Former Chargers guard, Doug "Moosie" Wilkerson, passed away Sunday at the age of 73.
"Moosie was one-of-a-kind," said Chargers Owner and Chairman of the Board Dean Spanos. "A member of our Chargers Hall of Fame, 40th and 50th anniversary teams, the Black College Football Hall of Fame and a three-time All Pro, to say he was vital to the success of our Air Coryell era teams would be an understatement. Yet for everything he accomplished on the field, his regular visits to our facility during his retirement years are probably what everyone in our Chargers family will remember most.
"A giant smile, ear-to-ear, as he walked down the halls, bouncing from one department to the next. A word of advice. A captive audience for those who needed one. Just seeing him made you feel good. The world needs more Moosies in it. What a bright light he was. Our hearts, prayers and deepest sympathies are with the Wilkerson family and everyone who loved Moosie."
Wilkerson was originally selected in the first round of the 1970 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers out of North Carolina Central University. He spent a year there before the San Diego Chargers acquired the Pro Bowler via trade, making him a key cog of their offensive line.
He went on to play 14 total seasons for the Bolts and started all 195 games of his Chargers career, where he earned two more Pro Bowl honors in 1981 and 1982. He was a first-team All-Pro in 1982, a member of the Chargers' 40th and 50th anniversary teams, and was inducted in the Chargers Hall of Fame in 2000. He was also inducted in the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
Here are some of Doug Wilkerson’s former teammates on his life and legacy.
"We had a team of exceptional athletes and the names are all familiar. But Doug Wilkerson is among the most athletic, tough, strong, dedicated and passionate players I ever played with. It saddens me to no end because I know how much he fought to protect me game, after game, after game. It just leaves a real hole in my life.
You think about Donnie (Macek) and Ed (White) and Moosie protecting the most vulnerable spots in a pass rush, and that's right up the middle. The three of them worked in concert beautifully and protected me from guys like 'Mean' Joe Greene and Howie Long and Rubin Carter, and the list goes on and on. I owe so much to those guys.
I wish that Chuck Muncie was still able to give us a comment because the way those two worked together, their speed was equal. He had unbelievable speed and strength. We called him Bull Moose for a reason - it wasn't just a fancy nickname! It got shortened to Moosie, but it was always Bull Moose to us.
Those five guys were just everything to me. You had Billy (Shields) and Big Ru (Russ Washington) with those three; I just don't have enough words of gratitude." - Hall of Fame Quarterback Dan Fouts
"I first met Doug Wilkerson in Houston. The year after I got there, he was Houston's first-round pick. What an athlete. He didn't fit in, in Houston, so they sent him to San Diego which was perfect for him. What a player.
He impacted the offensive line in such a way, that it made pass-blocking an art. He did things that Dan Fouts liked. When you do things that the quarterback liked, it was good ... He was a great football player. He always got the job done. Didn't take nothing off anybody. He was smart, didn't make mental errors, which the quarterback loved that. He mastered the blocking schemes. And another thing about him, he was always there. I can't think of a time that he missed a game. You could depend on Doug Wilkerson being there 16 games a year.
I got traded to San Diego in '76 and decided to make a trip out to San Diego in March. I walked out of the airport and the first person I saw was Doug Wilkerson. I didn't know they were going to send him over to me to pick me up. We reunited and I was so glad there was a face I knew from that team. I was so relieved when I saw a familiar face. I thought I was coming to an area that was hard to adjust to, but Doug Wilkerson made the adjustment very, very easy because I knew what kind of player he was, and he never said a bad word about anybody. He was absolutely the greatest guy in the world.
He should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame." - Hall of Fame Wide Receiver Charlie Joiner
"Doug was a phenomenal player. I believe he was one of the best guards in the entire league and I don't think he ever got the recognition nationally that he did in San Diego. We thought he was a fantastic player and a great guy, too.
He was a fantastic player. There was just no getting around it. I benefitted by playing next to him all those years. He was an exceptional athlete for such a big man. He was a tough guy and didn't miss a lot of games. He was somebody that I looked up to everyday that I was playing. He set a great example for me as a younger player and other people, too.
