Robert Newhouse, a standout on the Dallas Cowboys teams of the Tom Landry era, died on July 22 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he had been receiving treatment for heart disease. He was 64. Newhouse suffered a stroke in 2010. Arrangements for a funeral in Dallas are pending.
A powerful and versatile fullback, Newhouse had East Texas roots. He was born in Longview and played high school football at Galilee High School in Hallsville. Newhouse went on to play running back for the University of Houston from 1969-71, during which time he became the Cougars’ all-time leading rusher.
The 1971 Houston team finished 9-3 and ranked 17th nationally. Newhouse finished with 1,757 rushing yards, third in the nation (average 6.3 yards per carry).
Dallas drafted Newhouse in the second round of the 1972 draft and he played 12 seasons for the Cowboys. He retired after the 1983 season with 4,784 rushing yards, currently fifth in team history.
A power runner famously compared to a “bowling ball” by quarterback Roger Staubach, Newhouse eventually settled into the starting fullback role for Dallas. Conventional wisdom in the NFL held that Newhouse’s 44-inch thighs were the largest in the league. Standing 5’10” and weighing about 210, Newhouse used his low center of gravity to deflect or rumble past attempted tackles and blocks.
“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,” his son Roddrick told The Dallas Morning News. “He would not quit.”
Newhouse is survived by Roddrick; his wife Nancy; his daughters Dawnyel and Shawntel; and son Reggie, who played for the Arizona Cardinals in 2004-05.
Despite often being used as a blocker for tailback Preston Pearson, Newhouse led the team in rushing yards in 1975 with 930. In later years, Newhouse helped clear the way for eventual Hall-of-Fame running back Tony Dorsett.
Newhouse played for Dallas in the Cowboys’ two heartbreaking Super Bowl losses to Pittsburgh (SB X and SB XIII). But his most famous Super Bowl moment came during Dallas’ 27-10 defeat of Denver in SB XII in 1979. In the game’s closing minutes, Newhouse deftly lobbed a 29-yard pass to wide receiver Golden Richards for the game’s final touchdown, also the first touchdown pass by a running back in Super Bowl history.
“He threw the pass going to his left,” Staubach said. “That is what amazed all of us.”
Former teammate Drew Pearson, the Cowboys’ featured wide receiver during that era, told The Dallas Morning News that while he knew Newhouse was seriously ill, Pearson didn’t lose hope that his famously tenacious friend would pull through.
“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.”