By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Today's sit down "Q & A Session" is with former LSU football great, running back Charles Alexander. Alexander became the Tigers' starting running back in his junior season in 1977.
Against Oregon, he scored four touchdowns and set a school record by rushing for 237 yards. For his performance he was named the UPI running back of the Week.
His 1,686 rushing yards that season helped LSU to an 8–3 regular season record and a trip to the Sun Bowl. In that game, Alexander set two Sun Bowl rushing records, carrying 31 times for 197 yards as he won Offensive Player of the Game honors. But even with Alexander's performance, LSU lost to Stanford 24–14.
In 1978 Alexander's stats dropped some during his senior year, as he would be hampered with a nagging leg muscle injury for most of the season, forcing the Tigers' offense to become more balanced with David Woodley at quarterback. He and Woodley would led the team to another 8–3 record.
He played his last game as a Tiger in the 1978 Liberty Bowl, in which he rushed for 133 yards on 24 carries in a 20–15 loss to Missouri.
His accomplishments at LSU led fans to refer to him as "Alexander the Great."
In his final two seasons, he would earn All-American and All-SEC Honors. Alexander was also named the SEC Most Valuable Player in his junior year.
Alexander ended up setting nine SEC records, tied another, and set 27 LSU records. He finished his LSU career as LSU's all-time leading rusher with 4,035 rushing yards.
As a junior he finished 9th in the Heisman Trophy voting.
As a senior he finished 5th in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Q - What is your favorite color?
Alexander - Grey
Q - What is your favorite food?
Alexander - I like it all! If I had to zero in on a favorite food, I'd say seafood. Narrowing it down to fried shrimp. Shrimp any kind of way. Some catfish and I would be happy.
Q - Who is your favorite pro athlete, both currently and growing up?
Alexander - That's a good one there. Growing up, I watched the Dallas Cowboys a lot being originally from Texas. They were televised a lot. Tony Dorsett and Dallas had a running back way back in the day named Dwayne Thomas, I liked both of those guys. Both of them wore number 33. Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, ... guess I'm calling all running backs, but those were my favorite guys.
Currently, wow, that's a good one man,... Currently, I like this kid. I like the way he runs. He didn't play year before last, and last year he was with a new team, Le'Veon Bell. He is one of my favorites that I enjoy watching. I also enjoy watching Odell Beckham Jr.
Q - Who is your favorite Music Artist?
Alexander - Stevie Wonder
Q - Your favorite movie if all-time?
Alexander - Man, you ask some tough questions... It has to be a Denzel movie... "Training Day" with Denzel.
Q - Your favorite Actor?
Alexander - Denzel Washington
Q - Favorite NFL Team?
Alexander - Playing for the Bengals for seven years, so I still have some love for the Bengals. It's got to come down to the Houston Texans, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the New Orleans Saints.
Q - I see that you grew up in Texas and that you currently live there?
Alexander - I live in a suburb of Houston named Sugar Land, Texas. That's in South West Houston. I grew up in Galveston, Texas all my life until I went to LSU.
Q - Family?
Alexander - I'm currently single. I have two daughters and four granddaughters.
Q - While in high school at Ball High, did you play multiple sports or only football?
Alexander - I played football and I ran track.. I only ran track during my last two years of high school. I always tell this to kids, "To just keep your head down, and work hard. Don't ever give up. You never know what can happen down the road if you have that kind of attitude." In my junior year, I never won a race in track and field. I never crossed the finish line first. However, my senior year, I won every race a ran in. I was undefeated and was the State Champion in the 200 and 100 yard dash. My track team won the State Championship in 4A, which was the highest class in Texas back in 1975.
Q - Did you ever played multiple positions in football?
Alexander - No I basically just played running back in high school, at LSU, and in the NFL too.
Q - How was your recruiting process? Who else recruited you besides LSU?
