October 10, 2020

by Paul Heckmann

Executive Director, Memories Inc.


“If I had 45 players that tried as hard and cared as much as Charlie did, we would not lose a football game.”

Dallas Cowboys Coach Tom Landry

Charlie was a veritable encyclopedia of football, the consummate NFL pro. Very smart, very articulate and needed absolutely no direction from me to tell his story! He jumped right in. I simply  turned on the recorder and let him tell it the way he remembered.  

Charlie Waters: We were on the cutting edge in preparation. 

Paul Heckmann: I was gonna go into this a little bit later on, but you worked with Bob Ward quite a bit didn’t you?

Charlie: Yes, I did. Bob taught me an awful lot about body control, self-control, and strength, and perfect practice makes perfect, not practice makes perfect. But his individual, one on one contact and what you look at is the key to everything. And so if you’re not real serious about it, that doesn’t mean a damn thing to you. But I was real serious about it because it meant a lot to me, to perform. And so, it was great. Bob was a great inspiration. There’s two or three things that he did that really helped me. He increased the strength of my grip. And nobody ever thinks about that, about being able to grab somebody and hold on.

Cowboy Strength and Conditioning coach Bob Ward with Bruce Lee training partner Dan Inosanto.

Bob Ward taught us all that stuff. And he was so unique and modernized, Dan Inosanto was his teacher. Dan was taught by Bruce Lee.

I owe an awful lot to Bob, he’s very, very progressive in his thinking.

Paul: Did you know Paul Ward, his brother?

Charlie: No.

Paul: Paul was one of the coaches for the Olympic weight lifting team. I knew him from HTCA and a couple other places out there. He worked with Sammy Walker too, the big shotput guy from SMU. He was on the Olympic weightlifting team.

Charlie: You talk about some timing and coordination. That’s a Hell of a thing, spin around like that, and throw that sucker out. I don’t know how in the world you all did that.

Paul: Well, we used the old glide technique. And about when I was coming in was when we started doing that turn. And that was a mess, for me. I’m in Webster’s when it talks about the guy with two left feet.

Charlie: I’m glad we can laugh about it.

Paul: Oh, my God.

You know, I think you and I might have met before. I was the maître d’ at the Playboy Club not long after it first opened. Y’all were upstairs, a couple floors above us, there at 6116 North Central. I was the maître d’ there for the first year, in the front. In the disco.

Charlie: Did you ever meet me?

Paul: I’m thinking we must’ve run across each other. Then I left for Papagayo and daVinci after that for the next three or four years. So, we must’ve crossed paths at least once or twice during that time period.

Charlie: I’m sure we did. The Greenville Ave bars.

Paul: Harvey and Too Tall were regulars at Papagayo. They kinda had that corner of that first bar to your right when you came up. That was their place. Everybody knew to stay away from that corner because they’d be coming in. And you hear this voice from around the corner, and you know instantly it’s Harvey. He had that deep Harvey voice.

Charlie: So, what are you doing with this interview?

Paul: We have just started a new Facebook Football page for Memories Inc called Memories of Texas Football. I interviewed John Fitzgerald Booty 1, 2 for our first football interviews. Carthage kid that played at Cisco and TCU before a 9 year NFL career. For the Memories of Dallas Facebook page and webpage, I interviewed Barry Corbin about a month and a half ago. The actor that did Northern Exposure, he played Uncle Bob in Urban Cowboy – the fellow got knocked out by lightning, you know, John Travolta’s uncle. Also just did one with Burton Gilliam, from Blazing Saddles and Papermoon.

Charlie: Burton’s a good friend of mine, too.

Paul: We had a blast. He’s one of these guys you can sit there and just talk to, and talk to, and talk to, and every moment it just seems like he got that big smile. I really had a great time talking to him.

Memories of Dallas and Memories of Texas Football are two things we’re looking at for your interview.

Our 501c3 Non-Profit, Memories Inc. has been around for a little over two years.

Do you know Angus Wynne by chance?

Charlie: I do. I know Angus quite well.

Paul: Yeah. Angus is on our Board of Directors. 

Charlie: Angus Wynne is legitimate. He’s special. Tell him that I said hello and along with Rosie. He knows Rosie.

Paul: Will do!

So, let’s get back to Charlie Waters. Now you were born in Miami, how old were you when you moved to North Augusta?

Charlie: I was 10 years old. My dad was a crane operator. In other words, he was in the construction business. So, there’s some opportunities from the a nuclear power plant out there on the Savanna River, right after the second World War, in the ‘50s. So there was some opportunity for construction work. So that’s when we moved to South Carolina. My mom was from Maryland, and my dad was raised in Georgia. So, I had three older brothers. My oldest brother was a half-brother, but my two other brothers, one was three years older than me, and he was a really good athlete.

Paul: Was that Keith?

Charlie: Yes. You did your homework. That’s Keith. He was really, really a good baseball player, and basketball player. Not much of football. Really not that tough. I didn’t know I was as tough as I was back then. We were baseball players. We loved baseball.

So yeah, we moved there to North Augusta when I was 10 and started in baseball.

Paul: Gotcha. Now it looked to me – I was looking on the map there, in some of the photos. That looked like a great area for hunting and fishing and stuff like that. Is that something you guys did?

Charlie: No, I never got into that. We never could. We barely had enough money to put food on the table.

Paul: I see.

Charlie: My dad was, as I said, was a construction worker, and it was – I had one baseball glove the whole time I was growing up. Playing five years of baseball. And Keith, by brother, got a baseball scholarship to Clemson. Surprisingly, it was just about the time I signed as a quarterback for Clemson, by brother got a baseball scholarship to Clemson. Go figure.

He’s three years older that I was, but he was on the baseball team. And when I signed with Clemson, they gave him a scholarship.

Paul: Oh. I see.

Charlie: He earned it, but it didn’t happen until I signed with Clemson.

Paul: Was that supposed to be, maybe, an enticement? For you to sign?

Charlie: Yes. Those kind of things happen. If he didn’t deserve it, I

Charlie set to score for the Tigers

don’t think they would’ve done it, you know? But it just made things a little bit easier for me to sign with Clemson. Because they wanted me to play quarterback, and Alabama wanted me to play running back, or wide receiver, or defensive back, and Georgia wanted me to play running back. Tennessee wanted me to play wide receiver. So, Clemson said they thought I was a quarterback. In reality I really wasn’t a quarterback. Those other guys were right. And I eventually did move to wide receiver three quarters of the way through my second year as a starter. I broke my big toe and had to sit out a game. Then the guy who took my place had a Hell of a game. So, when I came back a couple weeks later, he got his shot out there every week. From then on, I started playing wide receiver. I caught 68 passes at Clemson, which was unheard of, considering they were three yards in a cloud of dust. The Frank Howard days.

Paul: Frank Howard. Absolutely.

Charlie: Frank Howard days were just a trip, man. You’re talking about a strange comparison between him and Tom Landry.

Paul: Well, tell me about Frank Howard.

Charlie: Well, he was tough. That’s one thing he did, made sure we all knew that you had to be tough to play football. But he was at the end of his career, and he was almost like a comedian. He used to say, boy, the things I remember… “Boy, you believe in magic?” That’s what he asked me one time when I was – after I’d moved to wide receiver, our quarterback got hurt, in the game. And we had out other backup quarterback Well then he gets hurt. So, Coach Howard calls a time out, brings the whole team around, then he reaches over and grabs me on the shoulder pad.

