a diver. He was the Southern Conference Athlete of the Year in 1956. He became the first, and as WVU’s Athletic Department notes, “likely the last, Mountaineer student-athlete to win letters in five different sports.”

In 1958, Howley was drafted by the Chicago Bears of the National Football League but left the team with a knee injury the next year. Howley returned to Wheeling and spent 1960 working at a gas station. A Chicago teammate suggested Howley to coach Tom Landry, who was starting the Dallas Cowboys team. Howley played linebacker for 12 seasons for Dallas, 1961–73. He was named All-Pro six times and named to six Pro Bowls. With teammate Bob Lilly, he anchored the so-called Doomsday Defense and served as the foundation for one of the most successful teams in NFL history. He played for Dallas in the 1967 ‘‘Ice Bowl,’’ losing to the Green Bay Packers in subzero weather.

In 1971, although Dallas lost Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts, Howley was named the Most Valuable Player, the only player on a losing team ever to win this award. The next year, Dallas won its first Super Bowl championship, beating Miami. Chuck Howley retired after the 1973 season and entered business in Dallas. He later ran a uniform rental business and was part of a foundation that breeds quarter horses in Wills Point, Texas.

He was inducted into the inaugural class of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. In 2023, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, becoming the third former WVU player inducted, after Sam Huff and Joe Stydahar. In a home game on November 4, 2023, WVU retired Howley’s number 66 jersey. He joined Major Harris (#9), Ira “Rat” Rodgers (#21), Huff (#75), Bruce Bosley (#77), and Darryl Talley (#90) as the only WVU football players to have their numbers retired. Two weeks later, former WVU coach Don Nehlen’s name was placed alongside the players’ numbered jerseys.

Written by Tom Haas