Alexander - Well, at that time there was a conference called the Southwest Conference. Had a lot of those schools after me like Baylor, Arkansas, University of Houston. I did take a visit to UCLA, but they weren't going to give me a scholarship. They wanted me to pay my own way, and that wasn't going to happen.
My final decision came down between Houston and LSU. On national signing day when I was leaving my grandmother's house to go to school, I had two cars parked out in the front yard. One car had the head coach and the running back coach from the University of Houston. The head coach was Bill Yeoman. The other car had LSU's running back coach Jerry Stovall. Well, I had about ten seconds to make up my mind on which school I was going to go to. I went straight to the car that Bill Yeoman was sitting in and I said, "Coach, I really appreciate you recruiting me and spending time with me and you're out here today when you could have been somewhere else, but I decided that I want to go to LSU." and he said, "Are you sure?" and I said, "Yes sir." So I thanked him and next thing you know I was in the car with Jerry Stovall and he drove me to school. Don't know if you have ever met Coach Stovall, but he is a salesman, which is what I'm doing in my life now, being a salesman. I learned a lot from him like, don't take no for an answer. He is a great individual.
Q - So you played at LSU under Charlie McClendon. Can you tell us a little about him?
Alexander - Great coach, great coach. He was more of a hands off head coach. He let his assistant coaches do the coaching. But he was always there when needed.
If he was around you a lot, then that wasn't a good thing because that meant something was wrong. Yea, if you were in trouble or you didn't go to class and you got caught not doing what you're suppose to do.
Yea, he was more of a General, but a great guy and always there when you needed him.
Even when my days at LSU were done. He still kept in touch with me. One of the things Coach Mac did for me that I never will forget, is when I was cut by the Cincinnati Bengals. I think I was close to 30 years old and had played seven years in the League. I was hoping to make it eight. He never even told me this, but I found out that he had made several calls to different NFL teams to try and help me get an opportunity to keep playing at least another year. So I was always grateful to him for that.
Q - So during your first two seasons at LSU you played behind Terry Robiskie?
Alexander - I have to be honest with you. I couldn't have painted the picture any better. I needed time to learn the game, especially in my first year. Terry taught me a lot, as did Coach Mac and Coach Stovall. So I had the opportunity to get comfortable, and it payed off. You could see the difference going into my sophomore year. I went from averaging less then three yards a carry as a freshman, to over five yards a carry my second year. It gave me time to develop. I was the starter by my junior year. I had a lot of confidence that I was ready to be a starter. Like I said before, you couldn't have painted the picture any better, as far as buying time and being ready to contribute.
Q - Did you like the nickname "Alexander the Great" that the fans gave you?
Alexander - I was okay with it. I was always one that didn't like to take all the glory and all the credit. I was happy when my offensive line got their nickname and they got their due. It kinda took some of the focus off of me and put a little bit on them and they deserved it. There is no way that I could have did what I had done without them.So I was happy. They came up with the name, "The Root Hogs", and to this day, they wear that name proudly.
Q - How exactly did you find out that you were drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round, (12th overall) in the 1979 NFL Draft?
Alexander - Well, there wasn't all the limelight like there is now. I was in my little apartment right outside of LSU's gates. It was a little one bedroom apartment. I had a couple of radio stations there with me and we listened to the draft on the radio. The draft wasn't on TV back then. Back then, of course there was no cell phones. But even though I found out on the radio, you are still waiting on a phone call. I thought I'd get the phone call before I heard it on the radio. My friends and family kept calling me to find out, I had to keep telling them that I won't get the news if I don't get off the phone with you. I was nervous and aggravated because every time the phone rang, I thought it would be somebody, but it would only be friends and family trying to find out what happened. But I heard it on the radio and shortly after that I got the phone call.
Q - Who was your favorite coach that you played for in the NFL?