Frank Howard, legendary coach at Clemson from 1940 to 1969

He said “Charlie, you believe in magic?” I said, “Sure I do.” He said “Well, poof, you’re a frigging quarterback.” Those are the kind of things – he said. He said “Boy, you looking for sympathy? You can look it up in the dictionary. It’s between s**t and syphilis.” Those are the kind of things I remember about Frank Howard.

Paul: (laughs) Well, I was sitting here trying to think of Tom Landry saying the same thing.

Charlie: Yeah. Just go to Tom Landry and then go to Frank Howard.

But he believed in me. He did. I remember one time, this is when I was still playing quarterback.

We were playing Alabama in Clemson. And we got within field goal range of them in the fourth quarter. Or early in the third quarter, we started coming back. And our kicker misses a kick. I was a holder. Our kicker misses a 37 yard chip shot. And that would’ve tied the game. And coach Howard met him 15 yards before he got to the sideline, and called him a gutless m*****r f*****r. I mean, I said ‘Coach, it doesn’t take guts to be a kicker’. What do you mean, gutless? And I said, we got the whole fourth quarter ahead. Don’t be doing that to our kicker. He met him on the field and chewed him out.

Another one he used to say to us was, some us got into fraternity life at Clemson, which was kinda fun to do that. But he said, “I don’t think you should be joining a fraternity. We got our own fraternity. Just call that Delta Phi.” Is that hilarious?

Texas Tech DB Denton Fox, West Texas State Duane Thomas, BC DL John Fitzgerald and Clemson WR Charlie Waters at the 1970 Coach’s All America game in Lubbock. All were Dallas draft picks, Thomas in the 1st, Waters and Fox in the 3rd and Fitzgerald in the 4th

I mean, he was a comedian. And I went from that to Tom Landry, and I was going ‘Oh, my God.’ Thank God there is someone else going on out there in the world, this world of football. Such a trip. X-rated, and his son was very colorful too. Anyway, Frank Howard, as I said, we had some good coaches on our staff. 

Anyway, I had an interesting time at Clemson, and sure enough, Georgia and Alabama and Tennessee, they were all right on – when I got out of there, I was a wide receiver, quarterback turned wide receiver.

And in the draft Green Bay said okay, we’re gonna pick you in the next round. So Green Bay tells me tells me I’m gonna be picked as a wide receiver and I’m saying, all right, all right. Bart Starr! this is great.

And then the next thing I know, I get a call from Gil Brandt. He says, Charlie, can you run backwards?

Paul: (Laughs) ‘What do you mean Gil?’

Charlie: Yeah, what do you mean? Well, we just picked you as a defensive back in the third round in the 1970 draft. We’re hoping you can run backwards.

I said, what about tackling? Don’t I have to know how to tackle? So anyway, it was the beginning.

Paul: That is wild.

Charlie: All of that, everything that’s happened to me during my career at different places in time with the Cowboys is all been, when you look at the grand scheme of things, I’m so thankful I’ve played these other positions. I knew so much more than everybody else.

Because you’re very narrow if you just stay in your one position your whole career. It’s hard for you to broaden your horizons. And you know, Coach Landry was a quarterback in college as well. And he saw something in me that a lot of people didn’t see and I really am thankful that he took me under his wing.

We had a pretty rough year, one year, my second year in the league. My first two years in the league, I just make the team as a backup. I was a backup doing safety and played on special teams. If you don’t mind me going through this.

Paul: Not at all. You’re covering point by point what I was gonna ask you. So, it’s perfect.

Charlie: Okay. So, my rookie year, I barely make the team but I make the team as a backup. And we had Richmond Flowers was the backup free safety, Cliff Harris makes it as a free agent and starts the first five games his rookie year. We have Cornell Green playing strong safety, and I was playing backup SS

Paul: A basketball player?

Charlie: A basketball player.

Gil Brandt at his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame

Paul: A basketball player and a quarterback turned defensive back.

Charlie: And Gil Brandt is the reason for all of that, without a doubt.

Paul: I know, crazy.

Charlie: Gil Brandt was a genius, and don’t tell him I said that, but he is pretty special.

Paul: We won’t… wink-wink

Charlie: Oh, he’s a fascinating interview. You need to call him. Ask him to tell the story about alligator shoes.

Paul: Alligator shoes? Oh, my God.

Charlie: Yeah. I gotta tell you this one story. It’s just so funny.

Gil Brandt drafts me in the third round, and he comes out to South Carolina, and visits me at Clemson. Shows up in a really nice suit, and had a pair of brown alligator tassel shoes. And I had nothing growing up. I mean, we never celebrated a birthday at our house because we didn’t have any money to celebrate a birthday. It’s better to put potatoes on the dining room table than to have a birthday. So, I look at those alligator shoes, and Gil’s up there, and he came to visit me the first time, and I don’t know what he offered me but he didn’t offer what I thought was appropriate. I got some advice from a football player that played at Clemson and then in the NFL on contracts.

So Gil makes me this offer, but I don’t sign and I complimented him on his alligator shoes. Well, about 10 days later I received in the mail, special delivery to me a pair of alligator shoes. They are beautiful. I’m going, this is big time. I am in the big leagues. So, I go another two weeks, maybe three weeks and I don’t sign. But eventually I do sign. I think he gave me $17,000 signing bonus. And $15,000 salary.

Paul: Now, this is 1970, isn’t it?

Charlie: 1970. $15,000 my rookie year as a third round draft pick. So, I signed, and they sent the contract to me. And I signed the contract, and I sent it back to him. He sends me my bonus check, I think I made $3000 bonus. My first year salary was $15,000.

And four days later, after he’d sent me that money, he sent me an invoice in the mail for the alligator shoes.

Paul: (laughs) God dang it!

Charlie: Is that classic or what?

So, now I can talk about this stuff. And then the next thing I know that happens, that’s pretty monumental for me, is Cliff Harris comes in as a free agent, and they keep three rookies. They keep me, Cliff Harris, and Richmond Flowers. Richmond Flowers was an Olympic sprinter, or hurdler. You remember that name?

Paul: I remember that. He could fly!

Charlie: He could fly. But he was goofy. He wasn’t football smart at all. He would step up and tell you that. And he was the backup at free safety and I was a backup at strong safety. After five games, Cliff started all five of the first games and we were I think four and one at the time. Cliff’s National Guard unit got called up to active duty.

So, Richmond Flowers starts the first game, and he tripped a guy on the sideline when he had a chance to knock a guy out. He came in feet first instead of head first, and I remember looking at Coach Landry, he just rolled his eyes up in the air, like who is this guy? So, the next week I start as free safety. I’m 21 years old, I’ve never played defensive back in my life, playing a game against the Green Bay Packers I tackle Bart Starr on the sideline and I ask him for his autograph while I was laying on top of him. But anyway, I ended up leading the team in interceptions. I started six games and got five interceptions. I was the only rookie in the lineup, just like Cliff was the only rookie in the lineup before his callup.

