Howard Clark – August 19, 2003
Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers – 1960-1961
TT – Tell me about how you came to the Chargers.
HC – Actually, I’m not sure. I think whoever it was… I’m not sure if it was Madro. I’m not certain. But what happened I think, was that they came to see somebody else, basically. When I got out of college I went up to Montreal. Then I signed a contract with the Alouettes. Then I was drafted into the army. That was about the time of the draft and I was just out of college. So I got on the list. I was deferred until college was over. But anyway, I was drafted. That was in ’58. Then just about the time I was getting out, the new league was being formed. I contacted the Chargers. I received a letter back from them and they sent me a contract. I think it was Joe Madro that remembered me from when he came to visit someone else. That’s kind of what I remember of it. I think that’s the way it was.
TT – Were you concerned that the AFL might not succeed?
HC – Actually, at that time, being just out of the army, I wasn’t concerned about how long it would last, just if I had a job.
TT – Tell me about the first training camp in 1960.
HC – Gosh, that was at Chapman Junior College, up there by Disneyland as I recall. I think it was right there in Anaheim. But anyway, we were in the dorm there at the junior college. It was just a typical raining camp.
TT – There must have been a lot of guys trying out for your position.
HC – Oh yeah, people were coming and going everyday. We would all kind of get together and talk. A little bit later in the training camp, when players would be cut loose from the NFL, we would all begin to wonder if they were coming here. And a lot of them did. We had several come in there that were cut by the NFL teams. I think we picked up two or three that stayed. Otherwise they just passed on through. In my opinion, speaking for myself, you never knew. You had a pretty good idea, but the way people came and went, there was no certainty. Let’s put it that way.
TT – The Chargers coaching staff had three future Hall of Fame coaches in Sid Gillman, Al Davis and Chuck Noll. Did it appear to be a knowledgeable or overly impressive staff at the time?
HC – Well, Sid Gillman was, at the time you probably didn’t realize what you’re dealing with, but as I look back, he was a very good offensive-minded coach. Al and Chuck were just regular guys to me. Obviously they had a whole lot of talent also.
TT – Tell me about Sid Gillman.
HC – Well, he had some funny jokes that he would tell. His mannerisms were pretty comical sometimes. I think he tried to make everybody feel pretty good and at ease. He let the other guys do the chewing. I can remember one time, just as an example of something, I think we had gone on an Eastern trip. We left Houston, I think. About the time a major hurricane, I think the biggest one, was coming in. We played, I think Buffalo was first and then New York and Boston. We had a three-week swing and we stayed over there the whole time. But anyway the Buffalo game… Anyway, to make a long story short, I can remember an incident. We were at a meeting reviewing the films. I had made a good play and Sid, he would compliment you in front of everybody. He mentioned it and I quipped back at him to hold on and let me get a tape recorder, because I might need that at contract time. He got a big kick out of that. But Sid was a good coach.
TT – What benefits do you think, not monetarily, you got playing with the Chargers that you may not have gotten from playing with any other team in the AFL?
HC – I really couldn’t tell. Other than probably the Chargers were one of the two or three or four teams that had good, solid financial backing. Some of the tother struggled there for a while because of the ownership. But the Chargers, with Hilton, the checks were always there. I can remember one team in particular, the Titans, were having financial problems. I think two or three of the other teams did. But the Chargers never did have any that I know of.
TT – What were your thoughts when you found out that the team was moving from Los Angeles to San Diego?
HC – Well again, at the time I was there it really didn’t make any difference to me. I had some relatives in San Diego, so it was probably a plus.
TT – Who did you think were your most impressive teammates?
HC – Oh gosh, that’s kind of a hard one. We had a lot of good people and good players. And both. Some of them were good people and some were good players and some were both. I always enjoyed Ron Mix. We kidded each other a lot. He played tackle and I played tight end. I got a kick out of Ron. We kind of kidded each other back and forth a lot. But all the guys were actually pretty good. I didn’t have any qualms about any one of them. They were all good people.
TT – Who were some of your toughest opponents?
HC – It’s been so long ago that I can’t even remember who the teams were. Probably Dallas. I can remember, didn’t they have E.J. Holub? Didn’t he play with them? I think he was during my time. Of course, he may have been later. But I remember their linebackers were pretty good. I don’t remember their names.
TT – What is your favorite road trip memory?
HC – Probably the ’61 trip where we went to all three. See, I was single so it didn’t matter to me. A lot of the other guys, some of them were married. So it may have bothered them. But the three-week trip back to Buffalo and New York and Boston, probably was a pretty good trip. We stayed at the Bear Mountain Inn in New York, in the Catskills there somewhere. We visited West Point and things like that.
TT – What did you dislike about being a professional football player?
HC – I disliked the flying. The flying. About midseason or so of the first year, for some reason I began to develop not liking to fly. Do you remember the San Luis Obispo football team plane crash? Was that ’60 or ’61? I don’t remember when it was, but that was about the time. It could have been my second year. But I think it may have been the first. But we were on a trip and we got up and read about it in the paper. I was then starting to get pretty nervous about flying. I don’t fly at all now, unless it’s an emergency or something. I haven’t flown in years.
TT – Any other thoughts that strike you about the Chargers? Things that you really remember but don’t often get to speak about?
HC – Well, probably the opportunity that was there. The camaraderie we had with the players and coaches. Our end group, we had a good time with Al. Al Davis, he was pretty funny, too. He wasn’t all seriousness. He would joke around and we had a lot of fun teasing Al and he teasing us during our practices and things like that.
TT – Other comments?
HC – I want to back up a little bit. You mentioned about some people I was a little closer to than others. I mentioned Ron Mix. I want to mention another one, Royce Womble. Have you interviewed him? But you saw him on the roster. He and I became real good friends. He was from Dallas. I think he played with Baltimore for a couple years before he came in. I can’t remember if he came directly to the Chargers or if he was released and came in later. But Royce and I were pretty good buddies. He was a wide receiver.
TT – Any of the guys that you thought were physically outstanding football players?
HC – Yeah, Paul Lowe was amazing with his speed and elusiveness. Charlie (Flowers) was a good blocker he had a lot of experience. I’m just thinking. Ron Mix was another good player. Earl Faison, all those guys were big and strong.