Alexander - Well, the Bengals coach that drafted me was Homer Rice. He was fired after my rookie year. Then Cincinnati hired Forrest Gregg, who was personally my favorite coach. Coach Gregg stayed in Cincinnati for four years, including a trip to the Super Bowl. Then the last coach I played for was Sam Wyche.
Q - During your Super Bowl season, you guys hosted the AFC Championship game, which has been nicknamed, "The Freezer Bowl". What was it like playing the San Diego Chargers that day?
Alexander - The temperature was 17 below, but it was the windchill that got everyone making it 59 below zero. That is when our mental toughness under Coach Gregg came in. That's when it payed off. We played a team from the west coast and they were definitely at a disadvantage because they were coming out of 70 degree weather and trying to adjust to 59 degrees below zero windchill factor. It had to be worth at least ten points in our favor. We could see it in their eyes that they didn't want any part of it.
Q - Tell us what it was like to play in a Super Bowl? (Super Bowl XVI)
Alexander - It was something that I'll never forget. It was light years ago and it was so different back then, but there was still a lot of media there. And then it was played in Pontiac, Michigan and the weather was horrible. Trying to get from point A to point B wasn't any fun. It wasn't any fun trying to get around Detroit, so we didn't venture out to far from the hotel. But it is a joy to say that I played in a Super Bowl. Something that I will never forget. We lost and I think the problem for us was that we were a little uptight. We were zeroing in on winning the game and I think if we would have been a little more relaxed at the beginning of the game, all those turnovers and things that we had, probably wouldn't have happened. Then we wouldn't have been behind 20-0 at halftime. I think the final score was 26-21, San Francisco. But, it still was a lot of fun. A lot of great memories. Like I said, it's something that I'll never forget.
Q - Greatest memory of playing in the NFL?
Alexander - Playing in the Super Bowl and being a part of the Bengals team that was first to wear those new uniforms. (Tiger stripe helmets)
Q - What did you do after retiring from the NFL?
Alexander - I went to work at LSU for ten years after my NFL career. I worked in the academic center for four years, which I had a lot of fun doing. I loved working with the athletes being their academic adviser. I had a chance to bond with a lot of those guys. I still talk to a lot of them to this day. I worked at LSU from 1988 to 1998. Those were tough years at LSU. We didn't really win many football games. But I did get a chance to get to know those guys and give a lot of them some advise. It's nice to know that you were an influence on someone's life and you see them grow up to be good people and good citizens. A lot of them are married and have a family. It makes you feel good that you may have helped them out along the way.
I worked for the TAF for six years. I really learned a lot. Got to know a lot of the LSU Alumni. We had several projects and did several things to help funding the athletics on campus. Nothing like the 30 million dollar locker room they have now, but we did do some things to help out the athletic department. That was a great six years of my life.
Q - What do you consider your best game as a LSU Tiger?
Alexander - I don't know about it being the best statistic wise, but the game I had the most fun in was a televised game against Ole Miss in my senior year. Back then we may have been on TV maybe twice a year, so that was a big deal to play on TV. It was the first game that I really felt good that season after dealing with a pulled muscle injury all year. We played well as a team. We had a couple of trick plays that we ran that was successful. That's one of the favorite games during my career.
Q - What was it like playing in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night?
Alexander - Tiger Stadium is a special place to play. When I use to work at LSU I had a chance to be around the recruits, I would always tell them that you won't find another stadium in the country that is going to jack you up and have you emotionally ready to play like in Tiger Stadium. I've played in almost every professional stadium in the country and there is nothing like it. The only thing I can compare it to is it's like playing in the Super Bowl. So if you want to play in the Super Bowl every home game, come to LSU.
Q - What are you up too now?
Alexander - I'm currently employed by "Gajeske Inc.". We distribute HDPE pipe for gas, waste water, fire water, chemicals for municipal, upstream, midstream and downstream companies.
I also have a small seasoning company, "Charlie 4 Seasoning, Inc." DBA "C'Mon Man"
My website is www.cmonmancajunseasoning.com