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Howley and Ware Represent Dallas Cowboys along with Thomas at 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductions 15

Posted on August 04, 2023 by Chris Kent
The Dallas Cowboys are common in Canton, Ohio.

The Dallas Cowboys are well represented in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with a total of 32 individuals enshrined who spent all or parts of their careers with the franchise. Included are former players, coaches, and front office personnel who have been crucial to Dallas winning five Super Bowls in eight appearances while producing many epic moments throughout its’ 63-year history. Iconic players like Bob Lilly, Bob Hayes, Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson, Tony Dorsett, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, and Larry Allen to name just a few, are among the all-time Cowboy greats enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

As of Saturday Aug. 5, the tally will grow to 35 with the addition of three players who spent time in Dallas, two of which played most of their careers with the Cowboys. Outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Chuck Howley spent the bulk of their careers in Dallas while middle linebacker Zack Thomas played his final season for the Cowboys after a 12-year tenure with the Miami Dolphins where he built his hall of fame profile. These three players give Dallas 19 inductees over the last 18 classes dating back to 2006 when Aikman and the late Rayfield Wright were enshrined.
This trio is part of the nine inductees in the Class of 2023 that will be enshrined this weekend. The other six enshrinees are Ronde Barber, Don Coryell, Joe Klecko, Ken Riley, Darrelle Revis, and Joe Thomas. The enshrinement ceremony is set for noon on Saturday. For a complete list of events and details go to, https://www.profootballhof.com/enshrinement/2023-enshrinement-week-schedule-of-events.

Each of these former Dallas players showed toughness, leadership, and great tenacity during their careers. With linebackers being so vital for calling formations, blitzes, and tackling opponents within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage to prevent big plays, these players have much responsibility. Their performance often dictates whether a team makes a big play or obtains a first down. Games can be won or lost by a linebacker due to issues with coverage or tackling. However that was rarely the case with each of these linebackers.

In this his 45th year of eligibility, Howley enters the hall of fame in his first year as a finalist. Howley had an inauspicious start to his pro career. Selected in the first round with the seventh overall pick by the Chicago Bears in the 1958 National Football League Draft, Howley played his first two seasons in Chicago. After suffering what was considered to be a career-ending knee injury during training camp in 1959, Howley appeared in only three games that season and then retired. After missing the entire 1960 season, Howley decided to make a comeback in 1961 after particiapting in an alumni game at his alma mater, West Virginia University. The event ignited a spark in him to give the game one more try which he did in 1961 after being traded to the Cowboys. From there on, he and Dallas never regretted it. Howley became a defensive mainstay for the next 13 seasons and was part of the Cowboys’ “Doomsday Defense” in the early 1970’s.

Chuck Howley intercepts a pass against the Baltimore Colts.

In his 180 career games played, Howley recorded 25 interceptions, scored two touchdowns, and had 26 sacks. He also recovered 18 fumbles which he returned for 191 yards – a total that still ranks seventh on the NFL’s all-time list. Howley was durable, remarkable when you consider his serious knee injury early in his career. He missed only four regular season games from 1961 to 1972 during which he played in 176 games and made 11 playoff starts leading Dallas to the first two NFL Championship games and two Super Bowls.

From 1966-1970, Howley was selected to the Pro Bowl and was named a First-Team All Pro each season. He also received Pro Bowl recognition in 1972, his sixth and final selection, and was named a second team All-Pro in 1971. In 1977, Howley was inducted into the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor. Howley had two interceptions and one forced fumble in Super Bowl V en route to being named the Most Valuable Player despite a 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Colts in 1971. To this day, Howley holds the distinction of being the only player from the losing team to be named MVP of the Super Bowl. The following season, Howley helped Dallas win its’ first Super Bowl with an interception and a fumble recovery in a 24-3 win over Miami in Super Bowl VI.

Like Howley, Ware was also a mainstay at outside linebacker for the Cowboys. He played nine seasons for Dallas before spending his final three seasons with the Denver Broncos. Drafted with the 11th pick in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft out of little known Troy University in Troy, AL, Ware entered the league with something to proove. It did not take him long to do so as he finished his rookie season with 58 tackles and a team-best eight sacks while starting all 16 games for the Cowboys. That was a sign of things to come as the 6-4 258-pound linebacker went on to record double-digit sack totals in each of the next seven seasons, all team-bests, during which he did not miss a single regular season game. Ware’s career-high 20 sacks in 2008 and 15.5 sacks in 2010 both lead the league.
Ware played on only one team with a losing record over his 12-year career and was part of team’s that made five playoff appearances. During the 2013 season, his final one in Dallas, Ware become the Cowboys’ all-time leader in sacks with 117, a record that still stands. Ware always had to be accounted for by opposing offenses and was a dominant player who would also line up at defensive end on occassion.

DeMarcus Ware used his size and strength to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

After signing with Denver in 2014, Ware totaled 21.5 sacks over the next three seasons. Ware had three solo tackles, two assists, two sacks, and four hits on the quarterback helping the Broncos to a 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl L following the 2015 season. Ware finished his career with 138.5 sacks and intercepted three passess for 44 yards and one touchdown. He also returned two fumbles for touchdowns. Selected to nine Pro Bowls, Ware was voted first-team All-Pro four times and second-team All-Pro three times. Ware is also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s. In 2016, Ware was honored by the Broncos with the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award, an annual award the franchise presents to a player from their team “who best exemplifies Williams’ enthusiasm, cooperation, and honesty while dealing with members of the press.”

These same kind of honors were also earned by Zack Thomas who produced similar statistics as Ware. Although undersized at 5-11 he packed a punch at 235 pounds and was a relentless hard-nosed player built on toughness and grit. While not the biggest or the fastest, Thomas made up for it with great knowledge and a strong sense of anticipation. Thomas credits his success to his meticulous preparation helping him to always know where the play was going.

While he played his final season in Dallas in 2008, Thomas enters the hall based on his terriffic 12-year career with the Miami Dolphins where he played for former Cowboys’ head coach Jimmy Johnson from 1996-99. A versatile middle linebacker from Texas Tech, Thomas made an immediate impact for Miami after being drafted in the fifth round with the 154th overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Thomas had 131 tackles, 49 assisted tackles, two sacks, and three interceptions to earn the team’s MVP award. He was also named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Zach Thomas used his toughness and smarts to run down ball carriers and accumulate tackle after tackle.

Thomas lead the team in tackles in 10 of his 12 seasons with the Dolphins. A tackling machine, Thomas racked up 100 tackles in each of his first 11 seasons in Miami. His play was pivotal in helping the Dolphins make the playoffs five straight seasons from 1997-2001. In a playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens following the 2001 season, Thomas had 22 tackles including 14 solo. Thomas finished his career with 20.5 sacks and totaled 17 interceptions for 170 yards and four touchdowns, a Dolphins career record for interceptions returned for a touchdown. Thomas played in 184 games including 168 starts, the most in team history by a defensive player. Voted a first-team All-Pro five times and a second-team All-Pro twice, Thomas was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was also named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000’s. Thomas was also the first player in Dolphin’s history to win the team’s Leadership Award three times.

Howley, Ware, and Thomas. Three players who spent time in Dallas. Whether it was just for a short time or for most of a lengthy career, these players are part of this legendary franchise that is a five-time Super Bowl Champion with many iconic individuals and moments. As they enter the hall of fame this weekend, the star is shinning a little brighter on the helmet for this proud franchise that is always in search of its’ next individual to receive a hall call.

Credit: https://www.profootballhof.com/hall-of-famers/class-of-2023

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