Saturday, November 25, 2017

Otto Stowe: Outspoken And Out Of A Job

Topps football cards 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, custom cards that never were
One of the flashier players in the NFL in the early 70s was wide receiver Otto Stowe who got himself a Super Bowl ring as a member of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins.  Born in Chicago, Illinois and having left Iowa State as the all-time leader in receptions and yards, Stowe entered the NFL as a 2nd round pick of the Dolphins in 1971.

Used as the main back up to Paul Warfield, Stowe had productive second year (he caught 6 passes for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns on a Monday night game) and looked like he had the tools to be a star receiver.  Not seeing an opportunity to start in Miami, he requested a trade at the end of the Dolphins undefeated 1972 season. 

The Cowboys, who had been trying to replace the aging Bob Hayes and the retired Lance Alworth, traded the productive Ron Sellers and a 6th round draft choice for the speedier Stowe.  It looked like he had found the perfect home in 1973, catching 22 passes for a league leading 6 touchdowns in what was looking like a Pro Bowl season.  Stylistically, he had one of the leading afros in the NFL and, while with the Cowboys, he modeled suits for Hart Schaffner & Marx.  Unfortunately, he broke his ankle in the 7th game in 1973 and was lost for the rest of the season.

The feeble NFL Player's strike that started in training camp of the 1974 season put everyone in a bad mood and Stowe, who was one of the last of the veterans to cross the line, was soon singled out.  His ankle had not fully healed and he had a difficult training camp running on the rock-hard Thousand Oaks training camp surface.  He was also out-spoken about the way the Cowboys had treated Calvin Hill, who left to sign a contract with the WFL.  Receivers coach Mike Ditka said Stowe "was not applying himself" and was traded to the Denver Broncos on October 6, 1974 for a draft choice. "I hated to see that man go.  He could have helped us win the Super Bowl," said All-Pro tackle Rayfield Wright.  Cliff Harris and Mel Renfro considered him the "best receiver on the team."  Rookie Drew Pearson, who was mentored by Stowe, was also sad to see him go.

Still hampered by the ankle injury, Stowe had a disappointing 1974 season in Denver, catching only two passes.  Somehow, he was still in demand and was traded to the Rams at the beginning of the 1975 season but he announced his retirement on August 18, 1975.

RetroCards pays tribute to this underrated player who, like many other talented and overlooked players, didn’t have any sports cards in his entire career.  RetroCards has created a few and there are more to come so stay tuned.


  1. AS a lifer Cowboys fan, I really wish Otto never said anything about Calvin Hill's soon the be departure. It was Calvin Hill's decision to leave. Coach Landry absolutely loved Calvin Hill. True, Landry was worried about some of his players who signed to leave to play in another league. It was strange because those were sort of like "lame duck players." You knew the were leaving the next year and Coach Landry had every right to doubt Hill's desire because Calvin was one of the most injury prone players in Cowboys history. Jethro Pugh signed a contract with the WFL and was going to leave after the 1975 season but the league folded. When it comes to Ditka saying Otto did not apply himself to come back properly, I believe him but also know that Ditka was NOT going to stand for some guy chirping an bringing down the locker room because of what they dealt with in Duane Thomas. The only reason why the Cowboys took a fall in 1973 and 74 was because of many injuries to players, players leaving for the WFL and pissed off about contracts an monies paid to players. Honestly, Otto did not do much in Miami and he was going to be a true star for the Cowboys. Can you imagine? Drew, Golden, Bullet Bob and Otto? True Hayes was not the player he used to be as success really went to his head, he the one of the main reasons the Cowboys did not repeat in 1972. Otto should have just kept his mouth shut, Hill left on his own. Why show loyalty to a player who clearly wanted to leave for money. Calvin should have been kissing the asses of the Cowboys because no team other than the Cowboys would give an Ivy League player the chances that they did. Calvin was GREAT in 1969 injured many times after his rookie year and Duane Thomas flat out took his job. IN fact if Duane was not such a head case, Calvin may have never gotten his job back. Calvin ran himself out of Dallas in search of millions, Coach Landry loved him. When the WFL flatlined he showed his loyalty but signing with the Redskins. All four time the Cowboys played Hill while with Wash, the Cowboys DOMINATED him. In fact he had success in only one game ( a few runs in 1976 season finale when the Cowboys had the Division locked up and sat many starters in the second half). Otto was injured, should have shut up and gotten better. Also, the Thousands Oaks playing surface was far from "rock hard surface." He could not get healthy in Denver, his knee injury was that bad so maybe Ditka was correct, but I at the end of the day believe Ditka did not want to deal with his attitude especially when Cal made his own mess. Stowe was AMAZING against the Eagles at the Vet, the same day his career essentially was ended.

    1. It's really a shame the Cowboys couldn't allow his ankle to heal. That was a weird time for the franchise - rebuilding a new team under Staubach, Stowe was one of the causalities of that period. If that ankle hadn't broke, his history would be much different. Thank for the in depth comment!