Born: July 2, 1924
Charles Height Winner was born July 2, 1924 in Somerville. His father operated a street-cleaning machine. Fast, tough and clever, Charley was a standout two-way halfback who excelled as a runner and pass defender for Somerset High School. Charley played one year of college ball for Southeast Missouri State before enlisting in the Army Air Force. He was a radio operator and gunner in a B-17 crew and spent 6 weeks in a POW camp after his plane was shot down in the spring of 1945.
After the war, Charley played football for Washington University in St. Louis for coach Weeb Ewbank from 1946 to 1948. He married Ewbank’s daughter, Nancy, and later joined him on the Baltimore Colt’s staff in 1954. For several seasons he coached the team’s defensive backs. The Colts grew from a team of cast-offs to an NFL powerhouse. During the 1958 NFL Championship, Charley was perched atop Yankee Stadium with a pair of binoculars, giving reports and analysis to Ewbank. The Colts won the game in overtime, 23–17. The Colts repeated as NFL champs in 1959, with a big contribution from Charley’s coverage guys, who picked off 40 passes.
In 1963, new coach Don Shula elevated Charley to the position of Defensive Coordinator. He held that position for three seasons before taking his first NFL head coaching job, with the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards had three winning seasons in four years with Charley at the helm and he was popular with the players. However, after missing the playoffs in 1969 he was fired.
After a brief stint with the Redskins—during which the team made it to the Super Bowl—Charley was hired by his father-in-law as an assistant with the Jets, and then replaced him as head coach when Ewbank retired in 1974. The Jets went 7–7 in Charley’s first season and Joe Namath was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year. But when the team started 2–7 in 1975, Charley was let go. His final NFL coaching record was 44–44.
Charley coached the defensive backs for the Bengals until 1979 and then reunited with Shula, filling a player development role for the Miami Dolphins until 1992. In all, he worked 37 years in the NFL. Charley remained extremely active in his retirement, playing tennis competitively into his 90s. He is the last surviving coach (for either team) from the landmark 1958 NFL Championship. In 2015, Charley was inducted into the Washington U. Hall of Fame.