Cliff had to go off to boot camp, but he could come home on the weekends, and he played on special teams. And he and I were best friends. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that was for him. I mean, that just was horrible. But that was my first year, and it was fascinating to me. We went to the Super Bowl, and I was involved in the Super Bowl an awful lot, for sure. But we lost. And right at the end, Jim O’Brien kicked a field goal and beat us. Then the next year, I was competing with Cliff for free safety. And Cliff was a better free safety than I was, without a doubt, because he had a certain style of play that reminded you that football was a contact sport.

Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris

Paul: I heard him described as ‘a bag of knives’.

Charlie: Yep, he was called Captain Crash. And everybody referenced him as Captain Crash. And your collateral damage was also a factor. He’ll even hit people but he’d also hit us. Herb Adderley grabbed his jersey one day and said, ‘Cliff, quit hitting me! I’m on the same dang team as you are!’

So anyway, Cliff was gonna blow somebody up on every play, and that‘s what he did. He just reminded everybody that it’s a physical game. So, I had the experience of playing free safety for two years, but then the next year I was going back as a backup to Cornell. That same year when Cliff came back, I ended up being a backup at both free safety and strong safety but I never started any games. I played as a backup role and I played a nickel defense and specialty defense.

Paul: 1972?

Charlie: 1971. 1970 was my first year, and 1971 was the year that I came back as a backup behind Cliff. ’70, I played the last six games and led the team interceptions. So, here the next year comes rolling around, and I’m supposed to be a safety. I’m supposed to be a backup safety behind Cornell Green, this is his 12th year in the league or something like that, 10th year in the league. And he was on top of his game. He was an all pro. He was a hell of a player. 6’4″, had the worst hands in the world for a basketball player, but really smart gentleman with hilarious personality. Great player. Really loved him to death as a friend.

Herb Adderley starts slowing down, not putting his face into tackles, which didn’t suit Gene Stallings and also Tom Landry too well. So they tried another corner, Mark Washington, who was in my class. He didn’t fare too well, and the next thing you know, I’m starting at corner.

Here I am now, I’ve played wide receiver, played quarterback, played wide receiver, and then played strong safety, then I played free safety, and now they move me to corner. And I’m the left corner spot and most quarterbacks in the league are right handed (most likely area of the field to attack). And Mel Renfro is the other corner. So, where are they gonna throw it?

And that’s where they threw it, they threw it at me. And so I learned all the techniques, and it was difficult for me, but I got beat one time, Harold Jackson (for the Rams) I think he scored three touchdowns in the game. They weren’t all my fault, but everybody thought they were all my fault. So we got the training room the next day, we were watching the films. Coach Landry got in there and said “Look, Charlie had a rough day yesterday, but I’ll tell you one thing,” and this is what Coach Landry said. And he got me for life when he said this…

“If I had 45 players that tried as hard and cared as much as Charlie did, we would not lose a football game.”

Tom Landry, the first Dallas Cowboy Coach

That’s what he said in front of the team, when we went in to watch the films the next day after the game. And I mean, I just – it sends chills up my spine today to tell the story. I mean, what in the hell did he see? He saw something, and so I ended up playing pretty good. We won, but we missed the playoffs one year, it was the only year we missed the playoffs the whole time I played in the NFL. We made playoffs 11 out of my 12 years. And we missed one year when I was playing corner. I kinda took on the brunt of it, but here’s the blessing in disguise, silver coated lining, here. I learned all the techniques of free safety, I learned all of them because I played it for two years. And then I learned corner for three years, off and on. I was starting sometimes, sometimes backup but led the team in interceptions a couple years.

Cowboy DBack Coach Gene Stallings, Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris

But I learned every technique that Tom Landry was teaching. And every technique Gene Stallings was teaching from a hands on scenario, I mean, I played it. I knew it. I knew exactly what was happening. If anything, I understood how to play football. Especially since I played quarterback, wide receiver, and all the other positions. So after my fifth year in the league, Cornell Green retires. And the next year I make All Pro at Strong Safety. Coach Landry called me in, told me I was gonna start controlling the defense along with the middle linebacker, you know.

Landry’s Flex defense was so coordinated and so complicated. All I’m telling you, it’s complicated. I can’t even explain it to you now. I think I knew a good bit of the defensive back component of it, but I didn’t understand the frog stance that the defensive lineman used.

Randy White and Charlie Waters comparing abs

Paul: Randy White.

Charlie: Yeah. And so, you think nobody else in the league played the Flex defense. Well, duh. You know why? Nobody else understood it, except for Dick Nolan – and when Dick Nolan tried to play it, he ended up giving up on it. It’s just too hard to teach, and too complicated, but genius, it was all Tom Landry. So then I’m starting to think how in the world did this happen? Frank Howard, Tom Landry? So my first year we went to the Super Bowl, went to the Super Bowl five times in my career. We won two.

Paul: Isn’t it something? Some players, they play their whole career and never make a single Super Bowl.

Charlie: I know. We made the playoffs every year except one. And Landry was so incredibly intense, there was nothing left unturned. There wasn’t one stone still laying on the table. You picked it up, you look at it, you figure it out, it’s a stone, we’re gonna kick the s**t out of them when we do this. If you’re gonna make a mistake, if you’re gonna do something on your own or if you make a mistake, you damn sure better make the play. Because it’s all based on everybody being coordinated with each other. It is a coordinated defense. And every formation had its own defense design for that week. And guess who had to let everybody in the secondary know what was going on, and that was me.

I played both free safety and strong safety, so I was ready to take that on. And I had a lot better hands than Cornell Green. Cornell should’ve had 50 interceptions. I had 50 interceptions in my career.

Charlie Waters in 1975. It was all about the hair

Paul: So I hear, there was a poll in 1975, ‘the most underrated, unsung, and all probability underpaid player in the NFL’, and they said that was Charlie Waters, 1975.

Charlie: Yeah, I won the Sports Illustrated unsung hero award two years in a row. Two years in a row, but you know, if you get unsung, if you get an unsung hero, don’t you get sung?

Paul: (Laughs)

Charlie: That ain’t right. So I mean, I played one year with a broken arm when I was playing corner.

I don’t know if you got the book that Cliff and I wrote. But I played the whole season with a rod in my arm. The humerus is the second largest bone on the body. And I had a rod in there. Now you know how stupid we were. Because if you don’t play, somebody’s gonna take your place. And if you don’t play well, somebody’s gonna take your place.

Paul: Oh, yeah.

Charlie: That’s just the way it is.

Paul: I crushed my elbow two years ago in a bicycle accident. And they had to rebuild my elbow, and I just had that bolt removed, probably the same bolt you had. They probably used it in my arm, too, and they just finally took it out after two years. So, I can feel for ya, it’s never the same. It doesn’t matter what they tell you, it doesn’t feel the same, tendons don’t feel the same, nothing feels the same.

Charlie: Nope. That’s right. My rod in my arm was 18 inches long. It was a titanium rod. And let me tell you something, every bone in my body would’ve broken before that bone broke.

Paul: We know the six million dollar man would not work.

Charlie: No, it wouldn’t work. But I really believe that if you can figure out a way to make the joints move a little smoother, guys that are 30 years old, their careers could be extended. Because that’s what you start understanding football is when you turn 30 years old.

