Charlie Tolar – The Houston Oilers Human Bowling Ball

autographed 1965 topps charlie tolar

The early Houston Oilers had a number of high-caliber players on their offense.  George Blanda, Billy Cannon, Charlie Hennigan and Bill Groman come immediately to mind.  They also had a running back by the name of Charlie Tolar, who wrought havoc on AFL defenses with his short yet stout frame, and immeasurable toughness.

At 5’7″ and 195 lbs., you might think that Charlie Tolar was a nimble, Barry Sanders-style of back.  But while Tolar was quick, and undoubtedly athletic, he preferred a more direct approach to the goal line than the shifty Sanders.  “I wasn’t an elusive runner,” recalled Tolar in Houston Oilers; The Early Years, by Kevin Carroll.  “If I could make a few yards running over somebody, I did.”

Charlie Tolar was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.  While this ARTICLE has one error that will leap out to most AFL fans, it contains a nice write up of Tolar’s collegiate career, and early years in professional football.

Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.


9 Responses to Charlie Tolar – The Houston Oilers Human Bowling Ball

  1. John Spoulos says:

    Tolar was more like Earl Campbel and Bo Jackson.

  2. billd says:

    I remember watching Tolar play against the Chargers in Balboa Stadium. Good article. I think I noted two errors in the article. In addition to the reference of Jim Otto playing for the Chargers, I think it was Al Davis who moved Billy Cannon to TE during the 1965 season while Billy played for the Raiders. Correct me if I am wrong. Thanks again.

  3. LIN BUTLER says:

    Charlie was one of the first running backs I watched when I first started watching football loved his style of running a great one. hes on my all time team for sure.

  4. Kevin Carroll says:

    Like Lin, I first saw Tolar play on television when the Oiler games at Jeppesen Stadium were televised back east on Sunday afternoons. Then in 1963, I saw the Oilers play Sonny Werblin’s “new” New York Jets in the Polo Grounds. On one particular play Tolar carried the ball into a hole that was quickly filled by giant Jet defensive tackle Charlie Janerette. Tolar lowered his shoulder and the collision’s impact produced a “thunder-clap” that carried distinctly into the upper deck of the cavernous stadium where we were sitting. (Only about 10,000 were in attendance and the ferocity of the hit actually left the stadium in silent awe for a moment.) Janerette staggered to his feet after making the tackle and Tolar walked back to the huddle like it was just another day at the office.
    Aside from his punishing running style and pass-catching ability out of the backfield, Tolar was an exceptional pass-blocker. He would fell many a pass-rusher by cut blocking them at the knees. George Blanda referred to Tolar as the “little nut-buster!”
    Two of the original Oilers related that Tolar often vomited from nerves prior to a game, but once he stepped onto the field he was absolutely fearless. Several Oiler teammates claimed that Tolar was the toughest man on the squad.

  5. Todd Tobias says:

    Great insight, Kevin. Your book is an invaluable resource in looking back at these “old Oilers.” On top of that, I probably pull it out once a year, just because it is such a fun read.

    • I love those early Oiler teams, and Blanda has always been one of my favorite players. However, those Mt. Rushmore articles made me realize how little I know about the AFL Oilers. I can name very few of their players, and I wasn’t even aware of that until this past month. Thanks for recommending Kevin Carroll’s “Houston Oilers: The Early Years.”

      That leads to a question: How ’bout a reading list? Have you considered making a list of your favorite football books? Both NFL and AFL? (And even the WFL of the ’70’s, for that matter. LOL, but I’m serious.) You could do a list that’s exclusively AFL, but I’d personally love to see a pro football list that encompasses all the decades. Either way, would you please consider doing that? Obviously, it’s your perogative. I just think a reading list by the author of this site would be great.

  6. Bob says:

    Why stop there? Dont forget the AAFC and the USFL

  7. Kevin Carroll says:

    Todd, thanks for your kind words. Please keep your informative and nostalgic postings coming. It’s also great to hear the thoughts and comments of so many AFL fans who enjoyed and appreciated the league for the excitement and fun it brought to the pro scene.

  8. Red Sanders says:

    Went to Natchitoches high school and college (Northwestern State) with Charlie. He was a few years older than I, but I still remember him walking the high school halls looking like a cut midget. Watched him hit helmet to helmet with a defender in a college game. Both busted their helmets, both went down hard. Charlie was up and back in the huddle as if nothing happened. They carried the other guy off the field. Hahahha, such memories.

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