Former Dallas Cowboys kicker Danny Villanueva, born in Tucumcari where his dad was preaching to migrant farm workers, died Thursday night, family members told the Las Cruces Sun-News.
“Danny Villanueva was an outstanding (New Mexico State) Aggie, a great football player and a generous philanthropist,” NMSU president Garrey Carruthers in a statement reported by the Sun-News. “He came from a small town in New Mexico and rose to become a very successful entrepreneur in both television and real estate. We are sad to hear of his passing, yet very proud of all his accomplishments. Our hearts go out to his family.”
Villanueva, 77, had recently suffered a stroke. He lived in Los Angeles.
Football fans of the 1960s remember Villanueva as a kicker who spent eight seasons in the National Football League. His final three seasons were with the Cowboys. His final game was the “Ice Bowl” playoff game against the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 31, 1967.
The Packers won in the final seconds on a quarterback sneak by Bart Starr.
“I decided to retire on the way to the dressing room,” Villanueva said in a 2013 interview with the Quay County Sun.
But when he saw Coach Tom Landry was “so devastated” following the loss, he decided to postpone the announcement.
“I wrote him a letter instead,” he said.
Villanueva lived in Tucumcari for about a year before Primitivo Villanueva was reassigned to Phoenix before ultimately settling the family in California.
Danny returned to New Mexico to attend college and play football at New Mexico State before joining the Los Angeles Rams in 1960.
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 provided dozens of scholarships to Hispanic students “with interests in being a leader,” he said in the 2013 interview.