Paul: So, let me ask you about – going back to 1971. Now you’ve got to another Super Bowl, you got a win over the Dolphins. And your dad had a near fatal heart attack in the stands.

Charlie: That’s correct. Near the end of the game, it was really a come from behind, it was dramatic, and of course Roger worked magic, miracles and stuff.

But yeah, (my dad) he keeled over in the stands. He was older, and he eventually died from a heart attack, but he recovered and I found out about it in the locker room. My dad was a strong man, had a second grade education. He said, I might be a ditch digger, but I’m gonna be the best ditch digger anybody ever needed. I will do it perfectly. So, he was a very special, tough man, wouldn’t give up. Four boys in his family.

Paul: He taught you something, didn’t he?

Charlie: Yeah he did.

Paul: That’s for sure. Sorry to hear hear of his passing, it’s something we can be sure of. 

My dad used to say, there’s a start and an end to every story. He died on a Friday the 13th. I think he did it on purpose, my dad. I swear to God, that man had a purpose for everything he did, and he dies on a Friday the 13th, like ‘I’m not gonna let you forget it, son.’

Charlie: Wow, that’s hilarious.

Paul: I think that’s what they call dark humor. It’s kinda like, how can you not grin, no matter if it’s your dad or not? 

So you played for 12 years?

Charlie:  I sat out one year. So, I only got on the field 11 years but I got credit for 12 years. Because if you get hurt in the regular season or in the preseason, you get credit for that season. You get your money and you get credit. So, yeah.

Paul: So, who were the leaders of the team back when you first came in?

Charlie: Well, Lee Roy Jordan ran the defense, as middle linebacker. And Cornell Green would be in charge of the secondary. And Bob Lilly was a quiet, great performer. Offensive side of the ball was Roger, of course. And Dan Reeves was the coach, the player/coach for a while and then he ended up being a coach. I really wish that Dan would’ve taken over the offense. Coach Landry handled both sides of the ball. I mean, nobody does that. He was the only coach in the history of the NFL that handled both sides of the ball. He worked his tail off, and he had an idea for all of it.

He had me for life, and he was really a good person. A smart person.

Paul: Tell me about the bicycle built for two. For you and Cliff

Charlie: Is that goofy or what?

A bicycle built for two!

Paul: I’m sitting there going, ‘I can just about guarantee these two boys there did not buy that bike!’

Charlie: (laughs) No, they did not! It was some kind of cover shot, they brought the bike.

Paul: That was pretty good, I like that one.

So also, you were an expert at one other thing, there. A lot of other people forget, and that’s holding for extra points.

Charlie: Yeah. Extra points field goals, yeah. I did it for 10 years.

Coach Landry, he just knew that I cared, and I was a perfectionist in everything. And I was so damn serious about the game, techniques, and detail stuff. And holding for extra points for field goals is an absolute thankless job and you only get attention when you drop it. I think I lost one of them in the 10 years that I held, and that was it. I think I missed just one fumble, and it was in a playoff game against Atlanta. And I thought the game was gonna be determined because of my drop the extra point. But it didn’t. It just affected the bettors. It was a three point line, and if we made the extra point, we covered the line, but it didn’t. So, I got hate letters in the mail.

Paul: Oh, no.

Charlie: Accusing me of throwing the game. It’s all your fault!

Coach Landry makes an announcement, because all the kickers at training camp when I’m with Tony Fritsch who’s our kicker from Germany. And he said, after about a week of practice some of the kickers like to have the ball placed in a certain way, other kickers another way. He says from now on, everybody holds the same way for each kicker. If we do it the same way every time for everybody, then it becomes a moot factor.

The next day after Coach Landry did that in front of the whole team, we get ready to do the field goal drill, we get ready to warm up around the back of 12 yard line. Tony comes up to the spot – I had my finger down on the ground, and he comes up to me, and he puts his foot there right by the spot, and he speaks through his helmet, ‘a little more angle’. Coach Landry is 12 feet behind us, and he’s hearing everything. Tony could barely speak English, and I’m going, what in the f*** am I gonna do, because I knew Tony was the best kicker we had. Landry watches me hold at Tony’s angle, so he understood, he didn’t say anything. I thought that was one of the funniest stories I’ve ever told.

I played two more years after my knee surgery, but let me tell you, I was playing with a handicap. It was difficult. I was playing with my brain alone. They didn’t know how to fix an anterior cruciate back then, and they sure didn’t fix mine very well because I was only able to play another two years.

+++++++++++++End of Part One. We pick up the next day+++++++++++++++

Cowboys Pro Bowlers

Charlie: Hey, good morning, Paul.

Paul: Hey, Charlie. How are you doing, buddy?

Charlie: Doing all right. How about yourself?

Paul: Good, good, good. D

I’m just going to kind of pick up where we were yesterday. Now I did have a question for you. I keep seeing this four blocked punts in a single game. Is that correct?

Charlie: No, not in a single game. Four blocked punts in two separate games. Back to back. Two in one game and then two, the next game.

Paul: Makes more sense.

Charlie: So, I guess you could say I’m making up a stat, but that doesn’t fill the slots because I blocked two punts at the end of the season against the Los Angeles Rams, when we lost the game. I had an interception, 10 tackles, and two blocked punts. It was against Los Angeles in the playoff game. And then, the very first game, next year, preseason game, I blocked two punts, again. Now that doesn’t mean squat because you don’t get to count the preseason games. But to me, I mean, it is still the same feat, to have accomplished something that radical. But, anyway, it’s back-to-back games. Two and then two.

Paul: I was trying to figure out how in world a coach wouldn’t adjust to that with the up back or something.

Charlie: What are they doing? Don’t they want to block me? You’d think they’d try to block me.

Paul: I was sitting there thinking that special teams coach didn’t have a job the next day.

Charlie: That’s exactly right. The next year, there’s another coach.

Paul: I would have put the three upbacks on you. To heck with everybody else.

Charlie: (Laughs) Well you had Thomas Henderson on the inside. And man, those guys were ferocious, so they had to collapse down on them.

Coach Landry and Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones… yep, Coach is smiling

Paul: Oh, you had Too Tall in the middle.

Charlie: Yeah.

Paul: That’s right, because, mean, he just stuck his paw up there and he blocked a couple of them.

Charlie: Yeah, he used to block field goals. He never block the punts. But Gene Stallings is the person that taught me how to block a punt.

Paul: Tell me!

Charlie: Gene Stallings, my defensive back coordinator, from Texas A&M. He was my position coach for 10 years, and I loved him to death. He was a great, great coach. And he even went on to be a head coach at St. Louis.

So, he taught me how to – We used to have a punt-blocking exercise, which is really coming for the punter. It’s really coming for the punter, because he is probably going to get hit a couple of times. But basically, the thought pattern that he wanted us to feel and try to accomplish was you don’t try to time up swinging at the ball. You just come in there and reach your hands out and keep them out straight. And it’s a simple little thing, but we practiced it and we practiced it. And I did it pretty good, when I blocked the punt, but I had such great timing on it. I was there, and I knew I was going to get it.

