DALLAS — Tiny movements signify major progress for former Dallas Cowboys player Robert Newhouse, now a patient at the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation in Dallas.
The fact that he can grip a foam star and move it with his left arm is a really big deal, considering that for the first month after his stroke, he could not move anything on his left side.
Recalling that fateful day in July, Newhouse said, "My legs were flimsy and I couldn’t stand up. We called 911 and they took me to the hospital. I’ve been here ever since."
In his heyday, Newhouse was the power runner in Tom Landry's Cowboys offense. With nicknames like the "human bowling ball," he was best known for his always-churning, 44-inch thighs. But his most famous play was a trick play — one he says he could never pull off properly in practice.
"When Tom called the play, I said, 'I can't believe he called this play,'" Newhouse remembered.
It happened in Super Bowl XII, and it's now in the record books.
Newhouse was the first running back to throw a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl.
Back then, Newhouse could bench press 325 pounds. Now he struggles to bench press a wooden stick.
"I can’t even hold up cotton now," he said. But a therapist reminds him that now, he can.
And the fact that he can means he's winning his fight; forcing his nerves and muscles to work together again.
"For him, we had a really hard time getting them started," said occupational therapist Hillary Sands. "Then he all of a sudden, he turned a corner."
Newhouse said he never had a doubt.
"Just like pushing cotton balls is a very difficult task for me, so I just have to understand I need to keep pushing cotton balls until I can lift weights again," he said."
On the ground, he needs help to stand, but in the water, Newhouse walks well with a cane. And his confidence is sky high.
"I think I will get up to 200 on a scale of 1-to-100," he boasted.
Newhouse is progressing so well, he can now walk with a walker. The steps are much different that the ones he took on the gridiron — just as powerful, but in a very different way.
These steps lead to recovery.
"This is just a little turn in the road; curve and hit a bump," Newhouse said. "It's going to take as long as its going to take, so what am I in a rush for?"