It was a pass play that the Dallas Cowboys often ran in practice but one that the running back wearing number 44 hardly completed. It was a halfback-option play, one that was designed to fool the defense since the running back rolled out to his left and had to pivot and throw across his body to execute.
Robert Newhouse was shocked head coach Tom Landry called the play in the second half of Super Bowl XII in New Orleans. This time, it rang true. The pass was placed perfectly over Golden Richards’ left shoulder, a 29-yard strike that sealed the win for the the Cowboys and gave them their second World Championship. Newhouse became the first running back to throw a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.
Newhouse died on Tuesday evening with family at his side, complications from heart disease. He was 64. Newhouse isn’t in the Ring of Honor. He’s not in the Hall of Fame. He probably wouldn’t even make the list of the top-50 players in Dallas Cowboys history. But the man they called “House” was one of the biggest cogs on a dynasty team of the 1970’s in an era in which Dallas would be branded, “America’s Team.”
He played with the Cowboys from 1972 to 1983, rushing for 4,784 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Newhouse is most remembered for that touchdown pass vs. the Broncos in the Super Bowl. What people forget, however, is that Newhouse did in that game what he always did throughout his career – fill in when needed. Rookie running back Tony Dorsett sprained his knee in the game and didn’t play in the second half. Newhouse filled in, rushing 14 times for 55 yards.
Newhouse was a role player throughout his career, but there wasn’t a player on the roster who was more of a professional. He was a short-yardage back, part of the goal-line package, and utilized often as a fullback to lead-block for Dorsett.
Former Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson once said that Newhouse had the ability to start, but never complained. He was the consummate team player, and filled whatever role Landry wanted him to play.
“House was a great football player,” former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach told FOX 4 on Tuesday. “Off the field, he was a great man, kind and caring, solid as a rock. He played fullback, tailback, you name it when we needed it.”
Newhouse wasn’t very big at 5-10 and 209 pounds, but he had impressive size and strength in his thighs (they were 44-inches!) which made him tough to bring down. Born in Longview, he grew up near Hallsville, Texas, one of six children. Newhouse had a great work ethic, earning a reputation as a hard worker on and off the field. He was the first one on the field for practice and the last one to leave.
He starred for Galilee High School in Hallsville, marveling fans with 200 and 300-yard games and his ability to shed tackles. Newhouse went on to the University of Houston, where he helped the Cougars to top-20 finishes in 1969, 1970 and 1971.
Newhouse was drafted in the second round by the Cowboys in 1972. No matter the role called upon, he was there, steady as a rock. If Landry needed a big block to clear the way for Dorsett, Newhouse obliged. If the Cowboys needed four inches on third down – No. 44 was up to the task. Or the rare Landry trick play to seal a Super Bowl – House’ll take care of it.
Newhouse will always be remembered for that play. But he’ll also be remembered as something else because of it – a world champion.