It’s been more than a quarter of a century since the infamous white Bronco chase involving former Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson. But the former Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers star obviously wasn’t the only person in the Bronco that day. Longtime friend and former teammate Al Cowlings was the wheelman on June 17, 1994, as the two led authorities on a two-hour, low-speed chase through Southern California as 95 million people sat glued to their televisions.
While acquitted of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and 25-year-old Ron Goldman in the subsequent trial, it’s common knowledge that O.J. Simpson later served nearly nine years in prison stemming from charges in a Las Vegas robbery. But what happened to Al Cowlings?
Al Cowlings was O.J. Simpson’s teammate in high school, college, and the NFL
As Al Cowlings will forever be best remembered for his role in the white Bronco chase, it’s sometimes easy to forget that he was a phenomenal football player in his day. Most may have also forgotten that he was O.J. Simpson’s teammate in high school, college, and the NFL.
Both Simpson and Cowlings attended Galileo High School in San Francisco. They were then teammates at City College of San Francisco and then again at USC, where both became huge stars. Simpson famously won the Heisman Trophy in 1968 and was taken with the first overall pick in the 1969 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. With a year of eligibility remaining, Al Cowlings finished his career with the Trojans in 1969, earning First-Team All-American honors as a defensive tackle while helping lead USC to a 10-0-1 record and a Rose Bowl win over the Michigan Wolverines.
As luck would have it, Al Cowlings would reunite with O.J. Simpson in the pros as he was taken with the fifth overall pick by the Bills in the 1970 draft. The two would play three seasons together before Cowlings was traded to the Houston Oilers ahead of the 1973 season. As Simpson went on to have a Hall of Fame career, Cowlings became more a journeyman, spending time with the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks (Cowlings also played a year in the CFL) before once again reuniting with Simpson in 1979 with the San Francisco 49ers, which was the last NFL season for both.
The white Bronco chase
On June 17, 1994, five days after Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered, O.J. Simpson was set to surrender himself to police as he was obviously a person of interest given the highly-volatile nature of his marriage to Nicole.
However, Simpson failed to surrender himself at the designated time and was officially named a fugitive. Later that day, witnesses reported seeing Simpson in a white Ford Bronco, which just happened to be owned by his longtime friend and teammate Al Cowlings. The chase was on and Cowlings instantly became a household name.
During the low-speed chase, Cowlings called 911 from his cell phone and said that O.J. had a gun to his own head and would kill himself if the duo wasn’t allowed to drive to Simpson’s home in Brentwood, which police allowed. Upon arrival, Cowlings was arrested and charged with aiding a fugitive but was released 12 hours later. The charges against him were later dropped.
Where is Al Cowlings today?
In the years since the O.J. Simpson trials, Al Cowlings, who is now in his early 70s, has essentially remained hidden from the public eye and seemingly wants nothing to do with anything relating to the infamous incident or anything involving Simpson, which is why he rid himself of the white Bronco. It was reported by Fox News at one time that Cowlings was bankrupt and selling handbags in LA to earn a living. In 2016, TMZ reported that Cowlings was threatening to sue FX if he was portrayed negatively in any way when “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” miniseries was set to debut.
On a positive note, Al Cowlings was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009 alongside Junior Seau, Rodney Peete, and John Robinson. In 2017, the university also named a dorm after him. That same year, he was spotted at the Trojans’ spring game, one of the few public appearances he’s made in the last 25 years.
But despite his accomplishments on the football field, Al Cowlings is never going to be truly remembered for his athletic career. He’ll be known as O.J. Simpson’s buddy, the guy driving the white Bronco on one of the craziest days in history.