Originally created 11/05/04

Waters has worn many hats



Charlie Waters has been a lot of things in his life: a football player, a coach, a grieving father, a businessman, a broadcaster and even an author.

But it all began because he grew up in North Augusta.

Waters and his family moved to the area when he was 9 years old. His father, who grew up in the Washington, Ga. area, was looking for work as a crane operator. He ended up returning to the area and settled in North Augusta while helping to build the Savannah River Plant.

During his time as a youth in North Augusta, Waters participated in every community activity that he could. But it was football that drove him and it was football that drove the community.

"I have great memories (of North Augusta)," Waters said. "I had a wonderful high school career. We had a great strong community to support us and I appreciate all the activities that the community provided for us."

Waters, though, got to experience first-hand the immense pressure of high school football in the area. His older brother, Keith, was a kicker on former North Augusta coach Cally Gault's state champion teams of the early 1960s. Gault coached the Yellow Jackets to a 42-game win streak.

By the time Waters got to high school Gault had taken the Presbyterian College athletic director job.

"They had just gone to a state title," Waters said. "There was a lot of pressure on us to perform."

When Gault's replacement, Jim Buist, needed a quarterback, he turned to Waters, who quickly rose to the occasion. Waters remembers the Yellow Jackets having two good years with him at quarterback, including beating strong Richmond Academy teams his junior and senior seasons. His performance and leadership earned him a scholarship to Clemson.

"Coach told me if I was pretty good I'd have a chance (to get a scholarship)," he said. "Sure enough, I got a lot of offers to go because I was a quarterback."

He remained a quarterback for three years with the Tigers, until Frank Howard, the Tigers' coach at the time, moved him to wide receiver. It was another switch that benefited his career.

The Cowboys' legendary coach Tom Landry and longtime scout Gil Brandt selected Waters in the third round of the 1970 NFL Draft. Dallas didn't take long to decide that Waters' skills belong on the other side of the ball.

"He (Landry) too played quarterback in high school and college and moved to defensive back in the pros," Waters said. "He saw something in me. (Brant and Landry) put their heads together and said 'he's a defensive back."'

At defensive back, Waters - along with Cliff Harris - helped the Cowboys reach their first Super Bowl in 1971 against the Baltimore Colts. Waters went on to play in four more Super Bowls as part of Dallas' "Doomsday Defense," losing two more times to Pittsburgh and beating the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos.

He remembered that it was the losing that helped teach him how to win. It was also the only regret he has about his 12-year career.

"The first (loss), I was so young that I can hardly remember it," Waters said. "The last two were brutally hard to stomach. I wish that we could've beaten Pittsburgh one or two times in the Super Bowl."

Waters said one play really stands out for him out of the three losses. During Super Bowl XIII, the second Pittsburgh game, Waters ran into an official on Franco Harris' 22-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. That score ended up being the game-winner in a 35-31 Pittsburgh victory.

"Losing a Super Bowl is probably the worst loss of all that you learn to deal with," Waters said. "Learning how to lose teaches you how to win. It's still really difficult to lose."

Waters would later lose something that was much closer to him.

In 1982, after ending his professional career, Waters went to work for CBS as an analyst. He then got into coaching with the Denver Broncos, working under Dan Reeves for seven years during the Broncos' glory days of the late 1980s.

Waters later turned his attention to college football. He became the defensive coordinator for the Oregon Ducks, helping the team to a berth in the 1996 Cotton Bowl.

Then tragedy struck.

His oldest son, Cody, died in his sleep just 13 days before his 18th birthday.

"I got out of coaching when my oldest son died," he said. "I decided to get out of coaching because I never saw my family."

Waters still has a need to be around football, though, which is why he continues to do the Dallas pre-game show with Wally Lynn on the Cowboys' flagship radio network, KLUV-FM 98.7.

His day job is with the Energy Transfer Company. It was there he was reunited with teammate Cliff Harris. Both handle different components of the company, which deals with natural gas distribution throughout the country.

"We still double team them," Waters joked.

Waters and Harris also have recently released a book on their playing days, Tales From The Dallas Cowboys

The pair also give motivational speeches to businesses, using what they learned from coach Landry as a basis for the talk.

"Coach Landry was a tremendous influence," Waters said. "The redeeming qualities I have I owe to him. I'm real thankful I got exposed to him, to someone that goes about his work as professional as he did."

Reach Raymond Beasock at (706) 823-3221 or raymond.beasock@augustachronicle.com.