It’s the same way with trying to knock a pass down. He always used to tell us, “Just reach. Just reach. The ball is going to bounce off your hand, and it’s going to be incomplete. You don’t have to slap it down. And that takes timing to try to swing it.” So, I mean, all these little things were just fascinating to me. I love all those little techniques.

Paul: It’s a science.

Charlie: – Yeah, a science. Sure.

Cowboy coach Ernie Stautner

Paul: So, tell me a little bit about Ernie Stautner.

Charlie: Ernie was a tough, tough guy, but I really had a lot of respect for him because he was almost crippled, about right at the end of my career. His knees were so bad, and he’d been beat up so much. His hands were just gnarly and everything. But he was really good at stopping the run. And Coach Landry is the one – Coach Landry designed the flex defense to stop the run. And Ernie Stautner, he just was an extension of Tom Landry about the little details.

And, of course, he was a stickler for all kind of details when it came to steps. I don’t know if you’ve seen any– if you’ve ever done any kind of studying of the flex defense, but the guy that’s in the crouch position that’s about two yards off the ball? He actually reads the offensive linemen, not the one blocking on him, but both of them, the one blocking on him and the one nearest. If he’s in the gap, he has to read them both.

And that changes what he does. If the guy tries to block down on him, then he’ll loop around him. And it had everybody baffled. And we always had a lineman free, it seemed. And then, all my job was, as strong safety position, was one, turn the play in. I had to get the fullback or guard. And regardless of if it’s a 100-pound difference in size I still had to turn the play in.

And then, – in some defenses, Thomas Henderson would turn the play in. Or my strong side linebacker would turn the play in and I’d be the one that was designated to be the tackle. So, we were actually playing an eight-man front mainly because of Cliff Harris. Coach Landry designed defenses that had Cliff responsible for a gap on the weak side, a free safety.

Having a gap on the weak side of the formation. Yeah it’s fascinating when he did it. And then, I would become the free safety from the strong safety position, so we can see that being different. The offensive team thinks that with the linebacker being outside, that I’m going to be the one plugging the gap between the tackle and the tight end, but it wouldn’t be me, it’d be the defensive end and Cliff would cover an extra hole on the other side open and it would be Cliff Harris at that gap. He weighed 186 pounds and he knocked the s*** out of me, I’m telling you. He killed me. Anyway, Landry was the first eight-man front. Nobody gives him credit for that but I do, I recognize it.

Thomas Henderson against the Broncos in the Super Bowl win

Paul: So, I talked to Thomas Henderson, told him I was going to be interviewing you, he said to remind you, “Charlie played off my hip. He once called me a gazelle.”

Charlie: Yeah, when he ran that kick-off back against Los Angeles, he looked like a gazelle. He looked more like an animal than he looked like a human being. He had such a great stride and his legs were so powerful. And he had such great rhythm. He knocked down a lot of balls. The other thing that really disturbed me about Thomas is he was such a better athlete than everybody else, or anyone who’s just a better football player than anybody else. He actually should have been playing the weak side linebacker position because the weak side linebacker rushes a lot more than the strong side linebacker does. And the weak side linebacker doesn’t have anybody over him.

Paul: No tight end

Charlie: Exactly. Where Thomas is at, he has to fight through the tight end. We did have some blitzes and anytime we used a blitz I ensure you I know that that ball is going to come out of the quarterback’s hand at a certain time because Thomas is going to be there. That’s why I got a lot of kicks. I just gambled, thinking that we were going to have pass rush. And we did.

I know this, I wasn’t sure that Thomas was going to know all the details, the schemes, because he was a little bit kooky during the week. I used to always reassure him what his job was, just before the ball was snapped and he’d nod his head. He never turned around and looked at me, couldn’t do that because they might snap it, but I would get close enough to him and let him know, okay, contain the outside, turn the play in, let’s rush the gap. Close up the tight end, and then we’ll run a trail technique on the tight end. Those kind of things.

Paul: Kind of reaffirm it.

Charlie: It didn’t bother him that I did that, I think it may give him a sense of security that he’s got a job to do and we all have a job to do and it’s all of us on defense or we don’t play. So, you must make the play if you do not do exactly what your job is.

Paul: Thomas really spoke highly of you. He really did.

Charlie: And I think a lot of him, I think he’s a really, really good person. He just was a little bit full of himself back in the day and I understand why.

He was bigger, faster, and stronger than everybody. He could jump, he could leap, that’s why he was more like a gazelle than a scat cat. I loved him, he had a great attitude and he didn’t give a crap about what the other people thought about him. He played his ass off on every play.

Paul: What more can you ask?

Tell me a little bit about Roger Staubach, the man, the myth.

Charlie: It’s every bit of it is true. A myth is something that’s fantasy, but it’s not with him. I remember the first game that brought us from behind against San Francisco. It might have been 1973, I was still playing corner. We were three touchdowns behind, and Roger got hurt in preseason. So, he sat out every game. And then, Craig (Morton) had a bad game against San Francisco and Roger came in off the bench and scored three touchdowns in four minutes. I might be exaggerating a little bit but that was the beginning of it. And we all started believing.

Roger Staubach and Charlie Waters in charity ball game

From the defensive point of view, we used to say this in the huddle all the time, ‘get the fricking ball back to Roger. Just get it back. He will win it.’ We all believed it. I’m sure the offensive guys were excited like heck to play with him because he scrambled and saved so many plays. He had sometime make audibles on his own, so he was really smart at doing that. He could read defenses before the ball was snapped. Most quarterbacks look at the middle linebacker to figure out what the defense is, and the line, so the guard could get the call to the office lineman about what technique they’re going to use. But Roger did a good job of recognizing exactly what the other team’s intentions were. That’s why Coach Landry used to always tell us to disguise our intentions.

I used to give a lot of fake hand signals to my guys. It was just to throw the other team off in case they started getting them.

One of our defenses was a 40 defense, which means man-to-man, free safety, strong side rush, one-man rush with box force, which means Thomas Henderson would be box forcing it. When I played corner I could not see the backs.

We had defenses set up based on what the back field positions were. My strong safety, Cornell, he had plenty on his plate at that time, he didn’t need me to be bugging him.

But I couldn’t tell if it was a split formation from the Corner, we called it the Brown formation with the fullback in line, the quarterback, and back on the weak side. It would change based on my technique and the defense we were playing.

I used to turn to the corners and make sure they knew what the defense was. And we changed it up every once in a while just in case the offense started monitoring the calls.

Paul: I had no idea you would change defending on the fullback setup.

Now we all know how the Redskins were about picking that spy stuff.

Charlie: Yes, they were the Evil Empire. The worst thing they did was there was a hotel behind our practice field, a motel.

I think it was the Motel 6. We weren’t paranoid or anything, but the Cowboys used to rent all the rooms in that hotel for a week when we prepared for the Redskins. At the end of the week we would drive a bus down to the Cotton Bowl and practice at the Cotton Bowl for the last few days of the week.

Paul: There’s something I didn’t know. I will add that to our Cowboy timeline.

Charlie: We would do that against the Redskins because we knew they were caught many times trying to spy on us.

Paul: Sure. Like you said, the Evil Empire

Charlie: What, me worry? (Laughs)

Paul: Oh my God!

Okay, so tell me about the end of your career with the Cowboys. I know you were hurting like crazy back then.

