Carl Charon Unplugged
When thinking of the start of Gladwin’s football playoff run that began in 1998 and didn’t end until Gladwin’s 2004 season, one can’t help but bring to mind the coach who brought them there the first year, (Carl Charon).
Coach Charon was a physical education teacher at Gladwin for 33 years and spent 27 of those years as the head football coach. He was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Association Coach’s Hall of Fame in 1994. He was inducted into the Gladwin Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. He was voted MHSFCA Regional Coach of the Year in: 1979, 1983 and 1985. In the years he coached he had a 65 percent win-loss ratio and a record of 155 wins and 100 losses. He also led the 1979 team to an undefeated season and a #9 in the state ranking. I recently had a chance to interview Coach Charon regarding his coaching and playing (high school, college and pro) experience.
Sean Locey: Do you have a favorite moment or coaching experience at Gladwin?
Carl Charon: The triple overtime win against Standish Sterling Central the year we went to the semi- finals—1998.
SL: That was an exciting game. Are there any plays or players in particular that stand out? What do you
remember about the crowd atmosphere or the reactions of your players?
CC: Some of the players I remember from that season were: Scott Ferguson FB/DL, Richard Ward as aggressive as it gets offensively and defensively. Josh Farling TE/LB, Andrew Manninen RB/DE, and Ken Johnson QB/DB. It was a packed crowd, people standing around the field. It was starting to thin out at the end of the game because we were trailing by 2 touchdowns with just over 2 minutes left, Johnson threw a TD pass to Kyle Phillips. We blocked their ensuing punt, recovered and scored a TD to send the game into OT. The three Ots were wildly intense and that game seemed to prople us with great swagger into the playoffs.
SL: What about the semi-finals game? What was that like from your perspective?
CC: We had just beat Gladstone, then Shepherd 44-0 in the playoffs, so we were confident. Belding was highly touted and they were defending state champs. They said they were going to wear us out in the paper because they had a bigger team and less players who played both ways. Belding was running the wing T, they had a huge O-line and they carried out their fakes terrifically. They scored on a long run on the opening series, it looked like it was going to be a long day but after that we held them pretty good. We were down a touchdown in the 4th quarter and drove down to the 4 yard line. An interception by Belding in the end zone hurt us because it would have tied the game up. Shortly after, Ken Johnson completed a long pass to Kyle Phillips the last play of the game, Phillips was tackled on their three yard-line as time expired.
SL: What was it like playing for MSU and what are some fond/favorite memories from that?
CC: It was like going from grade school right into varsity. Beating U of M all three years was thrilling. The 1960 game when I scored the winning TD stands out the brightest.
SL: That must have been a thrill. Can you describe that play?
CC: There was four minutes left, the game was tied. I had been playing both ways at the time and I had the hot hand and carried the ball six or eight times on that drive. I ran off tackle from the four to plunge in for the winning TD, the defense held. I carried the ball 14 times for 124 yards.
SL: What did you get your degree in?
CC: Physical Education and Health Education.
SL: What did you like most about teaching PE and Health? Why do you regard it as an important subject to have in high school?
CC: It gives you a chance to be active and you can stay outside when its nice and inside when its not. I liked knowing the kids that came through, playing games and having fun. PE should be required for four years. We have too many people who eat junk food and don’t get outside enough. Looking at the statistics the obesity problem is getting worse over the years.
SL: What was it like playing in the NFL?
CC: Like going from Boyne City High School to the Big Ten. It was a dream come true after I found out I made the team in 1962.
SL: How long and what positions did you play in the NFL?
CC: Two years and part of a third with the Buffalo Bills, and a partial year with the Denver Broncos.
SL: What do you think about the NFL today amid all the controversy about hard hits, concussions, etc.?
CC: The same as many of the other ex-players—it is just the results of the players getting bigger, faster and stronger. These things have happened forever, but much more now.
SL: Do you have any memorable moments in the NFL that you find to be interesting?
CC: My rookie season in Buffalo, playing with stars like, Jack Kemp who later would become a vice presidential candidate and Cookie Gillchrist who was an outstanding AFL player for years. I intercepted the San Diego qb, John Hadl in the 10th game of my rookie year 3 times that day. I led the Bills in scoring after six games because of a blocked punt and interception returns.
SL: Do you have any hobbies that you engage in and what is it that inspires you to keep interest in them?
CC: I have quite a few hobbies. I like golf, tennis, and pickle ball is very popular with the old retirees. I still like to workout.
SL: What else are you doing in retirement?
CC: Traveling a motorhome —golfing—catching up with olf friends and teammates. Enjoying the good life.
SL: Is there anything you would like to add to this interview?
CC: Just to let people know that enjoy what you have today because we do not know what tomorrow will bring.