He could run like a running back! (As a guard) my rookie year, Bill Walsh was our offensive coordinator and we used to run this sweep to the right, where we pulled both guards. I was pretty fast for a guard and I was the 'lead guard,' because we'd roll more to the right. The only reason I was the lead guard was because I was on the right hand side. But by the time we turned the corner, there was two of us running right together. It was like having two lead guards.
He was an exceptional player. We all competed together but competed against each other to live up to the other guys' standards. I knew I had to play well because I knew Doug was going to play well. And he was gonna be prepared, and he was gonna perform well. So I didn't want to be a guy who would let him down and our whole offensive line that played together for a long, long time always felt that way.
He was the cornerstone. He was the first guy here and then we all filled in around him. But he was the mainstay of that offensive line." - Don Macek, Center
"He was part of the greatest offense, arguably, in the history of the game. He was a big part of it. And a part of, no doubt, the most underrated offensive line in the history of the NFL. That was a GREAT offensive line.
He wasn't your prototypical 'back-in-the-day' offensive lineman, where you could mistake him for a trash can. And he worked at it. He was a phenomenal athlete; skinny waist, athletic, smooth (and) cutthroat.
The biggest misnomer about our offenses - as we were called Air Coryell - but if you look at the numbers, we were a great running offense. It's the hardest thing to do, to run-block as an offensive lineman. You're talking (going up against guys like) Pittsburgh Steelers DT Joe Greene, Raiders DE John Matuszak and Raiders DE Howie Long. There are great players now, but we were known for throwing the ball all over the place, which we did. But if we had to run, they still couldn't stop us and that's because of that offensive line.
The most beautiful thing about football is you get all these different personalities. Our offensive line couldn't have had a more diverse five people and their personalities. Billy Shields, a brainiac from Georgia Tech. Ed White, the artist and a quiet assassin. Don Macek, the same as Ed. Moosie, who off the field was one of the most amazing people in the world, but on the field, I don't know if I've ever seen a different personality! And then you had Russ Washington, the giant, athletic, smooth and an amazingly gifted left tackle and yet, easy-going. That's the beautiful thing about this game." - Hank Bauer, Running Back
"Doug played his first year in Houston with the Oilers. I went to Northwestern and the running back that went to Northwestern prior to me going there played for the Houston Oilers. His name was Woody Campbell.
Woody said, 'Pete, the first thing I want you to do when you get yourself to San Diego is go introduce yourself to Doug Wilkerson and tell him Woody Campbell told you to introduce yourself.'
So, I go into the locker room and I walk up to Doug Wilkerson (and introduce myself) and I was a made man from then on! It was, 'You're with me.' He told me where to live, all the spots to go and where not to go. We had a very fond relationship. He'll be missed. He was a private person but a genuinely loving person. He was a leader by example.
I remember we were working out and I was a rookie, I'm a defensive back, and we're running sprints and I'm trying to beat this guy! I'm trying to beat this big, ol' guard who's high-stepping and running like a track guy. I'm like, who are you?! But he was always in the weight room. Always working out. A true leader by example. Didn't say a whole lot and didn't need to say a whole lot. But he was charismatic, funny, witty.
He was a great father, loved his daughters dearly and worshipped them. He was the perfect image of what you expect the captain of a football team to be. He was that guy. I love him dearly. God bless him and may he rest in peace forever." - Pete Shaw, Safety
"The impact he had was great because (the Chargers) had one of the better offensive lines to protect Dan Fouts that you've seen in centuries. Doug was one of the major factors. He was always in shape, always running. I could see him pulling in front of guys like Chuck Muncie and see him get around the corner and just do what he does best and that's block for Dan and his running backs.
They were a real tight-knit group, that fivesome of the offensive line with Wilkerson, Macek, Washington, Shields, and White. They played. They protected Dan, and if they had the rules now when we were playing, Dan would have played for 100 years! They had the protection and Doug was one of the catalysts for that.
For a man to play for as long as he did and start as long as he did and play that caliber of ball? He was a good one. It's a big-time loss and I'm gonna miss him." - Willie Buchanon, Cornerback
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