Publisher's journal: Tucumcari native, Cowboys kicker earns HOF honor
Last updated 6/27/2023 at 1:58pm
Some of us remember it as the greatest football game ever played. Danny Villanueva was a big part of it.
The Dallas Cowboys led the Green Bay Packers, 17-14, in that NFL Championship game of Dec. 31, 1967, that's come to be known as the Ice Bowl.
Gametime temperature was 15-below zero. The wind-chill factor was 48-below. One fan died of exposure to those elements. Players and fans suffered frostbite that plagued them the rest of their lives.
Villanueva, the Cowboys veteran kicker, was the difference in his team's lead with a 29-yard field goal and two extra points. There were less than 5 minutes left to play.
"I was going to run for mayor of Dallas," Villanueva quipped in a 2013 interview.
But then the Packers drove 68 yards before quarterback Bart Starr scored from the 1-yard line to win the game with 16 seconds to play.
Cowboys players wept openly as they retreated, exhausted, from the weather.
"I decided to retire on the way to the dressing room," Villanueva said.
When he saw Coach Tom Landry was "so devastated" following the loss, Villanueva decided to postpone his announcement. "I wrote him a letter instead," he said.
That marked the end of Villanueva's eight-year professional career, which included five seasons kicking with the Los Angeles Rams and three more with the Cowboys.
He thought his football life was over after he graduated from New Mexico State University. He was student teaching and preparing for a career in education when a mentor told him he had a phone call from the Rams.
"I thought they were hazing me," he said.
But the call was real. He was offered $6,000 to play football, $5,500 to teach, and chose football.
After football he began a career in Spanish-language broadcasting and operated dozens of radio and television stations. He also remained involved with NMSU where the Danny Villanueva Scholarship Endowment helped Hispanic students "with interests in being a leader."
Villanueva was born in Tucumcari where his father was an itinerant Methodist minister who preached to migrant workers.
He died June 18, 2015, at age 77 after suffering a stroke.
He's in the news today as one of five elected to the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame. Villanueva, along with Eastern New Mexico University basketball and volleyball legend Jennifer Goble-Poyer and three others, will be honored Aug. 19 at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
David Stevens is publisher of Clovis Media Inc. Email him at: