By Junior Johnson
Charlie Tolar was a remarkable man and one of the best players who ever put a Football uniform on. He played in an era where they did not make the millions that players make today. He worked for Red Adair putting out oil well fires during his offseason.
I was fortunate to have met him over 20 years ago when I moved back to Natchitoches after my many journeys in the Oil and Gas Industry.
Many of my readers probably knew Charlie and know what a funny and complex man that he was. When I met him he was working at our dear Johnny Antoon’s place on the bypass. I had known Johnny from my college days and playing softball during the summer with him and just wanted to let him know that I was back in town. Charlie and I became friends immediately. I’ll give you a little of his football background that I found on Wikepedia.
Charlie had an outstanding career with the Demons and was twice named Outstanding Player of the Gulf States Conference. He still holds four records with the Demons where he was affectionately known as the Human Bowling Ball.
He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Stealers in 1959 but was released to play for the Houston Oilers in the new American Football League in 1960. He played for the Oilers for six years during which he became the first player to rush for 1000 yards, won a Championship in 1960 and 1961, named as an All-Star in 1961, 1962, and 1963.
In 1990 Charlie was selected by Oiler fans to the 30th Anniversary Dream Team along with Earl Campbell. In 1994 he was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Charlie told me that was his most cherished honor of his entire career.
I had developed a card game that I asked Charlie if he would be interested in endorsing for me. He laughed and said that he had never been asked to endorse anything during his career as players do today. We worked out the details and I went to work promoting our venture.
I called a Sports Memorabilia Shop in Houston to see if they would be interested in selling our game. When the owner heard the name Charlie Tolar he forgot about the game and wondered if Charlie would be interested in signing autographs at an upcoming show that he was promoting at the Astrodome. He said that he would pay him $2,000, and oh by the way we could bring the game. I told him that I would have to ask Charlie, and when I called him he didn’t seem too interested because it would be the same day as the Christmas Festival. When I told him that he would be paid $2,000, Charlie hesitated, and said “I hope you told that SOB that we would be there.” We had a big laugh and set up the date.
The show was a tremendous success. I have never seen a man so humbled as Charlie was. When it came time for him to go the podium hundreds of people were already lining up. I was fortunate to be able to sit with Charlie and the promoter as he signed autographs. I was so proud and happy for him and a couple of times I thought I saw a tear of joy in his eyes. I know that I certainly had some.
We went on a few other trips such as this and although our product did not become the next Monopoly game we had a lot of fun.
Sadly Charlie Tolar died in Houston in 2003 after a bout with cancer. My life was enriched by knowing him, and perhaps I will see him again in the hereafter…God Bless you Charlie Tolar.