Chuck Howley of the Cowboys is the only Super Bowl MVP from a losing team. Now he's a Hall of Famer (2024)

DALLAS (AP) — Chuck Howley brought home a cowboy blue Dodge Charger after being named MVP of Super Bowl 5 — still the only losing player to earn the honor all these years later.

The son of the former Dallas Cowboys linebacker was sure his dad would give him that car when he was old enough to drive, which would have put him on a short list of coolest teenagers in Dallas.

“I guess my mom got a hold of him, and the next day in its place was parked a wood panel-sided station wagon, and I was just crushed,” Scott Howley said. “And I asked him, ‘What’d you do?’”

The younger Howley enjoys telling that story with his 87-year-old father headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, something more significant to go with his quirky Super Bowl claim to fame.

The answer for a devastated son about the disappearing Charger was simple, of course.

NFL contracts then weren’t what they are today, and Howley was the father of two. Cars needed a practical use, even for a football star who had just intercepted two passes and forced a fumble in a 16-13 Super Bowl loss to Baltimore.

“That’s just the way it was,” Scott Howley said. “And that’s the way he was. He was very quiet and never really talked much about anything.”


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A year after the loss to the Colts that prompted star defensive tackle Bob Lilly to fling his helmet in frustration, Howley had an interception and a fumble recovery when the Cowboys finally broke through for their first championship to cap the 1971 season.

Quarterback Roger Staubach was the MVP in a 24-3 victory over Miami, but Lilly and Howley anchored the “Doomsday Defense” when the Cowboys were on their way to becoming “America’s Team” in the 1970s.

The first of Howley’s two standout Super Bowls capped the last of his five consecutive All-Pro seasons, and he was a six-time Pro Bowler. He made the Hall of Fame in the senior category, for players who have been retired at least 25 years.

The choice was long overdue in the eyes of Gil Brandt, Dallas’ personnel chief for the franchise’s first 29 seasons and a Hall of Fame inductee four years ago.

“I don’t think there was ever a better pound-for-pound player in the National Football League than Chuck Howley,” Brandt said. “As a pass rusher, as a linebacker, as a defensive lineman, as a person.”

The Chicago Bears drafted Howley — still the only athlete to letter in five sports at West Virginia, where he played offensive line — in the first round in 1958. He retired after sustaining a serious knee injury his second year, returning to his home state to run a gas station.

He wasn’t out of the NFL for long.

After playing well in a Mountaineers alumni game, he decided to try again, and Brandt acquired his rights in exchange for draft picks in 1961. Howley spent 13 years with the Cowboys, and his 24 interceptions with Dallas are second among linebackers in club history behind Lee Roy Jordan.

“If he saw a slot receiver doing something, he could catch most of them,” Lilly said. “He had the ability and he obviously had a good mind for it. He was probably looking at it from a notch above most of us.”

Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry, who led the team along with Brandt and general manager Tex Schramm for the franchise’s first 29 years, was a stickler for the scheme. Howley was one of the few he let get away with freelancing.

Scott Howley said that while his dad is in great shape physically for his age, dementia has affected his ability to communicate. The former linebacker’s neurologist doesn’t believe the cognitive issues are a result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, according to Scott.

The condition can’t be diagnosed until after a person dies, and Scott Howley said his dad doesn’t want to have his brain screened for the presence of CTE.

Howley ran an industrial laundry business while still playing for the Cowboys, a career that continued after he retired in 1973. Lilly said Howley often disappeared as soon as practice was over while teammates went to the locker room and made plans for dinner or racquetball.

“Sometimes he was still combing his hair,” Lilly said. “But he was gone shortly thereafter.”

Howley and his teammates in the locker room didn’t know what to do when they were told he had be named MVP after the loss to the Colts. He was the first of 10 defensive players who have won it.

“He thought they were kidding when they came into the locker room and told him he’d gotten the MVP,” Scott Howley said. “He thought, ‘I’m on a losing team. That never happens.’”

For 52 years and counting since then, Howley has been right.


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Chuck Howley of the Cowboys is the only Super Bowl MVP from a losing team. Now he's a Hall of Famer (2024)


Why did Chuck Howley win the Super Bowl in the MVP? ›

In Super Bowl V, one of the sloppiest championship games, Howley intercepted two passes and forced a fumble. With both offenses stumbling, he kept Dallas in the contest, but Jim O'Brien's last-minute field goal won the game for Baltimore. Howley didn't believe the news when told he was the game's MVP.