Charlie: The 10th year in the league I was on my game. My best year in the league was the year before and I was really strong and played around – I was around 6′ 2″, 198. Now I’m 5′ 11″.

Lets you know how many head-on collisions I had.

My 10th year in the league in the preseason game against Seattle I stepped on a landmine out there on their artificial turf in a preseason game, that lets you know how hard I was going, even in a preseason game. I planted with my right foot and torqued my body to the left because I was chasing after a tight end and an explosion went off in my knee and I knew it, I tore my anterior cruciate (ACL) and I had to sit out the season and it almost killed me. I did the radio broadcast with Brad (Sham) several times.

Roger ‘Captain Comeback’ Staubach scalping the Redskin Defense

That was when the comeback that Roger made against the Redskins in Dallas. I was in the booth that game. Brad said, “Charlie, surely this game’s over.” I said, “Brad, Roger Staubach is our quarterback. Just get the ball back. You’ve got to believe. If you don’t believe you’re not going to make any of your dreams come true.” And sure enough, we get the ball back and he throws a touchdown pass to Tony Hill in the end zone. It was one second to go or something and that was his legacy.

He could win a game with his feet but he could also win a game with his moxie and his never say die.

Paul: Oh, he’s a guy you wanted on your team.

Charlie: We just felt so good with him in there. We had a rotation of Roger and Craig one year where they would go in and out on every play, and that was difficult for us on defense.

Paul: Were you there when Clint Longley did his famous ‘punch and run’?

Charlie: Yes, I witnessed it. Yeah, I saw it all.

Paul: From what I understand, he had everything packed up and ready to go after he sucker punched him.

Charlie: Yeah. I had lunch with him the day before and I was trying to calm him down because he and Roger got in a tussle on the practice field in the pre-practice warm-up and we had to go break it up.

Defensive guys had to go break it up. That lets you know what a competitor Roger was.

But Clint had some skills, he had a really nice way of looking one way and throwing the other. He was real good at that one position. But yeah, I had lunch with Clint the day before. He said, “You know, I figured out how to get traded.” I said, “How are you going to do it?” He said, “You’ll find out.”

Paul: Oh, no.

Charlie: He wouldn’t tell me. I was trying to pick his brain about how he was going to handle this because he got in the fight with Roger at the beginning of practice, I told you that. We knew there was bad blood there and Roger wasn’t going to back down.

Paul: Do you know what the fight was about? Was it just a fight because he was the backup?

Charlie: Clint didn’t feel like he was getting the respect. And Roger, he can step on a person and that’s it. That’s what Roger’s like. He goes for the throat. He was great at holding his position for all those years, even though he wasn’t the ‘consummate quarterback’ for pros because he ran so damn much. He had a separated shoulder that year when he came back from San Francisco. He tried to run over Marlin McKeever, linebacker for the Rams. And he just dislocated his right shoulder. He tried to run over him in the open field and I’m like, “You idiot.”

Paul: Oh, geez.

Gil Brandt and Roger Staubach after ‘the punch’

Charlie: Anyway, sure enough in the locker room, when Roger got on the scales to weigh and he was looking down at the scales, Clint sucker-punched him.

Paul: Oh, man.

Charlie: I went chasing him. He had already left. He already had his bags packed and everything.

Paul: Totally premeditated.

Charlie: Yes, exactly.

Paul: Of all the people to punch and then trying to get traded because of that. Did he actually get traded or did he get cut? Do you remember?

Charlie: We might’ve got some compensation for him. I don’t know what it was. That wouldn’t make it a trade, but if he got cut or released, then there would be no, I’m unsure of that.

(On August 30, 1976, after a training room incident in which Clint Longley sucker-punched Roger Staubach during the 1976 preseason, the team suspended and eventually traded him to the San Diego Chargers along with a first round draft pick (#24-Bob Rush), in exchange for a first (#14-Steve August) and second draft choice (#41-Terry Beeson). The Cowboys used those two picks and two other picks to eventually land the No. 2 overall pick in the 1977 draft, selecting Tony Dorsett. Courtesy Wiki)

Charlie: He had potential, he was really, really good against some defenses, as I told you. He could look me off and throw to the other side.

You know that one game that when Roger got knocked out.

Clint Longley, aka ‘The Mad Bomber’ after his Thanksgiving Day comeback victory

Paul: He did great. Thanksgiving day 1974 against the Redskins. We were trailing in the second half, Roger went down, I think he threw a couple of TDs before he hit Drew Pearson with about half a minute left in the game for a 50-yard hail mary TD

Charlie: Oh my God. He could move the ball down the field. Those linebackers didn’t come at him because they didn’t see, they didn’t know where he was going to throw the ball. I mean, he wouldn’t look them off.

Paul: Sure.

Charlie: I understand that. Because I was a quarterback and also I understand it, because I used to stare right in quarterback eyes, try to guess what he’s doing.

Paul: Right. You couldn’t do that with Cliff.

Charlie: This guy had a special knack for intermediate to short pass and he also had a nice judgment of how fast everything went.

Charlie with Danny White, Tony Dorsett, Harvey Martin and Larry Cole on Family Feud taking on the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders

Paul: Lets, talk a little bit about post football here. Well, first of all, I’m going to kind of go back in time a little bit. We haven’t touched on your better half, Rosie. Now Rosie has been just always a stunningly beautiful woman. So, tell me a little bit about how you guys met.

Rosie Holotik Playboy cover

Charlie: I helped pay for an advert for a motion picture. It was, in a horror movie. It was called “Don’t Look in the Basement”. You could still get it online. Rosie was starring in it. It was built by a company here in Dallas. She was nervous and it was a horror film. I owned a small piece of a restaurant called the Handle Bar restaurant.

So, we offered to have a party to push this new movie that was coming out at our spot. All Dallas, all people who texted us, all people started. It were from Texas. There were players that were in it. Some, a couple of guys where really big because they were, they wanted people being very dramatic. So, I met Rosie there and I fell in love with her. That moment, that day, that night, I don’t know what she thought about me. Who is this guy!

“Don’t Look in the Basement” movie poster

Paul: (Laughs) Who does he think he is?

Charlie: No, she didn’t know that I was a football player. I know that.

Paul: Really?

Charlie: Not at first she researched me, just like I researched her. I had been waiting a long time for someone like this to come into my life.

Paul: You where smitten.

Charlie: I was smitten. She could sing, dance, she was on Broadway. She performed on Broadway, she was all over, into their model magazine and she’s still very pretty.

Paul: Absolutely

Charlie appearing in an advertisement for Ken’s Man’s Shop, 1982

Charlie: Let me go back real quick and then remember where you are right in that highlight the interesting thing about me telling, if you’re in the collection, you’ve mentioned, we don’t do exactly what the defense wants. You damn sure better make the play.

Paul: Right, because you’re on an Island –

Charlie: Against Minnesota before the Hail Mary passed, I dodged it back. I went on the sidelines and asked Gene if I could dodge it back because we both knew what the play was going to be, because they had done the exact same. It was third and two before. This was third and one before and it’s, I guess, third and two. We just knew that he was successful the time before. So, we just knew that he was going to do the exact same play.

Paul: Exactly.

