Howton on a 1952 Bowman football card
|No. 86, 81|
|Date of birth:||July 5, 1930|
|Place of birth:||Littlefield, Texas|
|NFL draft:||1952 / Round: 2 / Pick: 15|
|Career highlights and awards|
Career NFL statistics as of 1963
|Stats at NFL.com|
William Harris "Billy" Howton (born July 5, 1930) is a former American football end who played 12 seasons in the National Football League (NFL) in the 1950s and early 1960s. He played college football for Rice University. He caught a total 503 career passes for a total of 8,459 yards. In doing so, he surpassed then leader Don Hutson to become the all-time leader in receptions and yardage. (Since then his ranking has fallen to below 50.) Despite this, he has yet to be named a finalist in Pro Football Hall of Fame balloting. He retired in 1963 after four years with the Dallas Cowboys. He caught 13 touchdown passes in his 1952 rookie season. On October 21, 1956, Howton caught seven passes for a total of 257 yards against the Los Angeles Rams.
Howton signed with Rice University, where he was nicknamed "Red Fox" not only for his hair color, but also for the way he ran pass patterns, which made him a great offensive end, establishing a season record for average yards (22.6) on pass receptions.
At the 1948 track and field regional meet in Lubbock, he had a time of 14.3 in the high hurdle event, setting a record that stood for several decades. In 1951 he won the high hurdle event in a track meet against the Texas A&M Aggies. He was also was a notable runner in the low hurdles.
- Southwest Conference MVP.
- All-SWC team.
- Won the George Martin Award for the second straight year (he also won it in 1950), which is given to Rice’s most valuable football player.
- Played in the East–West Shrine Game.
- Played in the Chicago College All-Star Game.
In 1971 he was inducted into the Rice Athletic Hall of Fame.
Green Bay Packers
He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 1952 NFL Draft. As a rookie he earned immediate comparisons with Hall of Famer Don Hutson, with his speed, sure hands, and big-play ability. He established himself as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, with a league-leading 1,231 receiving yards. He also set a rookie record with 13 touchdowns, which would last until 1965 when the total number was broken by Gale Sayers. His touchdown reception mark lasted until 1998, when it was broken by Randy Moss.
Howton became one of the most successful wide receivers in Packers history, while playing seven seasons in losing teams (26-56-2). During his seven years in Green Bay, he led his teams in receiving yards for six straight seasons (1952-57), led the league in receiving yards 2 times (1952 and 1956) and touchdown receptions once (1956). He caught 303 passes for 5,581 yards with an 18.4 yard average, scored 43 touchdowns and earned All-Pro in two seasons (1956-57) and Pro Bowl honors in four seasons (1952 and 1955-57).
He set team records that still stand today:
- Most receiving yards by a rookie with 1,231 yards in 1952
- Highest yardage game with 257 yards against the Los Angeles Rams in 1956.
- Two 200-plus receiving games - the only Packer receiver aside from Don Hutson, with four, to have more than one.
Howton was named the Packers' player representative and president of the NFL Players Association in 1958, and played a major role in establishing a pension fund for players, which was a debated topic with club owners at the time.
In 1959 the Packers hired Vince Lombardi after the team's worst record ever (1-10-1), who eventually traded him to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for defensive end Bill Quinlan and halfback Lew Carpenter. Through the years, there has been speculation that his NFL Players Association ties were the real reason behind the trade.
In 1974 he was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame.
Howton played only one season in Cleveland, leading the team in receptions with 39, and experiencing what would be the only winning campaign of his NFL career. At the start of the 1960 season, he notified the Browns his intentions to retire. The Dallas Cowboys convinced him to play in his home state and traded a draft choice to the Browns in exchange for his rights.
Howton was acquired by the expansion Dallas Cowboys in 1960. That season the Cowboys recorded only a tie, which came against the NY Giants at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 4, when a late touchdown pass from Eddie LeBaron to Howton finalized a 31-31 comeback, against a team that had made championship game appearances in three of the previous four years.
During his time with the Cowboys he remained a key starter in a league-leading offense, that was composed by Eddie LeBaron, Don Meredith, Don Perkins, Frank Clarke, Dick Bielski and Lee Folkins. Howton led the Cowboys in receiving in 1961 (with a career high of 56 catches) and again in 1962.
On Sept. 29, 1963, he became the NFL's all-time receiving leader, after breaking Don Hutson's record for career receptions and receiving yards. He retired after playing in 12 seasons with 503 catches, 8,459 yards and 61 touchdowns. Howton was also the top receiver from those players drafted in 1952 including such Hall of Famers as Frank Gifford, Ollie Matson, and Hugh McElhenny. His 61 TDs are only two less than leader Ollie Matson.