Why wasn't Chuck Howley at the Hall of Fame? ›

Chuck Howley has dealt with dementia for years and was not in Canton for the event. Scott Howley told the crowd before him that his father wasn't just a hall of fame player, but a hall of fame person.

Has there ever been a Super Bowl MVP that wasn t on the winning team? ›

Only once has the MVP come from the losing team—in Super Bowl V when Dallas Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley won despite the Cowboys losing to the Baltimore Colts 16-13. He became the first non-quarterback MVP after recording two interceptions and a forced fumble.

Has a cowboy ever won MVP? ›

No award carries more weight than the MVP, a career-defining honor that has only been awarded to one Cowboys player in franchise history. While Emmitt Smith was able to win it in 1993, many other Cowboys, including Dak Prescott this year, have been a finalist.

Who is the only MVP on the losing team in the Super Bowl? ›

The answer is yes, it has happened...just once. Chuck Howley is the only player in NFL history to win Super Bowl MVP after his team lost the game, taking home the award in 1971 after his Dallas Cowboys fell to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 5.

Has anyone ever won MVP and the Super Bowl in the same season? ›

Thirteen awardees also won the Super Bowl (or NFL Championship Game prior to 1966) in the same season. However, this did not occur from 2000 to 2022.

Does Roger Staubach have Alzheimer's? ›

Staubach, 71, said he hasn't suffered from any of the ailments as other players of his generation — diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ALS or dementia.

Has there ever been an NFL MVP on a losing team? ›

Chuck Howley of the Cowboys is the only Super Bowl MVP from a losing team. Now he's a Hall of Famer. DALLAS (AP) — Chuck Howley brought home a cowboy blue Dodge Charger after being named MVP of Super Bowl 5 — still the only losing player to earn the honor all these years later.

Will Chuck Howley make the Hall of Fame? ›

"The Knock": Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 member Chuck Howley learns of his election. Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 member CHUCK HOWLEY(Opens in a new window) learned of his election from fellow Hall of Famer ROGER STAUBACH(Opens in a new window).

How fast was Chuck Howley? ›

Chuck e had a lot to learn about playing linebacker, but at 6-2 and 225 pounds and with 10.1 hundred speed he had the size and mobility to develop. And develop he did. In 1963 The Sporting News named him to the all-east NFL squad.

Who was the last cowboy to win MVP? ›

Interesting fact, the only Cowboy to win a MVP award is Emmitt Smith.

Who is the 2024 Super Bowl MVP? ›

The man who didn't cry Sunday night, who simply exhaled — over and over and over again — was the NFL's most talented quarterback, the league's biggest game-altering superstar, the MVP of Super Bowl LVIII: Patrick Mahomes.

Did Dak Prescott ever get MVP? ›

Dak Prescott has not won the MVP award in his career.

Which team has won the most Super Bowls? What team has the best record as an underdog since 2018? Who had the most wins as an underdog last season?

How many Super Bowl MVPs do the Cowboys have? ›

Harvey Martin and Randy White were named co-MVPs of Super Bowl XII, the only time co-MVPs have been chosen. Including the Super Bowl XII co-MVPs, seven Cowboys players have won Super Bowl MVP awards, the most of any NFL team.

How many MVPs do Cowboys have? ›

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Dallas Cowboys141

Who is the oldest player to win Super Bowl MVP? ›

Unsurprisingly, Tom Brady is the oldest NFL player to ever win Super Bowl MVP. He was 43 years and 188 days old at the time. Brady won five Super Bowl MVPs throughout his career, in Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII, XLIX, LI and LV.

Who is the favorite to win MVP in the Super Bowl? ›

Chiefs' MVP pick for 2024 Super Bowl: QB Patrick Mahomes (+140) Unsurprisingly, Mahomes enters the Super Bowl 54 rematch as the game's reigning MVP and odds-on-favorite for the award on all sports betting sites in New Jersey.

Who was named the most valuable player MVP in Super Bowl I? ›

Bart Starr

Who was the last person to win MVP and Super Bowl? ›

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes -- already the first player to win league MVP and Super Bowl MVP before his 25th birthday -- joined a select group of players by winning MVP of Super Bowl LVIII, which Kansas City won 25-22 over the San Francisco 49ers to cap off the 2023 season.


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