Charles: Just let me try to juke the fullback because they think I’m just going to stand up there and turn the play in like I always do. And he got first down last time they did that. When he does it, I think I can juke that guy, Gene. I don’t know if you can pay attention to early in the film, but Gene said – He looked me in the eyes and he looked at as all sober. He said, “Well, hell Charles, if you don’t make the play, we’re both going to get fired.” 

Nobody remembers that. Nobody remembered that play. It’s just a typical unsung hero type of person that happens with me. Not very much credit.

Paul: I love that kind of stuff. And to me it’s so much more than the guy that makes the long touchdown or anything. It’s that unsung guy. The guys up front too, that make that play and they make that stop. And it’s maybe half a yard gain. And then, the next play it’s a half a yard short of a first down. It’s because of that play before, when he stopped him for half a yard gain. You know? So, all these things, they all add up. That’s why it takes 10 yards to get a first down. All these little plays all the – Sorry I’m preaching there.

Charles: Somebody had to jump on the grenade.

So, well, I was going to say the last two years of our career after I had that interior cruciate, I came back and Cliff retired. And so, my last two years, he played 10 years I played 12, so that’s where they used the thing they called Charlie’s Angels. Which had four rookies in the backfield, Everson Walls who was a free agent.

Paul: Oh, Cubby.

Charles: Dennis Thurman. Yeah, Cubby. What a stud. Dennis Thurman was playing for me and a guy named Ron Fellows, we just called him Tweety Bird because he was so skinny. But I had all young kids back here, and here I was 11 or 12-year veteran. I played all the positions.

I knew exactly what they’re supposed to do. They depended on me and I loved it. I loved that responsibility. Maybe it’s a frustrated way of exercising my quarterback. We sure had a lot of responsibilities, but I took it on and I enjoyed it. I really did. And we had a great two years.

It ended with the catch at San Francisco –

Paul: Dwight Clark. Yikes!

Charles: Clay pellets poured out onto the field to soak up the mushy field that Candlestick had. Candlestick Park, it’s under the ground level of water.

So, it’s just always mushy, but really mushy this game. So, then they painted in green and you painted white on there.

Paul: Oh boy.

Charles: They had the whole field like that. And so, when I looked around and I saw the play, and Dwight Clark make the catch – It was not Everson’s fault by the way, it was somebody else’s fault.

I remember falling to my knees, and dropping down face first onto the field, because my career was over.

Paul: Oh, wow.

Charles: And I thought I was getting in my career and getting most valuable player at the Superbowl.

You got to think big, right?

Paul: Sure.

Charles: So, I ended my career with my face buried in green kitty litter. That’s a line for ya right there!

“So, I ended my career with my face buried in green kitty litter.”

Charlie Waters

Paul: Who was the free safety for you that last two years?

Charles: Michael Downs.

Paul: Oh yeah, that’s right.

Charles: Yeah. A kid from down here, right here in South Dallas or something like that. Everson was raised right here in Dallas.

Paul: Right. Hamilton Park. 

Charles: Hamilton Park, yeah.

Paul: I know Cubby a little bit. So, did you know, you remember, Beasley Reece by chance?

Charles: Oh sure.

Paul: We were in Boy Scouts together in Waco.

Charles: What a good guy. He’s such a good guy.

Paul: Yeah. I know. I think, he’s in Philly now, if I remember correctly.

Charles: Is he coaching?

Paul: No, he was doing some sports casting or something up there.

Charles: Oh, that’s right. I remember that.

I hope he’s doing well and very successful. He deserves it.

With all these conversations Paul, you going to write a book? What are you going to do?

Paul: No, just one interview. If you’ve read any of the ones we’ve done, I like to find out more about the person and even football stuff.

Now, you auditioned for Channel 4, sportscaster at one point, didn’t you?

Charles: Yeah.

Paul: How’d that go?

Charles: It didn’t go very well. Let me just say about my time as a sportscaster, whatever it’s called. Did it for two years. Tom Brookshier was my play by play guy.  

Paul: Okay.

Charles: Tom Brookshier was a colorful character. He was in front of me under Pat Sommerall.

Paul: Yes.

Charles: They split them up and he became a play by play guy. And he was my play by play guy, and he was doing more color than I would do. And we were doing a game at Philadelphia on the road and they were talking about some corner, some black corner, and Tom said, “You know, he probably doesn’t have an IQ greater than a decimal point but he can damn sure play football.” And the telephone rang in our booth and they fired his butt on the spot.

Paul: Holy cow.

Charlie: And I didn’t have nothing to do with it.

Here’s the other thing I didn’t like about doing that stuff, they just threw you out there and if you did well, great. If you are not a natural, you’re gone.

So, what does a guy have to depend on to be successful in this game of football? It’s preparation. Study. Learn. Do it the right way. Take no prisoners.

Paul: Sure.

Charlie: You know? The credit belongs to the person that’s in the arena. It’s not the people that criticize them. So, if they would have just had a couple people giving him some, “Watch the film with me.” But they wouldn’t do it. They just gave it a shot and it didn’t take.

They knew I knew a lot about football and used to compliment me a lot off the air. He say, “You really know a lot about what’s going on.”

We might have been able to pull out of it but why they gave me a newbie, what do you call it? A newbie play by play guy. Why don’t they give me somebody that –

Tom was actually first year’s play by play guy and he went back to doing college. He was a very colorful person.

Tom Brookshier and Pat Summerall

Pat Summerall. They were great. If I had Pat Summerall, I would have done a little bit better. You think Tony Romo is doing good because he’s Tony Romo? He knows an awful lot about stuff and he has the gift of gab.

He’s just a colorful stuff, but he’s got the best play by play guy in the world.

Paul: Yeah.

Charlie: He’s got no excuses.

Paul: What do you think about Troy.

Charlie: No excuses. Yeah. I like Troy.

Paul: So, you went to Denver as a coach.

Charlie: Yeah. I remember in the 80s, the real estate market went to hell in a hand basket and I was in the real estate business at that time, and had a lot of success. A lot of success. And then, it went south. And Dan Reeves always told me, he said, “Look, any time you want to get into coaching…”

Coach Landry offered me a job right when I retired. He said, “But I want you to take this personality test.” And I went, “Excuse me?” I was kind of – I was a little bit taken aback by that because I played with him for 12 years. He knew my work habits and how much I would study. And he wants me to take a personality test to find out what kind of person I am? After 12 years? And my pride got in the way and I really, really made a mistake right there. I should have gone and coached because now, with that staff that we had, and just all the stability and all the winning and all the history and I didn’t do it. I was too prideful. And I regret that.

Steve Atwater listens to advice from Coach Charlie Waters during Broncos practice inside the bubble on May 16, 1989.

So, when Dan Reeves told me, he pulled me aside and said, “Look, if you ever want to get into the coaching business again, or if you want to try to get into coaching, just give me a call. I’ll make a spot for you.” He did. I became a co-kicking team coach with Mike Nolan. Mike was at Denver for seven years. Loved him. Great guy.

Paul: And Mike was your coach at Dallas?

Charlie: His dad did. His dad, that’s where he got his IT.

Paul: That’s right, Dick Nolan.

Charlie: Dick Nolan. Mike has got the pedigree. He coached a lot of other places but I don’t think he came to Dallas ever.

