Comedian Richard Pryor was once asked how he would like to be remembered. He said, “I want people to look at my picture, remember, and laugh. I would like to leave some joy.” This guy was always a pleasure to watch and a joy to have known. He was shorter than the program stated, with 44-inch thighs that resembled twin jet-engines. At 209 pounds, power was his forte. Built close to the ground like a fire hydrant, he could churn up defenses like a high-speed lawnmower. Undersized for a pro football player, his stats didn’t measure his heart. His ticker weighed a ton. Handing this guy a football was like giving Wyatt Earp a handgun, LeBron James an outlet pass, or Mike Trout an extra strike; something incredible was about to happen. This guy ran tough; it was like trying to tackle a Pepsi machine. He simply sawed defensive linebackers in half at the line of scrimmage. He was never late to anything in his life including moving the chains for a first down. His job was to cut a path to the end zone for the running back or stop all oncoming traffic in the backfield, while keeping his quarterback standing upright and his uniform clean. Dallas Cowboy offensive guard, John Niland, once said, “If we needed three yards or less for a first down, we knew we had it. Give Robert the ball, and we had it. We’d block a yard and a half, and he’d get the other yard and a half on his own. It was a given.” Robert Newhouse played like he had invented the fullback position. I can hear Verne Lundquist now, “There goes Newhouse busting it up the middle.” His teammates called him “House.”
Robert Fulton Newhouse was born on January 9, 1950, in Longview, Texas, and played football at nearby Galilee High School in Hallsville, Texas. Although he rushed for 200 yards and sometimes over 300 yards per game in high school, he was only recruited by one Division I school, the University of Houston. With Robert Newhouse running the ball, Houston finished 9-2 in 1969 and was ranked 12th in the nation. In 1970, Houston finished 8-3 and was ranked 19th. In 1971, before his senior season started at Houston, Newhouse cracked his pelvis in a car accident. He chose to play though the pain and propelled Houston to a 9-3 record and a ranking of 17th in the nation. Newhouse was selected Second-Team All-American by the Associated Press.
Newhouse still holds the University of Houston’s all-time rushing record for a single season with 1,757 yards. Newhouse broke many other school records, some of which still stand today. He had ten 100-yard games in a season (1971), sixteen 100-yard games in a career, and the most 200-yard games in a season, with three. Back when the College All-Stars played the Super Bowl Champions from the year before, Newhouse scored a touchdown against the Cowboys. I always wondered if that touchdown had anything to do with the Cowboys’ drafting him. Robert Newhouse also played in the Hula Bowl and was inducted into the University of Houston’s Athletics Hall of Honor in 1977. Robert Newhouse is also a member of the Texas Black Hall of Fame.
Newhouse played 12 seasons under the “Man with the Hat” legendary Hall-of-Fame Coach Tom Landry. House was selected by the Cowboys in the second round of the 1972 NFL draft. He was given #44. During the 1973 season, House recorded his longest run from scrimmage, 54 yards, against the Philadelphia Eagles. He switched from halfback to fullback to replace a retiring Walt Garrison and became a starter in 1975. He would make his presence felt that year by leading the Cowboys in rushing with 930 yards and was listed ninth in the league with 4.4-yards per carry. By 1977, Tony Dorsett had been drafted and House became more of a blocking back for Dorsett and Calvin Hill. By 1980, Newhouse began splitting time in the backfield with Ron Springs. He would continue to play sparingly until he retired after the 1983 season.
The play was called: “brown right, X-opposite shift, toss 38, halfback lead, fullback pass to Y.” Dallas was leading 20-10 with seven minutes to go, in Super Bowl XII. The Denver Broncos had just fumbled and Dallas recovered the ball on the Broncos’ 29-yard line. Coach Landry sensed that Denver was on the ropes and called for a trick play to seal the victory. Newhouse was nervous in the huddle. “I was worried because I had all this stickum on my hands, said Newhouse. “Preston Pearson handed me this rag, and I was in there, scrubbing it all. They’d seen us run the play right but not to the left, and so they didn’t recognize it in time.” At the snap, Newhouse took a pitch from quarterback Roger Staubach and began running to his left, as if he were going to run down the sideline. Instead, he stopped quickly, turned and threw back to the right, over the outstretched hands of Denver defensive back Steve Foley, hitting wide receiver Golden Richards in stride for a 29-yard touchdown. The Dallas Cowboys would go on to win their second Super Bowl title by a score of 27-10. Landry said after the game, “Newhouse’s pass play won it for us.” Robert Newhouse became the first running back to pass for a touchdown in Super Bowl history. “The thing I remember most about that halfback option play we ran against Denver,” said former Cowboy personnel director Gil Brandt, “is that we ran it going left, and it’s a lot harder to go left than right. During the week they must’ve practiced the play ten times, and he never completed it. And that was going right. Here it is going left, and he completed it.”
Newhouse finished his Cowboy career with 4,784 yards rushing, 956 yards receiving and scored 31 touchdowns. He averaged over an astounding four yards per carry. He also participated in three Super Bowls during the 1970’s (X, XII, and XIII). I believe he should be in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor.
After retirement, Newhouse worked another 29 years for the Cowboys. He worked with ticket sales, the Cowboys’ alumni relations programs, minority procurement, and helped with the players’ development off the field. Part of Newhouse’s job was providing the community opportunities to experience the Cowboys and their players in a different setting. For years the Cowboys’ basketball team would travel to Corpus Christi, Texas, and play a charity basketball game at Ray High School. That’s when I first met Robert Newhouse. Later on, I had a chance to do play-by-play with my radio partner, Shane Nelson, on 97.5 The Waves. I also got to meet Michael Irvin, Leon Lett, and many others. Newhouse was a class act but he couldn’t shoot a lick. He left the Cowboys’ employment in 2008.
Robert Newhouse suffered a stroke in 2010. Doctors had been treating him and hoping he would become healthy enough to withstand the surgery required for a heart transplant. Newhouse was confined to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, at the time of his death. “My dad’s last days were terrible,’ said his son, Rodd Newhouse. Former Dallas Cowboy, Robert Newhouse, died from complications of heart disease on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. He was but 64 years old. He is survived by his wife Nancy, twin daughters Dawnyel and Shawntel, two sons Roderick and Reggie, a former wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals.
“House was a great football player,” said Roger Staubach. “Off the field, he was a great man, kind and caring, solid as a rock.”
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” The only thing that could keep Robert Newhouse out of the end zone of life was time. Come on, admit it. He was the kind of guy you wished you had on your team.
Andy Purvis is a local author. His books "In the Company of Greatness","Remembered Greatness" and “Greatness Continued” are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc. They are also available in e-reader format. Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.