Robert Newhouse, the former standout fullback who played in three Super Bowls for the Cowboys, died Tuesday after an extended battle with heart disease.
He was 64. Newhouse died at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., with his immediate family by his side. Newhouse, who suffered a stroke in the summer of 2010, had been at the Mayo Clinic the last few months. Arrangements for a funeral in Dallas are pending.
“The mental picture everyone had of Robert Newhouse of going for that last yard was absolutely everything he did. He fought until the very end,” said his son Roddrick. “He would not quit.”
Newhouse is also survived by his wife Nancy; twin daughters Dawnyel and Shawntel; and son Reggie, who played receiver for the Arizona Cardinals in 2004-05.
The Cowboys had no official comment late Tuesday night.
Newhouse was born in Longview and played high school football at nearby Galilee in Hallsville. His only scholarship offer was from Houston, where he became a standout running back for the Cougars from 1969 to 1971. Newhouse finished his college career as Houston’s all-time leading rusher, breaking many of the school’s records. In 1977, he was inducted into the University of Houston Athletics Hall of Honor.
The Cowboys drafted Newhouse in the second round in 1972 and he played 12 seasons for coach Tom Landry.
Newhouse was primarily used as a blocking fullback in the I formation, leading the way for Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett, but he was also known for his power rushing ability. He had perhaps the NFL’s largest thighs at 44 inches.
“He was like a bowling ball out there,” Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach said Tuesday. “Robert was just a team player. Everybody liked him. I don’t know anybody who didn’t think the world of Robert Newhouse.
“Robert was a tough guy, a great guy. It’s a real shame. He’s been fighting the fight, and it’s been a tough deal for him.”
Newhouse led the Cowboys in rushing with 930 yards in 1975 and retired after the 1983 season. He’s the team’s fifth all-time leading rusher with 4,784 yards.
“We kept putting out there 4,784 plus one more yard,” Roddrick said. “We had shirts made up. He touched a lot of people. A lot of people used to tell me, ‘Your dad should be in the [Cowboys] Ring of Honor. Maybe he should have, maybe he shouldn’t, but it was never a concern of his. He was the blue-collar guy.”
Newhouse played in three Super Bowls for the Cowboys in the 1970s. He helped them beat Denver in Super Bowl XII, with his most famous play coming in the fourth quarter. Newhouse became the first running back to throw a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl when he fired a 29-yard scoring strike to Golden Richards on a halfback pass to put the game away.
“He threw the pass going to his left,” Staubach said. “That is what amazed all of us.”
Roddrick Newhouse said his father worked for the Cowboys for 29 years up until 2008. He said his father helped the Cowboys with ticket sales, alumi relations, minority procurement and as a player programs director.
“He told me one day that he was scared every day that he played. He was scared to get cut,” Roddrick said. “He never told a lot of people that. But that’s what made him so good. I smiled when he told me that. For me, it was kind of brilliant.”
Drew Pearson played alongside Newhouse. His daughter Britni grew up with Dawnyel and Shawntel Newhouse. Britni had been in contact with the twins and passed along to her father that Newhouse was in bad shape.
“I knew over the weekend that he was in pretty grave condition,” Pearson said. “Still, this is Robert Newhouse. The House I remember is one of the toughest Dallas Cowboys ever. He lived life like he played on the field. He took hits and kept going and never let it stop him or slow him down.
“You just thought this was another tackle House is going to break or another thing he’s going to run through and be OK eventually. You never gave up hope because you knew this is Robert Newhouse.”
Pearson believes Newhouse never got the credit he deserved for having great hands. He never heard him complain when he was asked to cover kicks near the end of his career. He remembers how Newhouse would rush to shower and change after practices so he could attend class at UT-Dallas to prepare for his life after football.
“He’s a special guy,’’ Pearson said. “We’re going to miss him.’’