And the only time I coached with him was at Denver. I coached seven years and then I got fired with Wade (Phillips) as head coach and I was defensive coordinator. Difficult times.

So, then I took a job at University of Oregon, I was the defensive coordinator. And I loved it. I really, really enjoyed working at the University kids because they’re they are young and eager. They knew I had pedigree and they knew that I knew what I was talking about and I made them better and they were good.

Number 2 in the nation, number 1 in Pac-10.

Cody Waters and his dad

At then at the end of the season, before we were going to go to the bowl game, my son died in his sleep.

Paul: Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.

Charlie: He was 18 years old. Two weeks before his 18th birthday. And I don’t know how I coached the game because the game was like seven days away or 10 days away. I obviously didn’t coach very good, we got killed.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with, ever. And I dealt with a lot of stuff as far as personal issues.

Beyond comparison. Yeah. You just don’t know. There’s a Chinese proverb, well actually a Chinese character, you know those little characters they draw?

Paul: Sure.

Charlie: And the symbol for perseverance is a dagger and a heart intertwined together and you spend the rest of your life, when you lose a child, you spend the rest of your life with a dagger lodged in your heart. I I think about it every day.

That’s what happened. We lost the Cotton Bowl and we moved back to Dallas.

My wife told me, she said, “Look, we got to get back to Texas.” Where all my family is. It was killing her.

And so, we came back here and I kind of straggled around trying to figure out what’s going on in the world.

Paul: Okay.

Charlie: Cliff Harris was starting a new company with Kelsey Warren called Energy Transfer. So, they invited me to be part of it, which was great. Ray Davis, the guy that owns the Rangers. He and Kelsey offered me a job.

Ray was co-founder of Energy Transfer and of course Energy Transfer is very, very, very successful. So, I work with Cliff again. Crazy.

Paul: What a great friend. They’re rare. They really are.

Charlie: They’re rare.

Paul: Tell me about the Animal House.

Charlie: Ah, we called it the ‘Animal Farm’. Named after the book.

Paul: George Orwell!

Charlie: I had married my college sweetheart my rookie year. In a few years, I got a divorce and that’s when I bought the Animal Farm which was on Fairoaks between Skillman and Abrams.

Paul: Oh, wow.

Charlie: And I drive by it every day.

It was an old house. Still there. Right there at one of the roads that cut through the ridge out there.

It was a great business deal because I knew a little bit about it, so. It was zoned for multi-family. It is still a single, three-bedroom home. Four of us lived there. Like Animal Farm. We had lots of animals – Mike Montgomery was one of my buddies that played with the Cowboys. He would come over an awful lot. Rex Kirby was an Animal Farm original. A girl named Fran lived with us too. And Phil Weir. And it was all crazy.

I just saw Phil this past week.

Paul: In Aspen?

Charlie: Yeah. In Glenwood Springs. Close to Aspen, yeah.

Phil’s genuinely a good person.

Paul: Yeah, I like Phil a lot man. Very helpful with a lot of things here.

Charlie: We used to play a game called Roofball where you get a volleyball and leave it on top of the roof. We had a single-family ranch house. So, a two-man team volleyball as it rolls off the roof. You can either hit it or let it bounce, get it, kind of like tennis. And we played our ass off. We had a gym, 10 station – I forgot what they called those gyms back then.

Paul: Like a universal gym?

Charlie: Universal gym. Exactly what it was.

Paul: Yeah.

Charlie: I was in shape. Unbelievable what I was doing. All the working out that I did. I really dedicated myself to becoming a professional. I knew that my time was coming to be strong safety someday soon, so I needed a lot more bulk. And I got. Bought my own damn gym.

Paul: Yeah. Well you know that Bob Ward’s brother, Frank – that was the guy that developed Universal Gym. All the stuff for Universal, that equipment; that was a Frank Ward product.

Charlie: Wow.

Paul: There you go. The Ward family helped you again.

Charlie: Bob Ward is a big reason why I had success. He changed the way I thought about stuff so he’s really special.

Paul: I met him three or four times when Frank was around there. Very innovative guy. I remember I think he was so much like that Tom House, I believe it was, for the Rangers. That had him throwing footballs instead of throwing the baseball. Odd things that weren’t quite the same motion. Crazy.

Charlie: Right. When I was coaching the defensive backs, I used to throw tennis balls at them. Because tennis balls bounce off your hands.

Paul: Sure.

Charlie: You have to give a little when you catch it.

Paul: Oh.

Charlie: Somebody taught that to me. I think my brother taught that to me. He’d toss them where he used to fire them at me as hard as he could, and I’d catch them. If they bounced off your hands, then you’re going to drop that football eventually.

It was quite the coaching technique.

Paul: Is there anything that you would like for me to add to this, that nobody’s asked? I can’t imagine too many questions haven’t been asked from you.

Charlie: This is pretty thorough based on how many times I’ve been interviewed.

I guess this is the most thorough interview ever as a matter of fact. I’ve gone into personal stuff nobody every asked.

Paul: Sure. Tell Rosie hello for me.

Charlie: Absolutely!  I will say this about Rosie. The one thing was that she was very professional. She was always about her business. That helped me in my professionalism. She taught me a lot. I might have been a little lax, having lived at the Animal Farm.

Well, Paul. Thank you very much for your time.

Paul: Absolutely.

Charlie: And all your patience. Telling war stories.

Paul: Folks love to hear these, it was a great time to be a Cowboy but also to be a Cowboy fan.

Charlie: Okay, thank you.

Paul: If you ever need anything, holler at me.

Charlie: Okay. All right, Paul. Thank you very much, sir. That was fun.

Paul: All right, sir. Have a good day.

Charlie: Bye.

“Yeah, it’s amazing,” says Charlie Waters, leaning back in his patio chair. “Even now I can be off in the backwoods somewhere and when somebody recognizes who I am they’ll say, ’Oh yeah. Charlie Waters. Yeah, I remember that Harold Jackson game.” 

Charlie smiles his boyish smile. “Yeah, I guess I’ve had a pretty weird career. It’s never far from chicken salad to chicken s**t…” 

courtesy DMagazine, December 1977 


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  1. meminc

    November 5, 2020

    Hope everyone enjoyed this one. Charlie was a blast to talk to!

  2. Trisha Ritter

    November 6, 2020

    Paul. Thank you for your time and effort that you put into The Charlie Waters interview. I enjoyed reading about one of the best, if not the best all time player for the Dallas Cowboy’s. This interview was amazing. I would have liked hearing more about his wife Rosie. I know that this interview was about Charlie, maybe an interview with Rosie could be in the work’s. Ohh yeah loved the booty shorts ?. Thank you for your time and effort again. Really enjoyed this one #CB4L #41

    • meminc

      November 6, 2020

      thanks Trisha.

  3. Jo Anne Aune

    November 6, 2020

    Paul, this was one of the best interviews you’ve done so far. All of them have been entertaining and insightful, but I couldn’t put down my tablet on this one. That era was unbelievable. You and Charlie brought those memories back in living color!
    Thank you both.

    • meminc

      November 6, 2020

      Charlie was fun, interesting and there wasn’t a moment of hesitation. It was like he had done these things before! ;^)

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