Former Purdue University defensive back and 1967 Rose Bowl Game Most Valuable Player John Charles died last week in Houston at the age of 75, according to Purdue teammate Leroy Keyes.
“His death has caught all of us off guard,” Keyes said Tuesday morning.
Charles, who was inducted into the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015, was a member of the defensive unit at Purdue from 1964-1966. He was named the Most Valuable Player in the 1967 Rose Bowl after making 11 tackles in the game.
Charles underwent shoulder surgery in late October 1966 but returned to play in the Rose Bowl just over two months later. He was a three-year letter winner and an All-American at Purdue.
After his time at Purdue, he was chosen as the 21st overall pick by the Boston Patriots in the 1967 NFL Draft. He spent eight seasons playing for the Patriots, Minnesota Vikings and Houston Oilers. Charles was born and raised in Linden, N.J.
According to Keyes, he and Charles were “very close” and called each other to catch up every few months. Both Keyes and Charles were in the Omega Psi Phi fraternity on campus and were members of the defensive unit for the Boilermakers. Keyes, a cornerback, and Charles, a free safety, shared the field many times in the 1966 football season.
“He was not a taunter or a braggadocious guy on the field, but he was positive, he knew where to be, and he was always upbeat,” Keyes said. “He was always patting you on the back saying, ‘You play yours, I’ll play mine, and we will be OK.’”
Charles had earned the respect of his teammates and opponents.
“I don’t think there are too many people who you would talk to on a daily basis that would say they have something bad or some dirt on John Charles," Keyes said.
“I would say emphatically, I became a better man just by being in his presence here at Purdue," Keyes said. "He knew who he was, he projected it, he presented it, and he delivered it. I thank God for allowing me to come to Purdue University and just be a small part of John Charles’ life.”