What would have been the Dallas Cowboys sixth Super Bowl appearance in 1982 was squelched with what is now infamously known as “the catch.” Charlie Waters, 6’1”, 193 pound strong safety, still believes they would have made the championship game had San Francisco 49ers, Joe Montana thrown to the tight end he was defending instead of Dwight Clark. Waters would end his football playing career that dreadful night.
Thankfully, that is not what we remember about Waters. He was born on September 10, 1948 in Miami, Florida. Later his family moved to South Carolina, where he alternated between quarterback and wide receiver at North Augusta High School. He went on to attend Clemson University where he played quarterback as a junior, then switched to wide receiver to finish out his college career. Waters was inducted into the Clemson Hall of Fame in 1981, and also the North Augusta and South Carolina Hall of Fame.
Back in the ‘70’s, ESPN 24 hour draft coverage did not exist, so a phone call, and a landline at that, was the only way you knew which team liked you. “In the 1970 NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys select, in the third round, pick #66, Charlie Waters.” He would not play quarterback, nor wide receiver, but would make the change to defense and the defensive back/safety position. Waters would go on to be a part of the “Doomsday Defense.” Everyone who knew Waters talks of his smart instincts as a player and his ability to learn. Never a prima donna, he took the team concept to heart and did what was asked of him.
In 1970 he earned the honor of all-rookie team, appeared in three Pro-bowls and made two All-Pro teams, and wears two championship rings. Waters was a proud Dallas Cowboy from 1970-1982, playing in five super bowls, and holding the record for playoff interceptions at nine. While he made pennies compared to the players today, (as low as $9,000 and up to $200,000 per year), I often wonder if these guys would have still played the game seeing the millions paid out now. I think they would have played the game they loved. He is a member of the Dallas Cowboys Silver Anniversary Team, but has yet to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After retiring from the Cowboys, he coached the Denver Broncos for a couple of years, then at the University of Oregon for one year. As life sometimes takes a turn, tragedy struck Waters and his wife, Rosie, and family. Their high school soccer star oldest son, Cody, 17, died in his sleep at their home in Oregon. As most of us who have not lost a child can even begin to imagine what it feels like, he left the game of football and moved his family back to Texas to heal.
In the years since, Waters and his old teammate, Cliff Harris, co-authored, “Tales from the Dallas Cowboys” and they now do motivational speaking engagements around the country, as well as the partnership at Energy Transfer Group. Waters is still married to Rosie after 35 years and he is involved in many charitable activities, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the I’m Third Foundation of Kanakuk Kamps, and the Cody Waters Memorial Fund.
While “the catch” might have been the ending of his playing days, Waters has never let his fans forget the great man he was on the field, as well as off.
I utilized the knowledge I had on offense, I loved to study the game. I wasn’t fast or mean or anything special. I was just an athlete who utilized brainpower. That’s the way coach Landry played, and I think he was partial to me because of that.